Notes from a fascinating world.
The world is like a bazaar, full of interesting odds and ends, and I've been exiled into it. This is my all-over-the-map (literally and metaphorically) attempt at capturing some of the world's many wonders.
“I’m pretty sure this is true,” D said. “Not because I was there. I wasn’t. I heard it from my college buddy. But his father was at the time the military commander in the district. So I’m pretty sure this really happened.”
D was a recent college graduate, a handsome, athletic, and gregarious young man from southern China who studied in the far north and was now working in marketing in Beijing. Between us we conversed in Mandarin, though for someone who never lived abroad he spoke English quite well. Overall I liked him as a person, though we clearly disagreed on some matters of politics. We had met through a mutual friend, and now we were talking over gin and tonic.
“Why is it so important to hold on to all these territories anyway?” I had said a moment earlier. “China’s so big already. Look at advanced European countries: they’re tiny by comparison. But they’re happy and wealthy and comfortable. So who cares about size? If Tibet could become an independent but friendly neighbor, what would be so bad about that?”
“It’s not a matter of size,” D said. “It’s a matter of whether it’s rightfully ours.”
“I can understand standing firm on a matter of principle,” I said. “But you have your principle, and they have theirs.”
This was when he began to tell me the tale that he was pretty sure was true.
“So my friend’s dad was commander in this district in Sichuan near the Tibetan border, you know, where many of the people are Tibetans, where it’s practically Tibet just not technically. He went out to inspect this temple on the edge of the district. And he thought everyone, all the monks, looked really tense. When he went around the place, he saw a spot of blood on the floor.”
“Yeah. So basically there was something really wrong with the place. But he didn’t say anything. Just quietly left and went back to his command post. There he ordered a platoon of military police to go out to the temple and see what was what. The police... let’s just say that they all died, badly.”
“The monks, or who knows if they were really monks, were Tibetan separatists.”
“So then he ordered all available soldiers in his district to go out there. And they killed all the monks in that temple, every last one of them.”
“So these separatists are the sort of people we’re dealing with in China.”
“They might say your friend’s dad is the sort of person they’re dealing with in Tibet. One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.”
By tacit agreement, we moved onto other topics of conversation. And I still wasn’t sure what to think of his story.
Writer, traveler, lawyer, dilettante. Failed student of physics. Not altogether distinguished graduate of two Ivy League institutions. Immigrant twice over. "The grand tour is just the inspired man's way of getting home."