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Remember 'Tank Man' from China's Tiananmen Square in 1989?

There is an image that a lot of folks who were around in 1989 will remember forever. I watched it go down on live TV, and it has stuck with me to this day. Meet "Tank Man."

Remember 'Tank Man' from China's Tiananmen Square in 1989?

Beginning in the late-1970s, the Communist Party of China began to move the country toward a more privately-owned system in both agriculture and industry. It caused some problems.

With it came nepotism, graft, and kickbacks to those who had money and power — in other words, those who held government and party positions. Accompanying those problems was a continuation of the state-run press, which had no freedoms other than what the Communist Party allowed.

Soon, shortages of food, basic necessities, and a lack of jobs for students who had previously pretty much been guaranteed work began to stir people into action — especially young people.


Tiananmen Square one year before the massacre. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Right in the heart of Beijing, China's Tiananmen Square in June of 1989 was alight with students and other protesters, who held it for over three weeks.

They called for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, government accountability, and restoration of workers' control over their workplaces and industry. Among other things.

Known as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the June Fourth Incident, and the '89 Democracy Movement, the protests were squashed by the Chinese government and Communist Party by military force. China never let the true figures be known, but estimates are that at least 200 — and possibly three or four times that — were killed over the course of a few days, ending on June 4, 1989. Ultimately, the protests were halted.

Images via CNN.

The "Tank Man" cometh.

One of the most recognizable images from those protests is of a solitary man the day after the protests were violently squashed, with shopping bags in his hands. He approached and stopped a vast column of tanks and bravely stood in front of them as they drove toward him heading to Tiananmen Square. Eventually, he was seen knocking on the entrance to the tank before being taken away — by whom? It's still not solved.

While the government eventually cracked down on protesters and supporters and even expelled all foreign journalists, the images and short video of "Tank Man" remain. Nobody knows who he was or what his destiny became, but he lives on in the spirit of protests to this day and the willingness of a common everyday person to take a stand and fight back.


In every culture, there are people like this who are willing to give their lives — and in some cases, do just that — for others to be free.

The heroism and the dedication of these people is something I hold onto when it feels like we're in the darkest of times, and it gives me hope.

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
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Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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As millions of Americans have raced to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, millions of others have held back. Vaccine hesitancy is nothing new, of course, especially with new vaccines, but the information people use to weigh their decisions matters greatly. When choices based on flat-out wrong information can literally kill people, it's vital that we fight disinformation every which way we can.

Researchers at the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a not-for-profit non-governmental organization dedicated to disrupting online hate and misinformation, and the group Anti-Vax Watch performed an analysis of social media posts that included false claims about the COVID-19 vaccines between February 1 and March 16, 2021. Of the disinformation content posted or shared more than 800,000 times, nearly two-thirds could be traced back to just 12 individuals. On Facebook alone, 73% of the false vaccine claims originated from those 12 people.

Dubbed the "Disinformation Dozen," these 12 anti-vaxxers have an outsized influence on social media. According to the CCDH, anti-vaccine accounts have a reach of more than 59 million people. And most of them have been spreading disinformation with impunity.

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Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash
True

The global eradication of smallpox in 1980 is one of international public health's greatest successes. But in 1966, seven years after the World Health Organization announced a plan to rid the world of the disease, smallpox was still widespread. The culprits? A lack of funds, personnel and vaccine supply.

Meanwhile, outbreaks across South America, Africa, and Asia continued, as the highly contagious virus continued to kill three out of every 10 people who caught it, while leaving many survivors disfigured. It took a renewed commitment of resources from wealthy nations to fulfill the promise made in 1959.

Forty-one years later, although we face a different virus, the potential for vast destruction is just as great, and the challenges of funding, personnel and supply are still with us, along with last-mile distribution. Today, while 30% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, with numbers rising every day, there is an overwhelming gap between wealthy countries and the rest of the world. It's becoming evident that the impact on the countries getting left behind will eventually boomerang back to affect us all.

Photo by ismail mohamed - SoviLe on Unsplash

The international nonprofit CARE recently released a policy paper that lays out the case for U.S. investment in a worldwide vaccination campaign. Founded 75 years ago, CARE works in over 100 countries and reaches more than 90 million people around the world through multiple humanitarian aid programs. Of note is the organization's worldwide reputation for its unshakeable commitment to the dignity of people; they're known for working hand-in-hand with communities and hold themselves to a high standard of accountability.

"As we enter into our second year of living with COVID-19, it has become painfully clear that the safety of any person depends on the global community's ability to protect every person," says Michelle Nunn, CARE USA's president and CEO. "While wealthy nations have begun inoculating their populations, new devastatingly lethal variants of the virus continue to emerge in countries like India, South Africa and Brazil. If vaccinations don't effectively reach lower-income countries now, the long-term impact of COVID-19 will be catastrophic."

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