Twenty two coffins on Amherst Town Common
Twenty two small coffins comprised one of the more graphic props utilized yesterday for the march from Amherst to Northampton commemorating the start (1959) of the Tibetan struggle for independence from China. They graphically represent the number of individuals who have committed ritual suicide--many in the past year--by one of the more dramatic means of death: self immolation.
And just so you could not miss the connection, some of the coffins carried a placard with 22 thumbnail photos of the victims, reminiscent of the first mug shot/bulletin issued by our federal government showing the 19 hijackers who plowed commercial jets into the Twin Towers, Pentagon and a field in Shankesville, Pennsylvania.
All depends on your perspective I guess, or "whose ox is being gored:" The US military considered Divine Wind kamikaze pilots "fanatics," while Japanese comrades considered them heroes. The 9/11 hijackers thought they were doing divine service to Allah, while we consider them ruthless killers, dupes of puppet master Osama Bin Laden.
Free Tibet demonstration 3/10/12 near the spot where Greg Levey immolated himself in 1991
Suicide is self-imposed death, and self-imposed death is suicide. What's the difference between setting yourself aflame for a political objective or strapping a bomb to your torso and detonating it in a public place for a political objective? (Well, besides taking out innocent bystanders.)
A flag is a far more benign but still powerful symbol for reaching directly into the hearts of onlookers, and the more rational sides of their mind. Our Select Board, in addition to issuing a proclamation supporting the Free Tibet struggle, allowed their flag to fly in front of Town Hall and going forward will do so annually on this anniversary.
Flag of Tibet flies under the UN flag at Amherst Town Hall
Yes, this is the same Select Board that voted to allow 29 commemorative American flags to fly in Amherst downtown to remember the anniversary of 9/11 only once every fifth year.
Maybe this September when I go before the Select Board to request the flags fly on 9/11 I will call it the "Free the Flags" movement.