The Lady is free!!
Who is The Lady, you ask? And why should you care?
Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi – who spent 15 of the last 21 years under house arrest while the country’s ruling military junta systematically worked to break the spirit of not only Suu Kyi’s as an indivudual, but of the Burmese people collectively. Today the junta ended her isolation and The Lady emerged to greet supporters who have endured abuse and harassment for supporting her cause.
Suu Kyi was placed under arrest when her political party won elections in 1990. A powerful clique of military men seized power, tossed the election results, changed the country’s name, sealed the borders and began a standoff with Suu Kyi that appears to have ended today.
And the truth is she could have left. She could have walked away. The junta gave her the chance (though it would have resulted in her exile). But she refused. Refused because she believed in something bigger than herself.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate, is sometimes referred to as “the Nelson Mandela of Burma” and she has done something that few human beings on the planet would have the guts and character to do – she held firm to her belief that there are some things worth fighting for in this world, despite all the evidence to the contrary. In that respect, she is the person each one of us would be in a perfect world.
And yes, you’re right, I am excited. I can’t help it. Suu Kyi is one of my heroes.
But does her release mean that Burma’s problems are over? No, sadly, it does not.
Already the pundits are dismissing the release as nothing more than a public relations ploy by the ruling junta to try and gloss over the international community’s concerns that national elections last Sunday were a sham.
And they are probably right.
The timing certainly supports that position. A post-election release may not only help to repair some reputational damage, but also decreases the chances that Suu Kyi will have an immediate impact on Burmese politics.
But I think the generals may have miscalculated. Like Mandela, Suu Kyi is a visionary figure – a beacon of hope for millions who have suffered under the military’s rule. Just a couple years ago, Buddhist monks were able to take to the streets – with Suu Kyi still locked up – and rattle the generals to their cores. Now that Suu Kyi is free – all bets are off.
Some of The Lady’s supporters have already raised concerns for her safety. And to be honest, as I watched the news of her imminent release last night, I told a friend that I feared Suu Kyi could become a honorary Bhutto (a political family in Pakistan that has seen it’s most influential members killed).
The truth is, as much as I would love to see Suu Kyi take the generals head on, rally the country to march behind her and sweep in a new, better, era for the country – there is also a part of me that wishes nothing more than peace and quiet for this remarkable 65-year old icon.
Maybe she has done enough … maybe sacrificing the best years of her life to stand by her convictions and give people hope is enough to ask of one single human being …