Ongoing protests in Hong Kong contrast starkly with the conditions surrounding the Tiananmen Square Massacre in China in 1989, in which some 10,000 protesters were arrested, and some disappeared. The famous individual who stood in front of a tank at Tiananmen created an unforgettable iconic image, but his identity has never been known (other than “the Tiananmen Square Tank Man”). One protester (journalist Yu Dongyue) who threw paint at a portrait of Mao Zedong was imprisoned, but released — in 2009, after being tortured past sanity.
The Chinese government has instituted state censorship of Tiananmen, quite effectively. Indeed, Hong Kong protesters have striven to remind the world of what happened at Tienanmen, aware of the potential for violence of the Chinese authorities: China’s President Xi Jinping has threatened that any attempt to divide China would end in “bodies smashed and bones ground to powder.” Tiananmen proves he is not bluffing.
To Americans, Tiananmen (which literally translates to “Gate of Heavenly Peace”) remains a symbol of free expression and democracy. But for the Chinese, the effort was a failure that reaffirmed state supremacy. With an ascendant state security system that exceeds George Orwell’s most terrifying predictions, most Chinese are unaware that Tiananmen ever occurred.
In the 1972 Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon’s presidency was quickly destroyed. The world was shown that in America, even the President of the United States is held to the same Rule of Law as the citizenry. Yet somehow, that high moral bar had been lowered by the unfolding of the Lewinsky scandal, wherein President Bill Clinton very plainly lied to the American people about his sexual exploits with a young intern in the Oval Office. He lied for six months; lied under oath at depositions; lied under oath to a federal grand jury. But he was not impeached when Democrats refused to hold the POTUS to the same standards as other Americans.
This was evident again when Hillary Clinton bought or stole the 2016 Primary election from voter consideration, as chronicled by Donna Brazile. It was obvious that there was foul play, but the American electorate did not cry foul.
In the midst of the farcical effort to impeach Donald Trump, one would think that America was China, and that the Bill Clinton charade had been mysteriously erased from collective memory (as in Orwell’s 1984). Efforts to eliminate statues from the Civil War stand beside efforts to collectively erase the historical fact that Bill Clinton broke the criminal law and was given a pass.
I am not defending Donald Trump — I am defending the United States Constitution and the “Rule of Law” that Democrats ironically invoke while they violate it. If there were sufficient grounds for impeachment of Donald Trump, the process has been ignored — that is, the “process” called “Due Process.” These Constitutional precepts include such “Rules of American Law” as the presumption of innocence, the right to confront one’s accusers, observation of appropriate procedure, and prohibitions against unreliable hearsay evidence. Liberals insist these rights are guaranteed to illegal immigrants, even as they flagrantly avoid their availability to the POTUS.
This sham “impeachment” proceeding is the opposite of the accountability of Watergate; it is even more the opposite of the Lewinsky affair. For in Clinton’s case, there was ample non-hearsay evidence in the form of recorded official transcripts, and DNA from a blue dress (without which, Bill Clinton would still be lying about “having sex with that woman” and debating what “is” means). Even after it was clear Clinton had lied, he walked away with impunity. Even though it was clear Hillary compromised the 2016 Primary electoral process, there was no consequence whatsoever.
What America is witnessing is the willful dismantling of constitutional safeguards for political ends. The Democrats chirp the “Rule of Law” mantra even as they flagrantly undermine and ignore the foundational precepts of the Bill of Rights. And polls show that those who oppose Donald Trump just want him impeached — they don’t care how. This is the flipside of liberal conduct when Bill Clinton faced legitimate grounds for impeachment, with sound evidence — in that case they wanted him exonerated, and they didn’t care how.
For Americans, the events at Tiananmen Square depict a heroic sacrifice for rights and free speech: in reality, they signalled the end of liberty in China, with a thud. The events of the Lewinsky Affair are America’s Tiananmen Square Massacre — a massacre of the U.S. Constitution. Now largely eclipsed from America’s collective memory as an inconvenient truth (or fake news?), that incident is the demarcation of when America’s Democratic Party abandoned fair play. Clinton-Lewinsky was the dark episode that showed the world that American exceptionalism was on the wane; that the rich and privileged in America (at least the liberal ones) were exempt from legal accountability in favor of partisanship.
The Hong Kong protests are about free speech: about fears of political reprisals against those who speak freely. Perhaps China will crush that revolt at some point, repeating Tiananmen’s lessons for those who dare oppose its autocratic domination. In America the protests are AGAINST free speech. In Charlottesville, the Nazis held a court-ordered permit to protest, and were prevented from exercising their clear rights by an illegal mob, but they are impugned as the wrongdoers while the evildoers are regaled as martyrs or heroes. The Constitution has been turned upside-down, and the progressives and their media machine praise that outcome. So Charlottesville, too, is an American Orwellian Tiananmen — an event that has been re-written by the state-like media to depart from the truth, warping America’s free-speech foundations.
The question facing America is: when it is clear to the Right that the Left does not desire to play by the Rules (of Law), and all participants abandon even a pretense of decency, how far does the nation deteriorate before we seek to restore law and order? Perhaps that restoration will require martial law, and the grinding of mountains of human bones into powder. That would be truly memorable, regardless of whether it was accurately recorded.
John Klar is candidate for Governor of Vermont