Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Background: Thích Quảng Đức was a Vietnamese Mahayana Buddhist monk. He lived for peace, and did not support the decisions of Ngô Đình Diệm, who was the leader of Vietnam at the time. Ngô Đình Diệm pursued policies that rankled and oppressed the Republic's Montagnard natives and its Buddhist majority. Thích Quảng Đức burned himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection on 11 June 1963. Thích Quảng Đức was protesting against the persecution of Buddhists by South Vietnam's Ngô Đình Diệm administration. Photos of his self-immolation were circulated widely across the world and brought attention to the policies of the Diệm regime. All those who saw this spectacle were taken by the fact that Duc did not make a sound while burning to death. After his death, his body was re-cremated, but his heart remained intact. This was interpreted as a symbol of compassion and led Buddhists to revere him as a bodhisattva, heightening the impact of his death on the public psyche. Thich Quang Duc was quick to point out (in letters left for the press) that his self-immolation was not an act of suicide, which would go against his Buddhist beliefs. Instead, Duc viewed the burning as a wake up call, a way to call attention to his cause. His death has been termed a "religious and/or political suicide" by Chinese Buddhism scholars, who state that it was religiously justified based on texts found dating back to the 5th and 10th centuries BCE.

Mohamed Bouazizi was a Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire on December 17, 2010, in protest of the confiscation of his wares and the harassment and humiliation that was allegedly inflicted on him by a municipal official and her aides. A woman came up to the fruit vendor and stole his scale, which had happened before, but because Mohamed had made ten dollars a day, this was a big deal for him. He got really mad at the woman and she slapped him across the face. In an act set for a revolution, Bouazizi made his way to a gas station, where he set himself on fire. This act became the catalyst for the 2010–2011 Tunisian revolution, sparking deadly demonstrations and riots throughout Tunisia in protest of social and political issues in the country. Anger and violence intensified following Bouazizi's death, leading then-President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali to step down on January 14, 2011, after 23 years in power.

A: Freedom is KEY in both of these cases- something Thich Quang Duc and Mohamed Bouazizi were losing, or didn’t even have. We have to stand up for what we believe in, and both of these brave men (heroes) knew that. They had both caused the world to know the same. When a leader, who thinks they are the “President Forever” (Ngô Đình Diệm and Zine El Abidine Ben Ali), tries to take away and run a country without freedom, extreme measures can be taken, whether you are a monk or a fruit vendor. These two cases compare with each other because both men had to reach the state of self-immolation to gain freedom and rights from corrupt leaders. They had BOTH given up everything for their before-peaceful countries; they had BOTH been true leaders and heroes.

B: I couldn’t help but think about the circumstances of each situation. As I was reading and watching, peace had become and issue! This is especially surprising because peace is not supposed to be an issue, but a result of bravery. Yes, bravery was displayed, but in the most atrocious way imaginable (to me): self-immolation. This really got me thinking about the measures that one has to take to make peace. Self-immolation is an issue that can make peace. Peace is not supposed to be an issue. Peace is gained through bravery. Bravery can be displayed through self-immolation. Do you see the cycle?

C: If Pain for Peace Prepares by Emily Dickinson

If pain for peace prepares
Lo, what "Augustan" years
Our feet await!

If springs from winter rise,
Can the Anemones
Be reckoned up?

If night stands fast -- then noon
To gird us for the sun,
What gaze!

When from a thousand skies
On our developed eyes
Noons blaze!

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