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Everybody's Heroes

Published by Iain Aschendale in the blog Iain Aschendale's blog. Views: 53

"The Last Emperor" was on the TV again.

I've been there. Mrs A and I visited Beijing five or seven years ago, my first visit to a... strategic competitor (?) country.

Ages ago, in another life, the Army of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea serenaded me to sleep at night. It was cool, there were three strands of concertina wire and a couple of miles of mountains between me and the most heavily guarded frontier in the world.

Plus, I kept one of the two loaded magazines we were allowed to have.

Nobody else wanted to bother with it.

But anyway, we went to Beijing, decades later. Had to leave my passport with the Chinese consulate for about two weeks to get my visa, and, as someone raised on the "Pulp Fiction watch" principle of passport control, that was tough. Here's the thing about China: Go to your local Chinatown, and search out the crappiest, most low-rent souvenir store you can find.

Pretty damn authentic.

It was a good time.

So in between my trip to Korea (with sixty-five of my closest friends and an automatic rifle) and my trip to Beijing (with my Asian wife and a proper tourist visa), I stopped by Turkey, among other places.

Turks are fucking weird. They put their damn flag up almost everywhere.

Especially conquered military installations, like Bronze-age stone forts built by those dastardly Hittites.

So, they're pretty much like Americans. Fucking flags everywhere.

Cool.

And in China, the tourist junk shops, the ones aimed at the Chinese tourists, were selling those stupid little battery powered crawling soldiers.

You know the ones. Like this, even with the M-16ish, just a paint job and a big Chinese flag:



How can they fly that flag? How can they do that in.... China?

Right. That flag's only sixty or so years old, they've got a much shorter history than us Americans...

...do?

Shit.

And then there was the changing of the guard. The area where the souvenir shops was was just across the street from Tienanmen Square, behind the wall where the famous portrait is hung:

[​IMG]
Right behind there (that shot isn't mine, but it's from Tienanmen Square itself) is actually in the Forbidden City itself, just not in the bit you have to pay to see.

And we got to see the changing of the guard there.

Ever seen the changing of the guard?

Anywhere, that is, not just Beijing. I've seen it at the Tomb of the Unknowns, the old palace in Seoul, the Military Museum in Istanbul, and...

You haven't.

Because the other places I've seen it were real, like the site on Hill 666 (an alias) in Korea, and the western gate of Camp Suzie, and a score of other places, including afternoon formation at Tienanmen North.

I didn't take pictures.

There was a group, call it roughly a Marine platoon, of guys in.. Beijing police uniforms? Anyway, forty or so... no, thirty or so guys in uniform, and ten or so men in distinctly casual clothes, who knew how to march and come to attention.

Forgive me for not have taken pictures, but this was something that was meant to be witnessed, not recorded.

Am I losing my train of thought? Dunno, maybe.

Heroes.

So then we went to see Chairman Mao. He's been preserved in a mausoleum in the middle of the square.

Mao is one of the greatest monsters of the twentieth century.

Yet, while we were waiting, coming into the building itself, several older men detached themselves from the main line where it split, to stand in front of the statue of Mao.

And bow and clap, in keeping with Eastern traditional prayers.

To some people, Mao is a hero.

To some people, he isn't.

To a lot of people, George Washington is a hero.

To some people, he isn't.

To a lot of people, Dwight Eisenhower is a hero.

To some people, he isn't.

To a lot of people, Barack Obama is a hero.

To some people, he isn't.

I could just go on and on, but tonight, I've got a headache.*

*spot the quote? anyone?
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