Friday, September 27, 2013

Pessimistic Eye with Optimistic Lens for a Better Future

Note: For some reason, this article never got out for publication. I saw it in my draft folder today.

As I sit and ponder upon my experience regarding the recent protest against China’s next President Xi Jinping visit to Washington DC in 2012, I feel the need to share my views on the entire episode.  Some of you, who knows me, realize that I prefer to take a critical approach at what Tibetan do or does in the realm of social, political, and social spectrum.  Some think of it as a negative approach to look at.  However, I tend to observe and analyze things from a different viewpoint – pessimistic eye with optimistic lens for a better future.  Here is what I went through at this protest event.

Two days prior to the bus trip from NYC to Washington DC, I registered for the trip via online registration form posted on the Students for Free Tibet Website.  The protest was jointly organized by Students for Free Tibet (SFT), Regional Tibetan Youth Congress of New York New Jersey (RTYC NYNJ), and Capital Area RTYC.

A day after the online registration, while walking down the streets of Jackson Heights (Queens, NY), I saw a table with donation box and bus registration for the protest.  Though I registered via the SFT’s online registration form, I checked again to see if my name is on the registration list.  To my surprise, my name was not there.  Then, I checked my friend’s name who also registered via online.  He was not on the list too.  I told the concerned RTYC NYNJ executive member about my online registration.  Again, to my total dismay, he was not even aware of online registration for the protest.  That too, just a day before the bus trip.

During the next 24 hours, I was informed several times to be at Jackson Heights (JH) exactly at the departure time of 3:00 AM.  I woke up at 2:00 AM to make sure I reached at least 15 minutes early.  When I reached JH, there were a group of Tibetans waiting for the bus to arrive.  We waited, we waited, and we waited.  Finally, after much frustration, the bus came an hour late.  When the bus opened its door, people started to rush in to get hold of the best possible seats.  There was a line (queue) but people just don't respect it.  Civility remains at zero level.

Once in the bus, a frustrated individual asked about the delay.  The response was, “Tibetans will not show up on time. So, its better to say 3:00 AM than 4:00 AM."  At this response, I felt of asking, “what about all of us who showed up on time and been waiting for the past one hour in this bone-chilling winter?"  It seems few Tibetans will never learn to respect time and people.  More disturbingly, most Tibetan organizations support this lack of respect for time.  Next time, when people hear 3:00 AM, they will count it as 4:00 AM or 5:00AM.

We reached about an hour late at the White House - protest venue.  About an hour later, my friend and some twenty Tibetans were urged to go to the Department of State for protest as Xi Jinping was supposed to be at this building.

At the White House, Tibetans shouted loud and far with their banners, posters, and street acts.  There was tea, drinks, alu dum, fried rice, and pizzas.  I was about to say, “Tibetan protest seems very organized and professional."  However, few incidents changed my views (shared below).

My friend at State Department returned after three hours.  His voice was down and broken.  He was definitely worn out and tired.  He later contacted one of the organizers about their protest at the State Department and to his surprise, he was told, “I (RTYC) am not aware of it.  Did Students for Free Tibet asked you to go there?”  It is a clear sign of minimal coordination among these organizing groups.

Later, Tibetans were told that Xi Jinping will visit the Chamber of Commerce, a building next to the protest venue, at 3:00PM.  Protesters (Tibetans, Uighurs, etc.) again waited, waited, and waited.  It was 4:30PM and some people were exhausted and starting to question the visit time.  I overheard an elderly Tibetan lady, “Organizers should have someone in the press to contact about the Xi’s schedule.”  She left few minutes later, leaving me to think again on the protest organization.  Her suggestion of having someone in the press really made sense.

Read also: Reinventing the Art of Protest


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