- The Washington Times - Friday, January 21, 2005

Nobles: Zhao Ziyang, for planting a seed of liberty in the heart of Maoist China.

In Roman times, it was called damnatio memoriae — the complete erasure of one’s life from public consciousness. Up until the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, Mr. Zhao, who died Monday at 85, was a high-ranking official in China’s Communist Party. A reformer who often argued on behalf of political and economic freedom, Mr. Zhao brought about successful modernization of much of China’s devastated market system. As premier during the 1980s, Mr. Zhao also proposed radical change to China’s one-party rule, which earned him the hatred of hard-line Communist officials.

His enemies finally pounced, when, during the student protests in Tiananmen Square, Mr. Zhao pleaded with the students to disband peacefully, knowing that the government’s crack down would be swift and bloody. After the massacre, Mr. Zhao refused to support the party’s decision, for which he was sentenced to house arrest for the remainder of his life. He died in obscurity, a figure of reform forgotten by the older and younger generations alike.

News of his death was announced in a disgraceful press release by the country’s government-controlled media, honoring him only as a “comrade.” But, to use President Bush’s words from his second inaugural address, Mr. Zhao had “lit a fire in the minds of men.” The Communist government, which has greatly benefited from Mr. Zhao’s market reforms, knows full well what his life once meant to the Chinese people: hope. The police and military were put on high alert upon his death, fearful that as word spread Chinese democrats would rise up as they once did in 1989. Mr. Zhao’s life reflects the universal truism that freedom once sparked can never be fully extinguished.

So that his memory may always live as long as tyranny holds sway, Mr. Zhao is the Noble of the week.

Knaves: The student protesters at Seattle Central Community College, for having nothing better to do than heckle Army recruiters.

Out in Washington state, students at the local community college in Seattle exercised their First Amendment rights by walking out of class on Thursday. Apparently, this was to protest Mr. Bush’s second inauguration. Indeed, it would be poetic justice if their parents exercised their power of the purse by withholding next semester’s tuition. In any case, the mob gleefully paraded down the hallways, happening into a pair of Army recruiters.

Here’s where the combination of higher education and mob mentality really pays off. According to the Associated Press, the protesters surrounded the recruiters and began to torment them with catcalls and by tearing up their U.S. Army literature. A ten-minute standoff ensued, until campus security broke it up and escorted the recruiters away from the scene. A particularly disgusting AP photo shows the students cheering as Sgt. 1st Class Jeff Due is led away.

For protesting the two guys in the room who are obligated to take a bullet for them, the students at Seattle Central Community College are the Knaves of the week.

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