I remember it well, even though I was outside Burma by then --
- Kyi May Kaung Thank you, Clint - Maybe because I am a poet and artist and hypersensitive, I suffered greatly at a distance - I talked about it a lot in my radio programs - also when I wrote my novel Wolf, which centers on a fictional 1988 hero, I had to be in many people's heads, or shoes, and sometimes I cry when I have to write or edit a scene. Some people do not understand, maybe they think writing should be "cute" like a cartoon, and one young woman said, "Aunty, your writing is full of corpses." I did not know what to say - I based some of the scenes on things told to me by eye witnesses, some at first, second or third hand. Or I re-imagined things like Sule Pagoda road and the shootings. I have also met Burton Levin, US Ambassador at the time, and many others, in person. It's the job of an artist to be able to convey it. There's a story that the great Russian poet Anna Akhmatova was lined up for bread in a concentration camp, sent there by Stalin, and another starving woman came up to her and said, "Can you describe this?" and she said, "Yes." Some people, like Solzhenitsyn or U Win Tin have come out of long stints in prison, then written it all down in 2 weeks. I thank many friends, like DTS, who used to meet me at Trenton Station to go visit his Mom in Princeton, for listening patiently, while I railed on and on. As one of my disstn supervisors, the late Hebert Levine, a Soviet expert, said, "You'd better care deeply (about your subject matter) or you will never get it done." Some people think dissidents do what they do because they are rich, or have nothing better to do, but last year I found out a woman doing activism for U Gambira, was waiting for a kidney transplant. I invited her to dinner at a Gala, and she was so happy that day because she had found a donor - imagine - dialysis and a full time job, and not much money and still making postcards to publicize U Gambira's plight thousands of miles away. Once I spoke up because a woman was prejudiced for no reason against someone quite severely disabled, who struggled to speak, and I got quite angry and said, "You are out of line," because she came in to where 3 of us paper supervisors were marking papers, and said, "She doesn't deserve a prize, she is suffering from xyz disease," and she heard it in a dorm! She could not even say what disease it was, and besides, we are/were not judging her health, we were grading her academic paper. Maybe that's why that non-profit did not call me back, but I could not let an injustice happen right under my nose. Lots of things like that -- sometimes the victims themselves are stunned by the direct attack, and make no move to defend themselves, and an old woman like me has to wade in and defend them. -- I cld go on and on but had better stop.
- Ta Emi For those of us who live afar and love our homelands dearly tend to follow everything that is happening there. Sometimes we know a lot more about the situation than those living in the midst of it, because we are freer to listen, to think, to investigate, communicate and write.
- Kyi May Kaung Thank you Ta Emi - that is what I found even when I was outside Burma for the first time, in Gomulka's Poland in 1969. My time (30 years) in USA is so much more well informed - and by now I have an Ivy League Ph.D. in Political Economy and am a professional Burma Watcher - But a lot of people retain the parochial Burmese "world view" or rather frog in the well non-view. There is a lot to be said for exile. Beginning from Dante's exile.