This morning we walked down the road to visit Gu Chu Sum, an organization that works with former political prisoners who have come into exile in India. The stories are brutal and the work is hard, to put it lightly. We spoke with the Vice President of Gu Chu Sum, Dawa Tashi, who was a former political prisoner himself before escaping into exile in 2004. Simply being in possession of a picture of the Dalai Lama will label you as a political activist and land you in prison. The Tibetan national flag is banned. Any minor misstep can have you arrested in a moment.
There’s a saying in Tibet that there’s more guns than butter lamps (the traditional candles). There’s more army men than monks. And every street corner in Lhasa (the capital city) has CCTV surveillance cameras as well as both uniformed and plain-clothed police.
To simply say “Long live the Dalai Lama” is a crime. To say “Tibet should be free” is a crime.
On this day, I am reminded of the power of our first amendment, and very thankful for the freedom of speech. I can say “Long live the Dalai Lama” with no fear of imprisonment or torture. I don’t fear for repercussions against my family. I don’t need to go into exile.
I am reminded of how vital our freedom of speech is, and how important it is to have a free press. This is how we maintain an archive of our experiences as a society and as a country, and these freedoms actively work against revisionist history tactics.