Saturday, June 03, 2006

Iris Chang Post Script

Some seven months after writing about Iris Chang, her name continues to surface. Many people have told me her story has had a lasting impact. Despite this, I’ve come to believe that her absence remains and probably will remain a significant void in intelligent public discourse about a teetering foothold on civil liberties, and the “thin veneer,” as Iris called it, holding civilization back from the capacity to commit the unspeakable. Iris’ special mixture of passion and brave tenacity is too rare, I think, and the issues around Nanking’s past and other political struggles around world are too vast and messy to make a similarly charismatic and tireless advocate likely to emerge for a while. After all, being a lone warrior for such a sobering cause has its downside. Maybe this is the most resonant part Iris’ legacy. In the meantime, of course, events scattered around the world today continue to make Iris’ message timely and relevant.

New resources of looking back on Iris’ life occasionally pop up. A more accessible version of a 56 minute speech at the University of California Santa Barbara now appears on Google video along with an even more youthful, 30-year old Iris on the Charlie Rose program back in 1998. They reveal more images of a young writer on a mission, and also some glimpses of an ordinary person thrust into a stressful whirlwind of controversial issues, almost always dealing with them gracefully, and occasionally showing human vulnerability.

Shortly after posting my story, “Iris Chang One Year Later …” I was surprised and gratified to be contacted by Ying-Ying Chang, Iris’ mother who, to my delight, was pleased with the article even while pointing out a few (thankfully minor) errors, which I immediately corrected. I could never have expected her gracious expression of thanks, especially over an article about what must be such a painful source of grief for her and her family. It goes to show that the web can make the world a smaller place.

The Chang Family has been involved with the Iris Chang Memorial Fund that supports an essay contest supported by tax deductible donations.

An abbreviated version of my article also appeared in the newsletter of the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum in January.

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