It’s been over 50 years since the fated tragic uprising of Tibet in March 1959.
Mao Zedong’s newly empowered government invaded Tibet in 1950 to repudiate the state’s autonomy and enforce the communist line.
The Tibetan governor was taken prisoner by the People’s Liberation Army, leaving a 15 year-old Dalai Lama as the region’s leader. Opposition to Chinese rule grew steadily during the 1950s coming to a head in 1959.
The Khampas—the small Tibetan guerilla fighting force—requested official Tibetan aid from the Dalai Lama in February 1959, but the Dalai Lama refused to violate his position on non-violence.
At 25, the Dalai Lama was anxious for a diplomatic resolution. He accepted an invitation by representatives of the Chinese government to attend a theater performance on March 10, 1959…even though he was instructed by the Chinese to keep his attendance a secret and to not be accompanied by Tibetan forces or bodyguards.
As word of the unusual requests of the Chinese government spread, the people of Tibet feared their leader would be kidnapped.
“By the morning of 10 March an estimated 30,000 people had surrounded the Dalai Lama’s summer palace, the Nobulingka, to prevent their leader from going.”
Throughout the next week massive demonstrations against the Chinese government grew in Norbulingka and Lhasa. On the 12th, 5,000 Tibetan women demonstrated in Lhasa.
When on the 16th two Chinese grenades exploded outside the Dalai Lama’s palace, he was finally convinced he needed to leave his home country before a full-on attack could endanger the Tibetan civilians surrounding the palace.
“Dressed in a military uniform and with a gun hanging over his shoulder, the Dalai Lama walked out of the gates of Norbulingka without anyone recognising him…”
He escaped to India, never to return again.
The following week the Chinese bombarded the palace with 800 grenades, killing an unknown number of the thousands camped outside, protecting the Dalai Lama.
“Chinese reports state that 5,600 rebels had been ‘liquidated’ by the beginning of April…Local government was dissolved and military government imposed on Tibet. Thousands were rounded up and imprisoned and tortured. The Chinese conducted house-to-house searches to try and find guerillas, and in any house where they found arms the residents were executed. The authorities in Beijing officially denied that a revolt had taken place, and claimed that the Khampa guerillas had kidnapped the Dalai Lama.”
The Dalai Lama has spent the past half-century in exile, traveling the world, promoting peace and non-violence.
Sounds like the name of a Batman character, and its eccentric, British, paralyzed bearer could have easily been one.
Little is known of Henry Edward Ernest Victor Bliss’s early life. He was born in Buckinghamshire, England in 1869 and became an engineer. He received the title “Fourth Baron Bliss of the Kingdom of Portugal” in adulthood, probably through his relation to war veteran Sir John Moore, though some historians dispute this.
He had hoped to retire early and sail the world, but he was paralyzed from the waist down at the age of 42. Still determined, he used a yacht, the Sea King, to travel around the British Isles. The Sea King was commandeered during World War I.
After the war Bliss built a new yacht, the Sea King II. He left a good amount of his fortune with his wife Ethel (They had no children) and pursued his lifelong dream. He spent five years in the Bahamas, fishing. Then moved on to Trinidad, where the unfortunate Bliss experienced a very bad case of food poisoning.
After recovering slightly, the ship sailed for the shore of British Honduras—what is now Belize. Bliss spent several weeks off the coast of the small Crown Colony just southeast of Mexico. Bliss fell in love with the area. He remained onboard his ship, but was often visited by the locals.
It is no secret why Bliss fell in love with the coast of what would one day become known as Belize. To this day Belize is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful stretches on shoreline on earth. For scuba divers, Belize is second only to the Great Barrier Reef.
Baron Bliss continued fishing there until his health took a turn for the worse. When his doctors informed him he had only a short while to live, he rewrote his will, leaving the bulk of his massive fortune to the small colony.
Bliss passed away on March 9, 1926. He requested he be buried underneath a lighthouse. The grateful Belize government used part of the inheritance to build the famous 50-foot Baron Bliss Lighthouse, as well as the Bliss Institute, the Bliss School of Nursing, and several other projects that strengthened the colony’s infrastructure. Also, the country holds a yearly regatta in his honor, as requested in his will.
Today Baron Bliss Day is still immortalized with a holiday in Belize—a country in which he never set foot.
Over a hundred years ago today 15,000 women in New York City came together to march for better working conditions and universal women’s suffrage.
The following year the Socialist Party of America declared February 28 to be National Women’s Day. In Copenhagen in 1910 an International Women’s Day was proposed and unanimously agreed upon by 100 women representing 17 countries. It would be observed simultaneously by women around the world on March 8, 1911.
Over a million people observed the first International Women’s Day in countries like Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark.
That same month the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City killed over 140 women workers, mostly poor immigrants, and propelled the appalling working conditions of women laborers to the forefront of national politics.
In 1917, International Women’s Day played a significant part in one of the most important revolutions of the 20th century: the February Revolution, which took place in, of course, March.
Before 1918, Russia was still on the Julian calendar, so Russians observed Women’s Day on February 23 Julian to coincide with the March 8 observances in the rest of the world. On February 23 (Old Style), 1917 thousands of women demonstrated in St. Petersburg, Russia, demanding “Food for our Children”, and for the return of their husbands and sons from the war with Germany. These massive demonstrations and strikes served as the catalyst for the series of events that led to the abolishment of the centuries-old Russian Czardom one week later, and paved the way for Bolshevik Revolution.
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Over the past century International Women’s Day has served as a day to address issues of women’s rights in countries around the world, notably the developing world and Europe. The holiday has not garnered as near as much of a following in North America, perhaps because of its communist roots.
This year  Every Day’s a Holiday attended the International Women’s Day Rally in Westwood, California. A Communist Rally “in the heart of Capitalism” as the speakers put it.
The theme of rally was solidarity with Afghani and Iranian women against both Islamic fundamentalism and U.S. imperialism. Afghani and Iranian women have born the brunt of the upheaval in these two nations since 2001, indeed since 1979.
Having just finished reading Jung Chang’s Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China I was dubious about communism being the most ideal route for women’s equality. The book tells the story of three generations of Chinese women, focusing on the author’s mother, who joins the Communist Party in post-war China because it appears to be the best means to bring about long-overdue equality to women. However, once in power, the Communist Party creates an even more brutal and powerful aristocracy than the one it disbanded. The author’s family witnesses party policies that kill tens of millions of men, women, and children, and ruin the lives of millions more families, in the stated aim of achieving a more just society.
Regardless of political and economic ideology, today International Women’s Day fills a purpose long abandoned by another holiday: Mothers’ Day.
The original intention of Mothers’ Day in the United States—as conceived of independently by Julia Ward Howe and Ann Jarvis—was a day for mothers to join together to act as a collective force for social justice.
Having witnessed the brutality of the Civil War, both women sought to bring mothers together on Mothers’ Days of Peace to declare war on war itself.
“Arise then…women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts! Whether your baptism be of water or of tears! Say firmly: “We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies, our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage, for caresses and applause. Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We, the women of one country, will be too tender of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs…”
–Julia Ward Howe, Mothers’ Day Proclamation of 1870
The Mother’s Day we celebrate today in the United States is quite different. It was pioneered by Ann Jarvis’s daughter, Anna Jarvis, after her mother’s passing. Anna conceived of the holiday, not as a day of social activism, but as a day of recognition and gratitude for one’s own mother. And by placing the apostrophe before the ‘s’ rather than after, Mother’s Day became a very personal day rather than a collective one.
And far more commercial. Mother’s Day is a bigger day for the flower industry than even Valentine’s Day.
The greeting card companies haven’t yet figured out how to commercialize upon Women’s Day’s 100 year old tradition of social activism. But give it time.
Likewise, as the holiday grows more mainstream, the creators of Women’s Day rallies have yet to rediscover how to turn the date into one of social revolution.
Southern California native Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in the Iraq War, was on hand at the Los Angeles rally to deliver an address to the crowd on Westwood Blvd. Appealing to a more targeted audience than Obama’s “Yes We Can” campaign, her credo was the more direct: “What the F***?”
Over a hundred years ago, 15,000 women in New York City came together to march for better working conditions and universal women’s suffrage.
The following year the Socialist Party of America declared February 28 to be National Women’s Day. In Copenhagen in 1910 an International Women’s Day was proposed and unanimously agreed upon by 100 women representing 17 countries. It would be observed simultaneously by women around the world.
The first official International Women’s Day was observed on March 8, 1911. Over a million people celebrated in countries including Austria, Germany, Switzerland and Denmark.
That same month the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City killed over 140 woman workers, mostly poor immigrants, and propelled the appalling working conditions of woman laborers to the forefront of national politics.
Russia, which was still on the Julian Calendar, celebrated Women’s Day on February 23 to observe the holiday concurrently with the rest of the world. On February 23, 1917 thousands of women demonstrated in St. Petersburg, Russia, demanding Food for our Children, and for the return of their husbands and sons from the war. The Women’s Day march led to further demonstrations, and the abolishment of the centuries-old Czardom of Russia four days later.
Today, a century after 15,000 women banded together on the streets of New York, International Women’s Day is one of the most widely-celebrated secular holidays in the world.
March 7 is Arbor Day in California. It’s the birthday of Luther Burbank, a Massachusetts native who moved out to California in the 1870s, and who used his Santa Rosa gardens for horticulture experiments for 50 years.
Though most states celebrate Arbor Day along with Nebraska on the last Friday in April, California trees definitely deserve their own day of celebration.
For starters, California claims the world’s oldest tree. On the slopes of California’s White Mountains in the Eastern Sierras, stands “Methuselah.” The Bristlecone Pine in Inyo National Forest is named for the Biblical grandfather of Noah. According to “Bishop Ussher’s Bible Chronology” the Biblical Methuselah was born in 3317 BC and died in the year of the flood, 2348 BC.
Assuming Ussher’s Chronology is correct, the tree Methuselah is actually older than the flood. This Bristlecone Pine took root around 2760 BC.
It’s not uncommon for bristlecones in that forest to be over 4,000 years old. Nevada boasted an even older bristlecone named Prometheus that was cut down in 1964. Outside the region, few trees come even close.
The record for the largest tree and the “most massive individual living thing on Earth” also goes to California specimin. “General Sherman” is a Sequoia tree in Sequoia National Park. A mere 2,500 years old, General Sherman is 275 feet tall, and its trunk has a circumference of over 100 feet, with a diameter of 35 feet. The trunk alone weighs an estimated 1400 tons, more than 15 blue whales.
Sherman isn’t the tallest tree in the world though, not even close. That record belongs to a redwood on the California coast called “Hyperion.” At 379 feet tall, Hyperion is five stories taller than the Statue of Liberty, and 9 feet taller than “Stratosphere Giant”, another California Coastal Redwood, previously thought to be the world’s tallest tree.
The new record-holder is apparently under the government’s “arboreal witness protection program.” Its exact location has not been disclosed to the public for fear that increased tourism could damage the forest’s fragile ecosystem.
Not all states can boast their own Independence Day. On March 2, fifty-four representatives at the Convention of 1836 seceded from Mexico by declaring that:
the people of Texas do now constitute a free, Sovereign, and independent republic, and are fully invested with all the rights and attributes which properly belong to independent nations; and, conscious of the rectitude of our intentions, we fearlessly and confidently commit the issue to the decision of the Supreme arbiter of the destinies of nations.
The document was drawn up literally overnight.
Why the rush? As the delegates met, a battle raged on in San Antonio.
About 189 Texians had barricaded themselves inside a former mission. Outside “the Alamo,” as it was called, 2000 Mexican troops under Mexican President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna surrounded them. The Texians refused to surrender, and held out for two weeks.
On March 6 Santa Anna’s forces stormed the fortress. The Texians fought to the last man. Among the dead were Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett. Santa Anna spared the life of a slave and a Mexican who claimed to be held prisoner; he also granted the surviving women and their children safe passage and provisions.
The battle, intended to crush the revolution, had the opposite effect. “Remember the Alamo” became the rallying cry of the new Republic, and six weeks later, on April 21, 1836 General Sam Houston defeated Santa Anna at the historic Battle of San Jacinto.
Texas remained independent for just under a decade. It became the 28th state in 1845; Texas’s annexation precipitated the Mexican-American War.
Ironically, the most cherished landmark in Texas was almost razed just prior to the battle. Sam Houston had asked Governor Henry Smith for permission to
“remove all the cannon and other munitions of war to Gonzales and Copano, blow up the Alamo and abandon the place, as it will be impossible to keep up the Station with volunteers, the sooner I can be authorized the better it will be for the country.”
James Neill and Jim Bowie however saw the strategic importance in holding the fort and wrote the Governor:
“Colonel Neill and myself have come to the solemn resolution that we will rather die in these ditches than give it up to the enemy.”
Neill left on February 17 to gather supplies and volunteers, unaware the battle would begin in just a week. Bowie held true to his word.
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Just to be clear, the Texas Legislature wants you to know that Texas Week is NOT a holiday. Even though it is.
To ensure employers that workers wouldn’t use it as an excuse for time off, the proclamation also declared:
…under no condition, is Texas Week to be looked upon as a week of holidays; but on the other hand and quite to the contrary, it is hereby alleged that during Texas Week every citizen of this State is encouraged to work, insofar as he is able, and to do his work a bit better than he does it during other weeks of the year.”
“A man’s usefulness to the revolutionary cause is like a screw in a machine. It is only by the many, many interconnected and fixed screws that the machine can move freely, increasing its enormous work power.”— from the Diary of Lei Feng
Since 1963, March 5th has been known as “Emulate Lei Feng Day” in China. Under Chairman Mao Zedong, schools would study Lei Feng’s diary, create Lei Feng teams to serve their communities, and teach children to be perfect citizens all around, all in the hopes of being just like the legendary Lei Feng.
Jung Chang recalls in Wild Swans:
Every afternoon we left school to “do good deeds like Lei Feng.” We went down to the railway station to try to help old ladies with their luggage, as Lei Feng had done…I stood on the street with an umbrella, anxiously hoping that an old lady would pass by and give me an opportunity to escort her home—as Lei Feng had done…
Lei Feng was born into a poor family in Wangcheng, Hunan. He was orphaned at an early age, and taken in by the Communist Party. He started grade school just after the Chinese Revolution. After six years of school, he worked a number of ordinary jobs—a messenger for a local government office, a worker for the Anshan Iron and Steel Company; a truck driver in the People’s Liberation Army. During his service he was known for doing good deeds and donating part of his paycheck to social causes. Until one day at age 22, he died while helping a truck to back up.
So why was Lei Feng—one in a billion—chosen to be canonized by the world’s most populous nation?
In 1963 the babies of the Revolution of 1949 were hitting their teens. Born in 1940, the 20 year-old Feng was among the last generation that would recall life under the old capitalist regime of Chaing Kai-Shek.
Like millions of others, life before the revolution had not been kind to Lei. His father—according to Time Magazine—“was buried alive by the Japanese, his two brothers starved to death, and his mother hanged herself after being raped by a landlord.”
Lei Feng’s tragic life story entailed all the evils of pre-Communist China. The Japanese, the capitalists, the corruption, the landlords. After his mother’s death Feng was literally raised by the Communist party. One official write-up on Feng would bring this point home with the title: “My Mother was the Party.”
Another reason for Lei Feng’s posthumous popularity may have been the convenient existence of so many photographs of him doing good deeds. As Jung Chang pointed out, “Lei Feng’s good deeds were miraculously recorded by an official photographer.”
The book “Lei Feng Spirit” by Shi Yonggang states that government propaganda on Lei Feng started in 1960 when a photographer named Zhang Jun was assigned to do a story on a “model soldier who had donated 200 yuan to disaster relief.”
After his death, Lei Feng’s 200,000 word diary was published and schoolchildren were encouraged to study it. It includes such entries as “I am all for the Party, Socialism and Communism.”
Jung Chang writes:
“Gradually, during the course of 1964, the emphasis began to shift from boy scoutish good deeds to the cult of Mao. The essence of Lei Feng, the teachers told us, was his ‘boundless love and devotion to Chairman Mao.’ Before he took any action, Lei Feng always thought of some words of Mao’s. His diary was published and became our moral textbook. On almost every page there was a pledge like: ‘I must study Chairman Mao’s instructions, and be a good solider of Chairman Mao’s.'”
The final aspect of Lei’s life that allowed him to become the symbol of China’s youth was his death at age 22. In 1960s China, collectivity and conformity were the qualities of the day—hence the screw analogy. Feng’s death allowed him to break free of the conformity that bound his living compatriots. Not only would he be frozen in time as a young man, but there was no danger of him or his deceased family benefiting from his near sainthood. He was perfect symbol: young, selfless, loyal, and dead.
Reports of Lei’s death make it hard to separate the man from the myth.
“Lei died in the line of duty…”
“Lei died after being hit on the head by a wooden pole that was accidentally knocked over by a fellow solider.”
“Lei Feng: PLA soldier who died in a car accident…”
The truth may be a combo of all three. According to Qiao Anshan, the man driving the truck that killed Lei, he and Lei were cleaning the truck at Fushun Army base when Lei asked Qiao to back it up. “A rear wheel struck a pole from which barbed wire hung, but I didn’t realize this and hit the accelerator hard, pushing over the pole and killing Lei Feng.”
Lei Feng’s popularity has waxed and waned over the past 40 years, depending on political trends. He disappeared in the ’80s after it was noted that Feng wore a leather jacket and Omega watch—symbols of the Western bourgeois capitalism he was supposed to disdain. But he made a comeback in 90s during a government-led return to conservative communist values.
Today the Party has found a new way to get in touch with China’s youth: video games. One video game offers players the nail-biting adventure of following in the “Lei Feng Spirit”:
“For beginners, sewing and mending socks is the only way to increase experience and to upgrade,” said Jiao Jian, a six-grade pupil in Yuexlu District, quoted by the newspaper. “Every time you are promoted to a higher level, your clothes will become more average.”
That’s no typo. For most of U.S. history, March 4th was one of the most important dates of the year…at least every four years. From George Washington’s second term to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first term, March 4th was Inauguration Day.
Washington didn’t make it in time to his first inauguration in 1789…he mozied in on April 30 that year, but for every presidential election thereafter up through FDR in 1933, the inauguration took place on March 4. (Or March 5.)
The 20th Amendment changed all that. In 1933, Congress sought to reduce the four-month “lame duck” period—the time that lapsed between the November election and the day the old President stepped aside—so it changed Inauguration Day to January 20.
The U.S. is not the first country to change its inauguration day from March to January.
In Ancient Rome, March was the month that newly-elected officials took office up until the 2nd century BC. The original “spring cleaning” of government if you will.
In Rome’s case, however, the change was made in order to respond to a rebellion in Iberia that coincided with the Senate’s winter break.