Sunday, June 20, 2004

House Arrest

Yesterday Ann and I put ourselves under house arrest.

It was our contribution to a series of "house arrest parties" held around the country to raise money for the US Campaign for Burma. June 19th is the birthday of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and leader of the Burmese democracy movement.

For over ten years I've been active almost to the point of obsession in the Free Burma movement. In my previous career in social investment I played my part in organizing shareholders to press companies to withdraw from Burma. I quickly broadened my role to include organizing people around America to lobby their local city or state to boycott companies that did business in Burma. That led to filing of shareholder resolutions, the passage of city and state Burma laws, and the withdrawal of dozens of companies from Burma.

In 1996 an activist friend of mine urged me to watch a videotaped interview of Aung San Suu Kyi that had just been smuggled out of Burma. In the first half of the interview Aung San Suu Kyi is somber as she describes the growing crackdown in Burma and an attack on her by armed military goons. Later the interviewer asks her about the Massachusetts Burma Law enacted earlier that year. At that point, Aung San Suu Kyi's face just lights up. She expresses her gratitude for the law. Then she gives her now famous quote: "Sometimes I feel it is better to have the people of the world on your side rather than just governments."

Watching Aung San Suu Kyi express her appreciation for my work still brings tears to my eyes. It is crucial that my work truly helps those I seek to support. On a deeper emotional level her gratitude moved me. It remains a source of inspiration to me whenever my activism appears futile.

Aung San Suu Kyi's words continued to resonate with me as I organized my House Arrest Party. Ann and I sent invitations to scores of friends and colleagues. We fed our guests Burmese food and showed them new DVDs by Witness and Asiaworks on the current crackdown in Burma. We raised over $1,000 for the work of the US Campaign for Burma.

It was another small contribution to the Free Burma movement. But I feel it was not a futile one.


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