Her release date is set but no one sets much store by it. The world is wise to the lying ways of one of the most brutal regimes on earth. Then, the day before, news filters through that she may actually be released, that the order has been signed. The world waits with baited breath, the second’s pause heavy with awareness that history may be changing.
And then she is out. She is walking, waving, speaking to her people. Her cut glass, educated tones ring out across the world. In Burma people risk their impoverished lives to stand and wait outside her house, holding a vigil for their rightful leader. They hold banners, they weep, they put aside their disparate tribal differences and are a nation for a second.
For a moment they herald a new dawn for their blighted country. As always, the lady steps forward with grace, from fifteen years of imprisonment. Not the jubilance of freedom on her face, but the gentle knowledge of a soul whose life is in the hands of a brutal dictatorship, and whose time left to effect change is short. It might be a second, according to the whims of the generals, but it will be nonetheless monumental.
It astounds me after all she has been through that she does not leave. That after the decades of imprisonment she doesn’t ensure her own safety by abandoning Burma. That her commitment to her people goes further than I can dream. At any second she is under fear of arrest, of assassination, yet she persists.
Persists with her vision of democracy, persists in her political voice, persists in fighting for the rights of her people. How does one woman become the political conscience of a nation? How does she sacrifice her children, her husband, her freedom and her life to fight this cause with refined gentle grace and measured, careful intelligent speech?
She speaks to the world and tells them her freedom is no freedom, there can be no rejoicing while her people are still repressed, while more than 2,000 political prisoners remain in jail. She tells the BBC, “I cannot complain, the average person in Burma has been subjected to far greater hardship than I”.
I wonder at the Junta, who having had her locked up for fifteen years presumably thought it was safe to release her a week after their ‘supposedly’ democratic elections. I wonder what they must think when they see scenes of people risking their lives to pay homage to her across the country? How they could be so blind to think they were safe, that her power would have dissipated, to underestimate the soul of a nation?
The unfortunate conclusion is that her freedom will be short lived. But the wonder is that despite sixty years since her father was instrumental in securing Burma’s independence, and twenty years since her rightful election as its leader, despite gross and horrific violations of humanity all over Burma, despite the destruction of a nation and a people and the ethnic cleansing of many more peoples: the pulse of democracy beats strong in Burma and the responsibility of the people courses through her veins.
However long they leave her languishing in jail, hoping the fire dies down they can never extinguish it. As she steps out onto her balcony and lifts her hand to wave to those below, as she gracefully thanks the people for the risks they have taken. As she speaks calmly of the future, and her beautiful face is watched on television sets around the globe, she just proves them wrong again and again.