We remember June Fourth because the glint of bonfires on bayonets is something one does not forget, even if one did not see it personally.
We remember June Fourth because it taught us the essential nature of the Communist Party of China when all of the clothes, every shred, falls away. No book, film, or museum could be clearer.
We remember June Fourth because of the ordinary workers who died then. We cannot remember most of their names because we do not know most of their names. We never did. But we remember them as people, and we remember that we never knew their names.
We remember June Fourth because the worst of China is there—but the best of China is there, too.
We remember June Fourth because it was a massacre—not just a crackdown, or an “incident,” an event, a shijian, a fengbo; not a counterrevolutionary riot, not a faint memory, and not, as a child in China might think today, a blank. It was a massacre.
We remember June Fourth because, as Fang Lizhi noted with his characteristic wit, it is the only case he has heard of in which a nation invaded itself.
We remember June Fourth because Xi Jinping’s fat smile is a mask.