Burning flesh, jasmine scent

I used to live just a few blocks from where it happened on that fateful day in 1963.

As an active kid, I joined the throng to witness history in the making: monk’s self-immolation as a peaceful act of protest against the Diem’s dictatorship.

The city had been permeated with the smell of tear gas on days leading up to this event http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2043123,00.html

We rubbed lime to soothe our eyes’ sore.

When I read about Tunisians tweet and text to recommend Coke for eye relief, it brought back memories .

The jasmine revolution got its start from those similar flames. Flames of conscience objectors who preferred death to drift and dignity to dumb-down.

We have watched with incredulity how a Zippo flip from Tunisia could inflame the streets of Cairo.

And how quickly the scent of jasmine spread in carosene region .

People pray and people pay the price (thanks to the doctors who bandaged the wounded) to bring down Pharaoh. Instead of casting votes, they cast stones. As I can recall, it was serene and surreal at the intersection of Le Van Duyet and Phan Dinh Phung street . Young monks chanted quietly to send their master to Nirvana. There were a few hundred present at the event (including an award-winning NYT war correspondent).

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Peaceful and principled.

Every body knew what it was all about: the Diem’s family ruled the country: big brother was president, younger brother – head of internal security, and his wife, unelected spoke person for the regime. Madame Nhu was quoted in a press conference (perhaps on her shopping trip abroad, though not for as many shoes as counterpart  Imelda Marcos) “they are welcome to barbecue themselves ….”

History recorded that her husband and brother-in-law, dictators of former Vietnam, were assassinated on their way to the Chinese District. Their deaths weren’t honored and their departures not as peaceful as the monk’s. “What good for a man to gain the world and lose his own soul”.

If you were to witness that sudden burst of flame, and the resolute stillness of the monk, you, like I, would never forget. It will be the same years from now about that jasmine scent that floats from Tunisia to Egypt and onto Libya.

Use lime, it’s better than Coke.



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