By Doug Heye, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
I'll never forget driving into Manhattan the evening of December 12, 1995. It was Frank Sinatra's 80th birthday. A huge Sinatra fan, I had the radio tuned to WQEW-AM, a New York station in the middle of a multi-day Sinatra A-Z broadcast. As the skyline came into view, I noticed the Empire State Building bathed in blue to honor Ol' Blue Eyes.
The floodlights atop to Empire State Building, of course, often use different colors—red and green for Christmas; red, white, and blue on Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Bastille Day; green for St. Patrick's Day, to name, but a few.
The lights are often used, as one would imagine, for commercial purposes—special colors for the launch of Microsoft's Windows95, the video release of The Simpsons Movie, and last year's three-day celebration of the accomplishments (whatever they may be) of Mariah Carey.
Tonight the Empire State Building will be awash in red and yellow. But instead of honoring a singer intrinsically linked to the city, holidays, or something crassly commercial, the Empire State Building, as reported by the Agence France Presse, will "honor the 60th Anniversary of communist China."
What specifically has the Empire State Building decided to honor?
Will it honor the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, where the government murdered hundreds of its own citizens and rolled out tanks to quell any showing of support for freedom?
Is this to honor Mao Zedong, whose euphemistically-named Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution led to the mass starvation and mass murder of 40-70 million Chinese, a death toll perhaps surpassing that of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin combined, and led him to declare "China is such a populous nation, it's not as if we cannot do without a few people?"
Or is this to honor China's 1950 invasion of Tibet and subsequent famine, mass deaths, and continued domination over its land, people, and culture?
You almost have to hand it to the Chinese government. As the country opened up economically (while tightening its grip back home), it learned enough about western capitalism to know that anything has a price. Apparently that includes honoring a regime responsible for the murder of millions upon millions of people. And with the Chinese consul on hand for a ceremonial switch of the flip, doing so with style.
In 2004, the Empire State Building paid tribute to the late actress Fay Wray, of King Kong fame, by switching off its lights. Such an action would be more appropriate than honoring a murderous regime.