December 2004

Scene4 Alex Danin Adler
Arthur Meiselman

Farewell to Iris and To Iris Farewell

I have always loved the Iris, especially the traditional one, purple with a  sensuous golden center. It has an innate beauty in the way it grows and develops, and it's wonderfully smart in the way it blossoms. So it was with one of that flower's namesakes, Iris Chang. She was a diligent and perceptive historian who was also a gifted writer. Her 1997 Rape of Nanking became a best-seller elevating her to celebrity status which she used in her eloquently passionate pursuit of historical justice for what she called: "the second rape of Nanking."  It terrified her that the "history of three hundred thousand murdered Chinese might disappear just as they themselves disappeared under Japanese occupation... ."  It was a holocaust of such intense horror, of such bewildering cruelty and degeneracy, that even the Nazi monsters would be breathless. She asked: how does an event like this disappear from Japan's and the world's collective memory? Especially Japan, which to this day, in blatant cultural arrogance, refuses to acknowledge its action, its guilt, and its responsibility for reparation.

She absorbed all that she researched and wrote, and on November 9, 2004, Iris Chang put a bullet in her head and ended a charismatic 36-year life.Iris Chang I knew her from a few telephone conversations and a couple of meetings over tea and coffee. I didn't know her family. I didn't go to her memorial service because I don't go to funerals. They say... she was depressed. They say... she was self-shattered from the depths she explored of humans' horrific treatment of other humans. She left a note asking to be remembered as she was: "engaged with life, committed to her causes, her writing, and her family."

I don't understand depression with any clarity. It seems to be like a virus that re-programs the operating system of the mind and elevates one of an individual's selves that usually only wanders in the deepest, darkest shadows of the memory. And I'm unclear about suicide as well. I've written about it from a deformed death-row inmate who opts for it to taste a freedom of self-choice he's never had,  to a woman who discovers that her mortality will coldly erase all that is her life and opts for it to at least hold the eraser herself and warmly blank out all that she is.

These are created characters that lived within me. I wouldn't know how to paint such a profile of Iris Chang. I'm at a loss. As with all deaths, self-inflicted or not, I've acquired another irrevocable sadness.

She was a bright, flaming light, and when it burned out, there was just that much more darkness to live with.

                                   To Iris...

©2004 Arthur Meiselman

Arthur Meiselman is a writer,
telomeres hunter, and zingaro.
He's also the director of the Talos Ensemble
and its latest project, Suun Suun Sii.

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