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Letter from the Editor: Free Tibet

Odd things can motivate you to change the world. For me, it was an adult spinning records in a koala costume. It happened last month, when I saw the Arcade Fire at the Pepsi Center. One of the openers was Montreal DJ Kid Koala—he rose up on a stage mid-arena and started playing three turntables “and no laptop.” He was dressed as his namesake, which was not too different from the crowd who had been instructed to come in formal wear or costume (some even wore furry masks). Kid Koala spun some Beastie Boys “Pass the Mic” and gave a big call-out to the recently deceased MCA. The crowd screamed approval. I suddenly believed that we can help free Tibet.

MCA or Adam Yauch was far more than a Beastie Boy (though what better thing could you be?). The man, who died of cancer in 2012, was a passionate snowboarder, meditator and advocate for Tibetan independence. He founded the Tibetan Freedom Concert series—festivals that headlined powerhouses the likes of Björk, Rage Against the Machine and De La Soul and raised serious money for the grassroots organization Students for a Free Tibet and Yauch’s own Milarepa Fund which aided Tibetan monks and spread the word about the plight of the Tibetan people.

China has illegally occupied the peaceful, sovereign country of Tibet since the 1950s. The Chinese government continues to dismantle the Tibetan culture, religion and people. It denies the Tibetans basic human rights and tortures political prisoners as it continues with its plan to eradicate the nation and its way of life. So many of us here in Colorado are in tune to Tibet and its plight. In a large part because one of the lamas who fled the Chinese in 1959, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, founded Shambhala and Naropa Universtiy here and spread the message of compassion and mindfulness that Tibet

has cultivated for generations. But also because we have an affinity to the mountains. The high peaks speak to both cultures. Many Tibetans and Sherpas and Nepalis make their home (some in exile) here in Colorado. As someone who tries his best—if not to actively practice meditation and study Tibetan Buddhism—to at least try to lead a compassionate, mindful life, I feel thankful to these teachers and the far inspiration of the Himalaya.

So when Kid Koala called out for MCA, it hit me that his work for Tibet is not over. I felt inspired that maybe even I could do something to help it continue. It was odd and powerful to get that sort of soul-shaking inspiration from a grown man in a fuzzy suit and a dead rapper. But, then again, that is the power of music, of festivals, of the art we create when you feel it loud in your chest. And why is the idea of a free Tibet out of the question? In my lifetime, I have seen the world change in impossible ways, seen political situations oddly reverse, dictators fall back to mortality: the Velvet Revolution, took down the Soviet Union, the Arab Spring brought democracy to the Middle East. Why can’t the Dalai Lama return to his country?

At the same time as the show, my Twitter feed was blowing up with an impassioned response in support of the Sherpa people and families of 16 porters who died on Everest, hauling loads for Western clients. The Sherpa reaction to the tragedy was to start to speak up, to demand their voice be better heard on their mountain. Many of us here heard and put our will (and cash) behind their effort. But should our concern stop there?

Can we also help end the horrific human trafficking that takes place in Nepal, where every year 12,000-15,000 women and young girls are taken across the border and sold into slavery, rape and brothels? Can we free Tibet? I think we can see these changes in this place that’s so important to those of us who love the mountains. Can you feel what I’m feeling? In the immortal words of MCA: If you can hear what I’m dealing with then that’s cool at least.

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