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Thailand’s salute: Our struggle is non-fiction

Published: Wednesday, June 4, 2014 1:52 p.m. CDT

After last month’s May 22 coup de etat in Thailand, protesters have recently adopted a unique hand gesture to unite them against the martial law led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha. Their method of silent demonstration may be familiar to those of us in America, since the hand gesture they use was first made famous in another arena of resistance.

The three-fingered salute used by Katniss Everdeen in the recent blockbuster and bestseller franchise of the "Hunger Games" has now become a symbol of solidarity for the people of Thailand. In the "Hunger Games" and "Catching Fire" movies, the people of a dystopian, totalitarian society also known as Panem show their support for one another by raising their three middle fingers in the air. This civil disobedience serves as a rallying mechanism for the people of Panem, and the people of Thailand are trying out its powers in the real world.

When the Thai resistors thrust the symbol into the air, they are making a decision to stand united against the governing military personnel. The three-fingers themselves have been interpreted to represent liberty, brotherhood and equality — all three of which make up the core tenets of the Thai peoples’ fight against the military rule of Gen. Chan-ocha.

Many of the Thai people are willing to stand fearless in the face of weapons and security forces with only their hopes for a democratic future and their three fingers held high. Though the government in Thailand has attempted to regulate social media sites, some Twitter users have managed to get their messages out to the International World. One tweet from Manik Sethisuwan, read:  "Dear #HungerGames. We've taken your sign as our own. Our struggle is non-fiction."

No longer is this a story just for the books or the movie screens; the Thai people are making their resistance real and the "Hunger Games" salute is just a part of their fight. When I first heard that the protesters were calling their struggle “non-fiction,” I was surprised at how much I needed to be reminded of this true fact.

Ironically through social media, the struggle of the Thai resistors has become just another story to read about. In the news sections you can see blurbs of their story focusing on how uncanny it is that life could imitate art. Videos of the "Catching Fire" movie clips are often embedded within the articles as well to keep the audience interested as they read about a fight that has nothing to do with the United States. And then after a day or so, these articles become non-existent on the featured pages and instead are replaced with more exciting sounding news.

Katniss and Peeta in the "Hunger Games" may be household names, but the true heroes of resistance movements like the ones in Thailand are being forgotten as if they were nothing but stories. I think it’s important to remember that the books and films we consume are not the only places where people are struggling against extreme oppression and despair. There are people out there fighting for a chance at real freedom, and it’s not for the benefit of our entertainment.  

Kathy Tun of Spring Valley is a sophomore at Illinois Wesleyan in Bloomington. She can be reached in care of this newspaper at P.O. Box 340, Princeton, IL 61356.

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