Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Enter the "Bosnian"

A NOTE ON CROSS-CULTURAL HEROISM IN THE ADRIATIC.


Yesterday's Times ran a Reuters story tagged "Coming Together Over Bruce Lee", which the China Daily helpfully picked up. The Times' version went something like this:

The ethnically divided Bosnian city of Mostar has agreed to erect a new symbol of unity—a statue of the martial arts legend Bruce Lee ... beloved of the city's Muslims, Serbs and Croats alike. The statue, cast in bronze and showing the star in a fighting pose, will be designed by a local sculptor and put up in Mostar's central square in November. Mr. Lee's widow, Linda, will be invited to attend the ceremony. A civic group in the strife-ridden city developed the idea in 2003, and recently won a $6,250 donation from a German organization to finance the project. Veselin Gatalo, a member of the organizing group, said, "This will be a monument to universal justice that Mostar needs more than any other city I know."

It's difficult to tell from a distance whether Bruce Lee is a widely regarded hero in the southern Balkans or whether Veselin Gatalo belongs to a fringe group that just happened to get a permit for the statue. But as his quote implies, Mostar's citizens seem more concerned about having a neutral slate onto which they can project their yearning for justice.

From this perspective, Bruce Lee is the perfect man, and perhaps the only man, who could be memorialized so publicly in a divided city like Mostar. His Chinese ancestry removes him from the region's recent ethnically and religiously based fighting, while his 1973 death eliminates the chance that he will do anything that might taint his heroic image (see IMDB's entry on Enter the Dragon, or Wikipedia's take on Fist of Fury for example).

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