“And it’s no sacrifice
Just a simple word
It’s two hearts living
In two separate worlds”
In 1989 Bernie Taupin wrote these words to Elton John’s ‘Sacrifice‘, one of their most successful collaborations. It became Elton’s 1st ever number one song in the charts – which is hugely surprising considering the amazing success that Elton had up to that point.
The song is about the end of a relationship where the couple involved just could not come to terms with each other even though you get the feeling that their love for each other is not the real issue. The end is as inevitable as it is painful and the sacrifice in this case is the child that they have.
The thing that surprised me the most is the music video for the song in which the woman seems to be the one walking out of the relationship leaving the daughter with the man. Usually it’s the other way around. The premise is that she made the conscious decision to ‘sacrifice’ her child in pursuit of her own dreams. A case of marrying too young perhaps?
Whatever the case may be, it takes a lot of conviction – rightly or wrongly – to leave behind one’s family in pursuit of a greater goal. In Elton’s video we may feel less charitable towards the woman who abandoned her marriage for her career leaving the husband to care for their child in less than splendid surroundings.
But what if the driving force is not career, money, fame but an entire nation and its people? Would anyone of us walk away from all that we love and cherish for a higher cause and perhaps even greater love?
Such is the case with Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma. Her identification with being a Burmese is so profound and deeply ingrained that she walked away from all that she held dear for the sake of her country. She endured more than 2 decades of incarceration, loneliness and isolation in her steely defiance of Burma’s autocratic military regime. All the while her husband and 2 sons were a world away in England not knowing when and if they would ever see her again.
As it turns out Aung San Suu Kyi would never see her husband alive again as he died of cancer in 1999. Even then she made the momentous decision not to attend his funeral for fear that she would never be allowed back into Burma again should she leave the country. The decision must have been a painful one to make and by some accounts has caused a strain in the relationship between Suu Kyi and her eldest son Alexander. Indeed many would debate the choices that she has made in her life and the repercussions that they have wrought.
What would we do if we were faced with such a situation? Would we place king and country above our personal fulfillment if we were to be tested in the same way? Would we be willing to endure a lifelong separation from our family in the service of a cause that we deem to be more noble?
And let’s not forget Michael Aris, Aung San Suu Kyi’s husband, who also put aside his personal happiness in support of his wife and the cause she was fighting for. Two people deeply in love with a growing family but choosing to forsake it all because a country demanded it. How many of us would take the same path?
If we want our children to have role models I would recommend that we look no further than these two amazing people. Theirs is an extraordinary love story darkened by sacrifice, separation and ultimately heartache. Their selflessness has exacted a heavy toll. They went down the road far less traveled in defense of their principles and values in order that a whole nation and it’s people may one day live a life that is democratic, just and free.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a daughter, wife, mother and now political leader struggling against a repressive regime with nothing more than her courage, convictions and the simple belief that hers is a just cause. The human spirit is truly an amazing force for it can prevail against the most brutal injustice and oppression. The example of Aung San Suu Kyi is a powerful lesson for all of us, in particular our children, to learn
Happy Mother’s Day to all you mums out there (and Dads) who may not be faced with issues as daunting as Aung San Suu Kyi but are in your own ways teaching your children about what it means to stand up for your beliefs in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds and that might is not necessarily right.