Commemorate 228: But What are We Commemorating?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 27, 2009
It's 228 again, i.e., February 28, the anniversary of the 228 Incident of 1947. This is the Ma administration's first 228. President Ma has ordered the 228 Foundation's 1.5 billion NT budget unfrozen, and plans drawn up for a national grade memorial hall.
Ma Ying-jeou feels bound by a deep sense of "original sin." His heartfelt desire to admit wrongdoing and apologize for 228 is palpable. Alas, he has never offered a balanced and objective assessment of 228. Meanwhile the Green Camp's calculated hate-mongering has ripped society apart. It has absolutely no intention of getting to the truth of the 228 Incident.
The 228 Incident is a political Gordian Knot, primarily because the truth has not been established. The ruling and opposition parties have remained bound by a variety of false and discredited explanations. Each side has its own prejudices. Each maintains its own position. Without a truthful explanation of 228, how can we commemorate 228?
Let's examine several explanations for the 228 Incident. One. The KMT's explanation. Initially the KMT considered 228 taboo. The KMT's explanation has been revised repeatedly. For example, Chinese Communists and Taiwan Communists took part in the 228 Incident, They were the best organized and most effective fighting force. But the KMT considered this part of the historical record taboo. It was afraid to lump Chinese Communists and Taiwan Communists together with the people of Taiwan. Over the past two decades, Lee Teng-hui tried to reestablish the historical facts. But because he himself was a part of the reunification vs. independence struggle, he too failed to lead the public out of this spiritual prison. Now Ma Ying-jeou is in office. He is the product of 228 reconciliation. But as mentioned earlier, although Ma earnestly seeks reconciliation, he lacks the ability to get at the truth.
Two. Beijing's explanation. From the beginning Beijing has viewed the 228 Incident as an extension of the civil war between the KMT and the CCP. It claims that mainland Chinese Communists and Taiwan Communists stood united, and constituted the main force of the 228 resistance army. Beijing commemorated the 228 Incident each year. Only when it was recast as an "ethnic" struggle over reunification vs. independence, did Beijing's commemoration of the event become more low-keyed, or even cease.
Three. The "228 Victim's Families" explanation. The death of their relatives cut them to the quick. It is natural for them to feel wronged and to want revenge. Over the past 60 years some have found peace. But others remain caught up in their grief. This has led to a variety of explanations. Today these rank among the chief explanations for 228.
Four. The "375 Landlords and Japanese Imperial Subjects" explanation. Workers' and peasants' class consciousness during Japanese occupation was one of the pillars of the opposition movement. Two large organizations, the Cultural Association and the Farmers Cooperative were socialist oriented. Their protests were an important part of the 228 incident. The KMT government disappointed the public. Elderly sharecroppers experienced hardship and anxiety. Taiwan Retrocession failed to imbue the public with a feeling of genuine citizenship. Ironically, over the past several decades, most of the political spin on the 228 Incident has been orchestrated by descendants of 375 landlords and Japanese Imperial Subjects. They have exploited resentments arising from 228 in order to exact revenge on behalf of 375 landlords and Japanese Imperial Subjects. How can their explanations of 228 not lead to distortions of the truth?
The most influential explanation of the incident, and also the most distorted explanation, is the Taiwan Independence or DPP explanation. This explanation asserts that the 228 Incident was an anti-KMT movement, an anti-mainlander movement, an anti-China movement, therefore it is a Taiwan independence movement. It has linked Taiwan independence to the 228 Incident. From an historical and factual perspective, this "explanation" is sheer fabrication. It has no basis in reality. In 1947, when the 228 Incident erupted, Taiwan independence was not even an issue. Commemoration of the 228 Incident today hardly requires advocacy of Taiwan independence. One. This distorted explanation of the historical reality of 228 eradicates or downplays the role of the Chinese Communists in 228. It drops the civil war between the KMT and CCP down the memory hole. Two. The Taiwan independence movement denies the Chinese Communists any role in the 228 Incident. It blanks out the class consciousness of workers and peasants during the 228 Incident. Descendants of 375 landlords and Japanese Imperial Subjects would later arrogate to themselves the right to interpret the 228 Incident. This is why to this day the Democratic Progressive Party remains a phony champion of socialism.
The moral of the 228 Incident is that incompetent rule harms the people. It forces them to rebel. But the specific reasons are complex and varied. Naturally our analysis of the various explanations is much too sketchy. Besides, more explanations of 228 have been offered. We merely wish to stress that each explanation is custom tailored, hence defective. That is why we must seek a comprehensive explanation, a true explanation. To ask people to commemorate 228 in the absence of a true explanation, a full explanation, is to ask people to kowtow before false idols fabricated by political charlatans.
In commemorating 228, we must reject the notion that of "mainlanders" are somehow riddled with "Original Sin," or that we must overthrow the Republic of China. This is not a truthful explanation of 228. Only a false explanation of 228 demands "ethnic" strife and Taiwan independence. In order to commemorate 228, isn't it necessary to first establish the facts surrounding 228?
Merely bowing and scraping and apologizing, without telling the whole story, will merely add fuel to the fire. It will merely play into continuing efforts to incite hatred. It will not establish the truth.
2009.02.27 03:56 am