Lin Chueh-min-min Wants Nothing More than a Ballot
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 29, 2011
Today is the 100th anniversary of the Huanghuagang Uprising. It is also Youth Day. When one thinks of Huanghuagang, one invariably thinks of Lin Chueh-min, and the deeply felt, tragic letter he wrote his wife just before his death. It added an exclamation point to the nationalist revolution that will endure through the ages.
Both sides of the Taiwan Strait commemorate the Xinhai Revolution. Both sides commemorate Lin Chueh-min. On Taiwan, TV channels broadcast Lin Chueh-min commercials. "In his letter, he called out to his beloved wife 49 times. Three days later, he died at the Battle of Huanghuagang, and never returned. He was only 24 years old." On the Mainland, the Guangdong Repertory Theatre staged a "Letter to His Wife." It debuted last March at the Taipei City New Stage. Blood red letters filled the air. The scene left the audience incredulous.
The greatness of the Xinhai Revolution was not merely that red-blooded patriots such as Lin Chueh-min overthrew a tyranny in which "the land reeked with the scent of blood, and the streets ran wild with jackals and hyenas." More importantly, the revolution ended two thousand years of tyranny. Hopefully future generations will no longer need a Lin Chueh-min to sacrifice himself resisting tyranny. Hopefully people will simply exercise their right to vote in order to remain masters of their nation and of their government. The greatness of Lin Chueh-min is that he may have made future Lin Chueh-mins superfluous.
The Xinhai Revolution had an indelible impact on both sides of the Strait. On Taiwan, the Republic of China left behind the legacy of the Three People's Principles, i.e., "nationalism, democracy, and the peoples livelihood." This was why Taiwan has been able to survive and develop. This was why the two sides have been able to engage in cross-Strait exchanges and strive for win-win symbiosis. On the mainland, the bankruptcy of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" and of "class struggle" reaffirmed Sun Yat-sen's status as a "revolutionary forerunner." The Xinhai Revolution touted "nationalism, democracy, and the peoples livelihood," It provided a political and ideological alternative. Otherwise, the portrait of Sun Yat-sen would not be displayed opposite that of Mao Zedong, in Tiananmen Square, every November. Even indigenous political activists on Taiwan, beginning with Japanese occupation era figures Lo Fu-hsing, Lin Hsien-tang, Chiang Wei-shui, were inspired and guided by the Xinhai Revolution, and made it "Taiwan's Xinhai Revolution."
The Xinhai Revolution was an historical event nearly erased from our collective memory. On the Mainland, in 1949, the Peoples Republic of China replaced the Republic of China. The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution replaced the Nationalist Revolution. The Communist Revolution nearly erased the Xinhai Revolution from our memories. On Taiwan, the "nativization movement" disseminated outright distortions. 2/28 Incident rhetoric hijacked the history of the Xinhai Revolution. De-Sinicization, needless to say, de-emphasized the Xinhai Revolution. But history has retraced its steps. Once again, Republic of China citizens swear allegiance to the Xinhai Revolution. It has also become a common denominator for the two sides of the Strait. Lin Chueh-min has become the symbol of our shared history, and the basis for consensus building.
Then again, 100 years have passed. On Taiwan, the Xinhai Revolution's goal of "one man, one vote" has already been realized. Young people no longer need to follow the example of Lin Chueh-min. They need only acknowledge, appreciate, and exercise their right to vote. On the mainland, they praise the Xinhai Revolution's ideals. But it would be better if they worked toward the goal of universal suffrage. They praise Lin Chueh-min's heroic martyrdom. But it would be better if they gave young people the vote. It would be better if they did not make young people today experience the same despair Lin Chueh-min experienced a century ago.
Merely commemorating Lin Chueh-min as someone who protested corrupt government is not enough. Lin Chueh-min and others embarked on a sacred mission. They established a system for future generations, in which everyone would have a vote. Today both sides are commemorating the Xinhai Revolution. Why not make the goal "giving everyone the vote?"
Mainland China's ultimate goal should be to give everyone the vote. Taiwan's problem is how to ensure that everyone cherishes and makes good use of their votes. Young people on Taiwan today no longer need to be Lin Chueh-min-Mins. But consider the revolution from the perspective of "nationalism, democracy, and the peoples livelihood." The world and the nation are far more complex than they were during Lin Chueh-min's day. During Lin Chueh-min's day, right and wrong were clear cut. Young people could sacrifice their lives for justice. But youth on Taiwan today face competitive pressures from globalization, unpredictable cross-Strait coopetition, Blue vs. Green domestic politics, and the mendacious rhetoric of politicians. A correct understanding of "nationalism, democracy, and the peoples livelihood," individually and collectively, is even more difficult than during Lin Chueh-min's day. Young people on Taiwan today may not need to shed blood and sacrifice their lives like Lin Chueh-min. But the duty imposed upon them is just as heavy, intellectually and emotionally, than the duy imposed upon Lin Chueh-min. They too must make important choices. They too must sacrifice themselves for the ones they love. They too must sacrifice themselves for humanity.
The inscription on the Huanghuagang memorial mourns martyrs such as Huang Hsing-cho and Lin Chueh-min. It reads, "Seventy-two youths in their prime, shed crimson blood in pitched battle. Four hundred trillion sons of the nation, looked on as autumn rains fell upon golden petals." Spring winds and autumn rains. Crimson blood and golden petals. Today's cross-Strait issues can be reduced to a single phrase. Enfranchise the disenfranchised. It is no longer necessary to be a Lin Chueh-min. It is only necessary to ensure that everyone able to vote, feels the same compassion that Lin Chueh-min felt, and cherishes and makes full use of his vote.