MARTIAL LAW ERA – AFTER HEARING THAT SUN YAT-SEN’S STATUE AT THNG TEK-CHIONG PARK IN TAINAN HAD BEEN TORN DOWN
all those bronze statues
are busy at night
patrolling the streets
lest people get drunk and say the wrong thing or kiss in the alleys
or play mahjong at home
statues will check at the newspaper press
is there a piece on the chief like last year?
is there a space for respect at the top?
has someone scribbled in the blank spot?
bronze statues are busy
they are scared of too many things
scared stamps could bear other portraits
scared streets and squares, schools, libraries
would all change their names
no more school kids saluting
no more chatting with sparrows
scared that one day
there’d be a rope
to pull them down
“mama, why is the statue green in the face?”
“no finger-pointing, your fingers fall off!”
“mama, the statue hides for a smoke at the fire brigade!”
“he just takes a break, he got burned in the sun every day.”
those statues have long forgotten the killings
of another generation
forgotten how they are still being used
they only remember the heat of the forge
it was hard to bear
and once you cool down, then come the years
standing empty and cold
Written on the eve of Febr. 28th, 2014,
67 years after the Febr. 28th, 1947 massacre.
Tr. MW, May 2014
I was very astonished when I first saw the picture. It does look like violence, the statue is smeared red. The poem is a revelation. Why would people have something against Sun Yat-sen? Nice guy, compared to what came later. Late retribution, for the killing of Thng Tek-Chiong, governor of Tainan in 1947, one of the first dead in the February 28 massacre? Sun Yat-sen is rather far from home in Tainan, far from his home base. I remember that small park near the train station in Taipei, where Sun Yat-sen lived when he visited Taiwan, it was a Japanese hotel back then. Small garden, very peaceful. A little forlorn and frail among the hustle and bustle around Taipei train station. Why would anyone be angry at a statue of Sun Yat-sen? In 2011 and early 2012, there were many conferences around the world in memory of the 1911 辛亥革命. People talked about many interesting things, but something like this? Without this poem, I would never have thought people would think that way about these statues. Not that much. So many killings back then, so much White Terror in decades, and no retribution. And the KMT still in power. There is repressed violence in people’s hearts, and everybody can count there lucky stars if they take it out only on statues.
Taiwan is a very peaceful and safe place, all in all. One-party dictatorship does create a sense of security for some, at least in retrospect. The world gets more complicated in those new-fangled pluralist societies. So there are people who blame the subway knife attack of a deranged student on May 21 on the student-led protests in March and early April this year. In Austria, the shameless tabloid that is much bigger than Murdoch and Berlusconi in their countries, still says things like all demonstrations and protest are leftist, and cost a lot of public money. When there are anti-foreigner rightists marching in Vienna, and the police need to protect them, it is not their fault, right? And if they want to have a ball in the emperor’s palace and parade on the square where Hitler proclaimed the Anschluss in 1938, it is their right and they should be protected, and if the whole city center is full of police barricades, it is the fault of those leftists.
It’s the other way around! In a more open society, there is much less repressed violence. Look at the recent bloody clashes and attacks in many cities in China. That won’t get less, probably. Taiwan people should be very proud of that big, peaceful demonstration on March 30. Their country has become a much better place through the changes of the last 25 years. The KMT could and should be proud of that, too. But they are the 中國國民黨, so they have to think about stability in a much bigger way, don’t they?