Sat, Sep 09, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: One shameful protest, one proud

Former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh today formally embarks on his quixotic sit-in campaign against not only President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), but also a democratic system that privileges the citizenry over celebrity. But regardless of the number of supporters that attend this protest or how long it lasts, Chen has nothing to worry about -- save an outbreak of deadly violence.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman and Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) is finally wising up and distancing himself from the campaign as the Shih team makes a belated attempt at bleaching the blue tinge out of their rhetoric. It would appear that on this occasion Ma has reached his threshold of tolerance for the kind of hardline tactics that the opposition has used to throttle good governance in this country for the last six-and-a-half years.

Ma has to step back a few paces, because if he is elected president in 2008, he will have a most unpleasant time if the rump of the pan-green camp thinks he has obtained office through dirty tactics. There is, after all, only so much a former justice minister like Ma will be able to get away with if he resorts to kangaroo-court accusations of corruption when he possesses not one shred of evidence. And heaven help him if DPP legislators and supporters throughout the country play the same spoiling game that his party and the People First Party have indulged in -- and which Ma has been helpless to stop.

Yet, while Ma may struggle to hold his ground on principles of good governance, happily on social issues he has been consistent and firm. This month also sees the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered) Civil Rights Movement, an annual event that attempts to educate the broader community on problems affecting the gay community.

Ma and like-minded members of his city government deserve praise for standing by gay and lesbian Taiwanese when many people would rather not be confronted with issues of equal opportunity and legal parity. Ma also deserves respect for refusing to take the opportunist's road and using the gay community as a whipping boy in a screed against HIV/AIDS transmission or "anti-family" behavior. It would have been easy for him to do this, as it has been for others: Ignorance about HIV/AIDS and other diseases remains widespread and its cynical spokespeople are in very high places, and gays are their primary scapegoat.

There is not an obvious underlying threat of homophobic violence in Taiwan that can compare with other countries. Thus, the restrained tone of the festivities reflects more the youth of the movement and the fact that individual sexuality is expressed with considerable caution in public in this country. Such level-headedness contrasts most powerfully with the tacky and unctuous theatrics of the Shih campaign.

The good news for the gay community is that, unlike so many other countries, it is the activists with hatred and bigotry in their hearts that are struggling for numbers. And those who run on narcissism (such as Shih Ming-teh) or on ignorance (such as the majority of his supporters) will be too busy attempting to depose the head of state to care either way about justice for minorities.

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