Many of today's young people joining the anti-President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) protests believe that the future of Taiwan looks bleak. Corrupt politicians squabble over anything but useful and pertinent policy issues. The media spends its time sensationalizing everything, and much too often overlooks the good in society. Our international status seems to be regressing, as country after country breaks official diplomatic ties with us. Our internal affairs are just as messy.
Protests are occurring in Taiwan on a daily basis. Joining a protest may seem like a fun and exciting thing to do with friends and family, but before we do so we should stop for serious contemplation and ask ourselves "What is going on?"
We live in a democracy. In a democracy, registered protests are a legitimate and forceful way for the people to express their opinions. It is a right given to the people by the people as a check to balance executive or legislative power.
But the right to protest should not be abused, and we must ask ourselves about what purpose a non-stop, continuous protest serves. Must we use such a means to achieve our goals, or are we just tearing apart the fabric of a peaceful society and creating chaos?
In a democracy, every individual is allowed to speak freely, as long as what he or she says does not wrongly and falsely accuse or harm another. After reaching a legal voting age, my vote is as sacred as the richest, most powerful man's. I choose my representatives in government to make society better for me and everyone else.
In a democracy, politicians are not absolute rulers; rather, they are accountable to all of us. The people's right to vote as enshrined in the Constitution makes this clear, as do term limits for all public offices. If a politician needs to be removed before his or her term concludes, legal means exist to do so.
The most important thing in a democracy is the rule of law as defined in the Constitution. No one is above the law.
The days of emperors who reigned with a heavenly mandate are gone. Protesting and revolution were the means for removing emperors, but in a democratic system, law and term limits are the ways we remove leaders who no longer have the support of the people.
Like many of the people protesting, I am 26, young and have most of my life still ahead of me. I think it's important to think about what one wants his or her society to be like. We must all ask this question.
I ask the young people who consider participating in the protests to think about the serious consequences for their country, their family and, most importantly, for themselves.
Durham, North Carolina