Some of life’s most embarrassing experiences can turn out to be reminders of the importance of polite behavior, especially in the political sphere.
This week, Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Chiu Yi (邱毅) offered a vivid example of how we should treat others the way we would want others to treat us.
Chiu — famed for his practice of uncovering “dirt” on fellow legislators and his attack-dog manner in his nightly talkshow appearances — was confronted on Monday by a supporter of former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) who ripped off his toupe in front of TV cameramen in front of the Control Yuan.
Chiu had been completing an application for the impeachment of the judge that released Chen from detention following his indictment.
The stunt became a top-of-the-hour report on every news station, regardless of political orientation, while enthusiastic discussion followed in various online forums — not to mention an impersonation of Chiu and his cranial foibles on a satirical TV program.
Seemingly holding back tears, Chiu on Monday night said that what concerned him the most was the feelings of his children: “They asked me: ‘Daddy, what shall I say tomorrow when I go to school and people ask me [about your toupe]?’” Chiu said.
Chiu expressed concern that his children may have to deal with taunts from their peers as a result of the incident.
Such tormenting of children is regrettable, if inevitable. It is a shame, therefore, that Chiu seems not to have considered the effect of his frequently baseless accusations on the children of his victims over the years.
For example, when Chiu went after Chen Hsing-yu (陳幸妤), the former president’s daughter, for allegedly holding a fortune in illegitimate funds in US banks, it is unlikely that the effect of his accusations on Chen Hsing-yu’s children were at the top of his list of ethical considerations.
In itself, whether or not Chiu wears a toupe is a worthless and trivial issue, except to the extent that it signifies a man who wants the viewing public to see him in a more flattering light. But the only real substance behind this lies in the fact that Chiu has insisted time and again to reporters that he does not wear a toupe.
Chiu must take responsibility for his actions and for the anger and resentment that his hubris and slander generate. Celebrity status and the special political protection he has received from KMT headquarters — evidenced by his astonishingly high ranking on the legislative-at-large ticket, which guaranteed his election — have given this man a sense of indestructibility.
But as he himself admits, there are sacrifices to be made in public life, including the untold damage that can be wrought on family, and children in particular.
Chiu’s children could just as likely be asked this question by their playground foes: “Why is your father a convicted criminal and a liar?”
If Chiu’s concern for innocents is genuine, we might expect from him a more contrite and considered approach to political dialogue, and the ceasing of defamatory attacks on colleagues and other people without solid evidence at hand.