This November marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of US president John F. Kennedy, and the fifth year since former president Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) was detained and imprisoned on charges of corruption.
On Nov. 22, 1963, Kennedy, one of the most beloved and respected presidents in US history, was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. However, the premature end to Kennedy’s presidency did not erase him from people’s memory.
Quite the contrary, what Kennedy did and said during his three-year period in the White House was — and still is — able to inspire the American people.
Serving in one of the most turbulent periods in US history, Kennedy’s ability to prevent a nuclear war with the then-Soviet Union and diffuse racial tensions in the US, as well as his legacy of idealism and hope, are remembered to this day.
In Taiwan, Chen, a two-term president who was indicted on multiple corruption and moneylaundering charges, was detained on Nov. 12, 2008, less than six months after leaving the presidential office, and later sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Chen’s legacy remains undecided as controversies surrounding the corruption charges have been, and probably will continue to be, debated among Taiwanese.
Has Taiwan moved forward and embraced the opportunities and challenges as Kennedy advised the American people?
And what have Taiwanese learned since the image of the nation’s democracy appeared to have been dashed on that November day five years ago?
Has the government become less corrupt following Chen’s fall from grace?
The answer appears to be negative, as numerous officials under the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who claims that integrity is a core value that he, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and his administration uphold, have been implicated and indicted on corruption charges.
Has the KMT, as it claims, changed from the old authoritarian party that oppressed Taiwanese, carried out judicial reform and transitional justice?
The answer seems to be negative.
So far, the KMT government has used the judiciary as nothing but a political tool to go after not only officials from the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration and former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) but also its own — Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) in the so-called “September strife.”
As for the DPP, it needs to rebuild trust with the public. However, has the party acknowledged its mistakes, corrected them and recognized that it was those mistakes that alienated its supporters from the once-proud party?
Judging from the outcome of a series of seminars the party organized to review its eight years in power, the answer appears to be no.
Has the Ma administration made an effort to eliminate socio-political divisions and the worsening wealth distribution?
The protests staged almost weekly on Ketagalan Boulevard in Taipei and the miserable economic forecasts provide the answer.
More importantly, has Taiwan moved forward since Ma was inaugurated with all the high hopes and praises bestowed upon him in 2008?
If Kennedy’s legacy, which became apparent once again during the 50th anniversary of his assassination, served as a reminder, the people of Taiwan should be very worried.