One year when I was training to be a teacher, I helped a family of four children with their studies during the summer break. At lunchtime, the grandmother would prepare food for us, and she had clearly taken a disliking to me.
One day the mother came up to me and told me not to mind the grandmother’s attitude, as her father had been killed during the 228 Massacre, “so she hates all Mainlanders.”
Martial law had only been lifted a few years before. I had grown up in a military village and had been treated well by the party-state. I was a second-generation Mainlander thoroughly brainwashed by, and compliant to, the state.
I had never felt the need to learn about 228 and just believed what my parents told me, which was: “Those people had rebelled, so the government had to suppress them.”
Not only this, but I was also training to be a teacher, right in the thick of the ideological stronghold of the party-state, and so considered myself entirely innocent.
After all, I had not killed anyone, and those events were so long ago.
I never did make amends with that grandmother: She despised me, and I thought her ignorant.
As it turns out, I was the ignorant one.
After I got married, thanks to my husband, I gradually came to understand what had happened during the 228 Massacre. It was only then that I realized how remiss I had been with the grandmother.
All I had to do was to tell her that I could understand her sadness and anger, and could sympathize with her pain and regrets.
Everyone should work together to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen again.
If I had communicated sentiments such as these, I am sure we would have been able to work it out.
Many of my friends lost family members during the 228 Massacre and the subsequent White Terror era, and I feel that we Mainlanders owe something to Taiwanese.
I am full of guilt and feeling for this land and Taiwanese, the majority of whom have been so tolerant of arrogant Mainlanders with their privilege and vested interests.
When people get to know each other, a shared past is not essential, so long as they are willing to acknowledge and accept each other. This would make it possible to forge a happy future together.
This is what one can call true, shared wisdom, something emphasized by the three core concepts of the new school curriculum.
To our considerable detriment, the party-state, in an effort to consolidate its political power removed basic knowledge about the land and its people from the education system, as well as the truth, values and identification that education should have at its very essence.
Taiwan has achieved democracy and freedom, which is so much more valuable than the association with the “motherland” that the party-state offered, but at the cost of the sacrifice of so many people along the way.
Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je (柯文哲) is the mayor of Taiwan’s capital, yet to suit his own political interests can say something like: “I am the descendant of 228 victims, and so I despise Mainlanders.”
This is a serious obstacle to Taiwan continuing along the path toward a more enlightened future. It not only wrongs those Taiwanese who have fallen, but all of the others who have made a contribution.
It maliciously trades in the pain of the past and lets down the more well-meaning among Taiwanese.
Doris Wang is an arts and humanities teacher.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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