|I don't have access to the actual photo so I made my own with this Wikimedia Commons photo.|
Feels nice, let me tell you. You should make one too!
Another day, another lob of red paint thrown at a Chiang Kai-shek statue - this time the Big Kahuna, the huge bronze atrocity that graces Dead Dictator Memorial Hall in downtown Taipei (link in Chinese).
A bunch of people are going to post this with some (maybe self-righteous - it's hard to avoid sounding that way) screed about how they "support the goals" of the people who did this "but not the actions" because they "turn off" the other side, are "uncivilized", or make it "impossible to engage in dialogue" with those who disagree, or who might think such actions inappropriate.
And yeah, that's not entirely wrong, but you know what? I don't care. So let me pre-emptively say:
If you are "turned off" from dialogue with those who have a political belief you are not naturally inclined to follow because of some red paint, but not put off by actual blood Chiang Kai-shek spilled, I just don't think you can be reasoned with, nor should people waste their time trying. If his being a brutal, murderous dictator doesn't bother you more than an act of civil protest pointing out that history - civil protest in which no one was injured - I don't see how dialogue is possible.
Let alone "respectful" dialogue, as though one should feel the need to be "respectful" when talking about support for a mass-murdering dictator.
This is in stark contrast to a woman in China who disappeared after throwing ink on an image of dictator Xi Jin-ping. These paint-throwers will probably face charges, but they won't disappear. They won't be executed. They won't be tortured. And other acts of civil disobedience might well go unpunished, as it is now something of a core tenet of Taiwanese democracy. The reason why Taiwan is more tolerant of this sort of protest? Well, because of the past pro-democracy protest actions of the sort of people who would throw red paint at a statue of a dictator to begin with. You have their ideological predecessors to thank for the fact that you have the right to speak out at all in Taiwan. Remember that next time someone is afraid a little red paint will "offend" people.
There are those who will also say "if we can act like this, the other side can deface statues too" - sure, they can. They did, to Yoichi Hatta's statue in southern Taiwan. But honestly, these actions don't happen in a vacuum: they are justified (or not) by historical facts. Those who would deface Chiang have recorded history on their side. Those who would deface Hatta do not, and their actions make them look like idiots. There is no moral equivalency between the two actions.
In fact, this isn't a matter of "opinion" - we have the facts. We know what he did. It's been public for some time, and new facts come to light all the time. There's no shading this - it's not "you see a 6 and I see a 9" - the records are there and there's no glossing over what he did. Those people are still dead, or their livelihoods (or mental health, in some cases) destroyed. We know he was a dictator because that word has a meaning, and he embodied it through actions that provably happened. That money is still in KMT coffers, we already know how most of it got there, and we can now finally count it.
This is all true whether or not you like, or would engage in, or "approve" of, this kind of civil disobedience. It's true whether or not you think civil disobedience is an important component of healthy democracy (it is, and if you don't think so, I think you're wrong, but at least one can have an opinion on that. It's an idea, not a fact.) Your "feelings" about some red paint don't really matter.
That's not an "opinion". That's not a "side". That's not "well we just see this issue differently". That's not "let's have a dialogue". It happened, we know it happened, and if you still think "dialogue" is necessary because you don't want to face facts, and you might be too "offended" by some paint (again - but not murder?) to engage in that "dialogue", or you want "respect" for the "perspective" that maybe Chiang was not a dictator or mass murderer because you don't think words mean things or past actions can be proven, then all I have for you is a big fat
...and a big ol' ball of red paint.