Fed up with the violence in politics
For the past 5 years, I’ve been meeting over Thursday lunch periods with a group of students on my campus for discussions on current affairs, almost always focused on Taiwan. We rely on media reports, opinion columns similar to this one, and life experiences to share observations and views on whatever pops up in the news.
I write here today about an example of recent negative, quite discouraging behavior actually, on the part of two local leaders. I am linking their foolishness with my Thursday afternoon current affairs discussion group for a reason.
Since our group began in 2010, I have literally pled with my young friends there to keep an open mind about public service in the field of politics. I have argued that all countries need caring and respon-
DANIEL J. BAUER
sible leaders, Taiwan included. (For me, the Republic of China in Taiwan is of course a country.) Whenever we see examples of brave, inspiring leadership around us, I point that out on Thursdays, and more than merely hint that our youth should study these role models. Sadly, more often than not, the examples of which we speak, however, are far less than inspiring and brave.
A local newspaper ran the following headline three days ago: “Political rivals exchange blows, deny romantic feud.”
Those of us familiar with media Taiwan style may grimace ever so slightly at such phrasing. Given the antics we’ve often witnessed in the legislature on the part of both our major parties, we cannot feign surprise. Violence of one sort or the other seems more or less a fact of every day politics in Taiwan. Turns out this particular amateur boxing match happened in the little boy’s room at a Taipei hotel last month, though, not in the legislature. “Men’s room” would classify as a misnomer. Real men don’t sock each other in the face, verbally or physically, when angry. Real men are supposed to be mature.
Local media are wonderfully nosey about the secrets of our celebrities. So we also are not surprised by the underlining of the romantic angle. People who are “a somebody” in the Emily Dickinson sense (see 260 “I’m nobody”) sip coffee together, and paparazzi, like sharks, scent blood. A salty magazine is reporting the greasy details of the exchange of fisticuffs this week, and newspapers are meeting their solemn duty to spread the news.
One of the gentlemen with a penchant for violent ways is a current legislator for the DPP. The other is an ex-lawmaker for the KMT. Denials are in motion as for the romantic thing. They’ve both been linked to an attractive female who happens to be a member of the Taipei City Council. But no, this is not “The Tale of ‘Romeo A’ Against ‘Romeo B’.” Sounds more to me like “Two Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
As long as we find so much ridiculous behavior among our political elite, we will continue to find cold feelings toward politics in our most talented young people.
In testimony to the merits of gender equality, we also discovered these recent days that males do not hold a monopoly on foolishness. The Deputy Legislative Speaker who as of this writing is destined to be the KMT standardbearer in the next presidential election leapt into a pond of mud by emotional and verbal violence soon after news arrived of the death of the 8-year-old girl named Liu, so horribly murdered at her school in Beitou.
Candidate Hung Hsiu-chu taunted her DPP rival, on a political tour in the United States at the time, mind you, to speak now in favor of the abolition of capital punishment. “Can you feel no sympathy for the family of this little child?” Hung reportedly said.
Am I wrong? I looked, but found no public voice that expressed outrage at her cruel act of political opportunism. I find it sickening that this manipulation of a heartrending tragedy got a free ride. If I missed news of a confrontation on this insensitive act of violence, please contact me. I will share your information here next Sunday. At least the story of the boys smacking each other in the hotel bathroom drew media attention and, perhaps, a modicum of disapproval. But Ms. Hung got off scot-free. If we hope for a more humane tomorrow in Taiwan politics, we’ve got to embarrass and discipline leaders today who engage in violence, whether physical, verbal, or emotional. We’ve got to call them to account. Father Daniel J. Bauer SVD is a priest and associate professor in the English Department at Fu Jen Catholic University.