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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Formosa Betrayed - go see it now, don't make me buy you the DVD for Christmas or your birthday because I will

Taking a short break from my writer's block to attempt to write about something important.

Formosa Betrayed

If you are Taiwanese or have any interest in Taiwan, please go see this movie. Excellent historically based drama that attempts to educate the world about little known atrocities which occurred on the tiny island.

In a lot of ways the moral of the story is similar to the story of the reign of various dictators the world over during the Cold War. The U.S chooses what is presumably the "lesser" of two evils and looks the other way while a brutal dictator pretends to be a friend of democracy while coldly slaughtering and terrorizing his "own" people. The story is not unfamiliar, but it has never been told about Taiwan before.

The subject is close to my heart because my mother's family is Taiwanese and believe strongly in Taiwan independence. The ironic thing about Taiwan independence is that historically China actually opposed Taiwanese calling themselves Chinese (they thought those peasant islanders were beneath them)...until the nationalists (also known as the Kuo Ming Tang - Chiang Kai Shek's party) fled to Taiwan during the Communist Revolution. Then, all of the sudden, Taiwan was absolutely part of China!

Also ironic is that my dad's family is KMT, my grandfather was actually a high ranking general, a member of the first graduating class of Chiang Kai Shek's military school in China. After his family fled to Taiwan he was given a prestigious post overseeing the entire port. He waited an appropriate amount of time and then resigned his post because he refused to participate in the rampant corruption and mob ties and was afraid that this would bring negative attention to him and his family.

The scary thing and the reason why Taiwanese are so grateful that this movie has been made is that no one knows what happened in Taiwan. No one knows that on 2/28/1947 the KMT kicked off a week of terror which ultimately resulted in the deaths of 20,000-30,000 Taiwanese intellectuals. The KMT government systemically murdered those who might ever pose a challenge to them, doctors, lawyers, journalists, businessmen, politicians, professors...the father of my eldest uncle's wife was a doctor and he actually had to flee to China (more irony, I know) to escape being killed by the KMT.

The government terrorized people to keep silent to the point where my own mother who was born only five years later said she never even heard about 2/28 until she came to the US. Her parents were too afraid to speak about it even at home.

The KMT was only a small group compared to the Taiwanese population but they used brutal tactics to bully themselves into power. They would not allow the Taiwanese to speak their own language, forcing them to learn Mandarin. There was massive discrimination, Taiwanese were not allowed to hold prestigious positions, those were reserved for the KMT. And so on and so forth...

Before WWII the Japanese ruled Taiwan. My mom always tells me that at first the Taiwanese were very happy when the Chinese fled to their island. They welcomed them like brothers. And then they realized that the Japanese had treated them better and wished they could have them back.

Maybe it's just a general lack of interest that America has for Asian history, but I'm constantly surprised that Chiang Kai Shek is not demonized the way Stalin and Hitler and others are. As President Truman believed, CKS is undoubtedly the reason China was lost to the communists. CKS had strong ties to the triads and was supremely corrupt, working only towards his own benefit. I hope history paints him for the depraved monster that he is.

And as weird as this is to say, I'm really grateful to James Vanderbeek and all of the people who had a hand in creating this important movie. It may not receive critical acclaim, but it is telling a story that absolutely needs to be told.

The truth about the history of Taiwan must be revealed to the world.

Please go see this movie.

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