Something that I find disturbing
Somewhere between Qiyan and Qili'an on the Danshui metro line, there is a red swastika flag hanging in a window in a highrise apartment building. I have been trying to get a picture of it (as evidence), but the train is always moving too quickly for me to capture it. I will have to get out of the train at one of the two stops and walk along the track until I see it.
No, it is not the Buddhist image. I know the difference. It is the Nazi symbol. What is it doing in Taipei?
Since the late nineties, I also noticed some people riding motorcycles wearing World War 2 era German military helmets. Some of them are even marked with swastikas.
I debated this with Ingmar when he was here. He thinks that these displays of Nazi-era Germany are meaningless, and that the people displaying them are clueless about what happened. They are just doing it for fun. Or else it is just a small clique within Taipei society--the displays part of their fashion.
It is possible that this is a harmless fad, a group of people who think it is all a fun game, and that the symbols look cool. It is also possible that they are unfamiliar with the holocaust. I remember visiting Dachau when I was in college and seeing the George Santayana quote for the first time: "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it."
The making light of the holocaust by displaying its symbols for fun is already a dangerous act; it is a forgetting. Is it possible that children in Taiwan--that children anywhere--aren't learning about the holocaust. I don't mean to focus solely on what happened in Europe; genocides have occurred throughout history and humankind still has not learned.
But I also wonder if there is something more nepharious afoot. Is someone purposely exporting the items to Taiwan and elsewhere--either a local or a foreigner--as a way of propagating some kind of ideology? How was it that these symbols came to Taiwan? And how do the people who display them interpret them?
Perhaps as an aside, yesterday I did a search on "Taiwan politics" on Youtube. I found a video (I won't link to it) that was said to be an English version of a short Chinese documentary, called "The Taiwan Question." It claims to "explain to the people of Taiwan the political reasons why they are losing the psy-war battle with Red China." To make a long story short, according to the video, it's the age-old story that it's the fault of the Jews. They created communism. They are the reasons why Chiang Kai-shek lost China. They control the media.
All of the same lies, repeated over and over again for the last 50 years. Repeated so many times that they seap into the consciousnesses of unaware people--people who don't stay informed.
It is just like what is happening with the ABC/Disney docudrama, The Path to 9/11. It's the same message, except this time it's "Clinton did it." Worst of all is that they're not just showing it in America, trying to use it to swing another election. They are marketing it overseas as well. It will be aired by the BBC and in New Zealand and Australia, where it is being marketed as "the true story." As Digby says:
The reason this matters so much, and why Democrats are so apoplectic at the way ABC has handled this material, is that popular culture has a way of inculcating certain concepts into people's minds, especially young minds, far more effectively than talking head programs or earnest debates among political bloggers and columnists. This is the kind of thing that could taint the debate for generations if it takes hold.
The right howled mercilessly at Oliver Stone's depictions of JFK and Nixon, claiming that he was rewriting history. He was, and he used very clever techniques to do it --- particularly the odd, dreamlike optical montages that feel like memories. But the key is that these films were about events that happened long in the past --- they were re-writing history, not writing the first draft while the immediate events were still being debated. Certainly, nobody sent out high school study guides saying they were based on fact or claimed they were based on The Warren Commission Report or Nixon's memoirs. Stone never claimed that he was depicting a factual account but rather always said that he was providing an "alternate history."
"Path to 9/11" is using the sophisticated techniques (if not the talent) of Stone's "alternate history" style to create an alternate reality in real time. The purpose of this can best be compared to the "who lost China" and "sell-out at Yalta" campaigns of the late 40's. The right made political hay for decades out of those --- blaming the Democrats for being soft on communism. These set the stage for the next 50 years of full throated accusations of traitorous cowardice and we are dealing with the residual results of that cynical political calculation even today. (After all, the Republicans of the day were the reluctant warriors in WWII. They desperately needed to erase that image just as they desperately need to erase the image of the Bush administration's failures on 9/11 and Iraq.)
If this nonsense is allowed to stick, we will be battling these inaccurate demagogic, phantoms for another 50 years --- and I don't think the country will survive it. These new rightwingers make the red-baiters of the 50's look like Gandhi. In order for the Republicans to maintain power as often and as much as possible, they must find a way to blame the Democrats for terrorism and ensure that neither party can ever stray from the most hard line they can possibly maintain. It's the same formula that killed over 50,000 Americans in Vietnam and it's going to do far worse this time out if we let it happen again.