The Lies That The Elders Told

One sideshow that the western media failed to cover during KMT chairman Lien Chan's trip to China was the reception at his old Xian elementary school.  There, some schoolchildren put on a song-and-dance routine to welcome back their 'Grandpa Lien.'  In itself, this is just a routine part of the program and would not be interesting to the western media at all.  But it had repercussions in Taiwan.

This film clip was posted on the Internet and became a popular download file (.wmv format) in Taiwan.  Why?  Because the rigid, staged manner of the show became an object of derision in that only the brainwashed children living under a Communist regime could do something like that.  Still, the song also became a top cellular phone ring tone download in Taiwan.

I didn't enjoy watching that video clip, but for completely different reasons.  I was saddened because I was reminded of all the lies that our elders told young people -- not just in China, but everywhere else in the world.

In the first instance, I will translate sections from Lung Yingtai's own story in reaction to the reception of the Xian video (see New Century Net):

In 1972, I was a twenty-year-old and in my second year at university.  Chiang Kai-shek was running for president again.  In order to create an atmosphere of full support from the people, the government organized a university public speaking contest.  So the students who can write wrote, the students who knew music set the music, and the students who spoke standard Mandarin with good voices spoke; all the best writing, musical and speaking students at each university got together and used their passion and enthusiasm to create works that praised the greatness of the leader and the people.

Obviously, I was that university female student who "spoke standard Mandarin with a good speaking voice" and I was the speaker-representative for my university.  I did not have to go study Shakespeare, language or western cultural history.  All my time was spent on rehearsals, because that was more important than anything else.  For several nights before the competition, we worked through the night.  We rehearsed again and again the words: "You are the eternal flowing Yangtze River, you lead us to sail far away; you are the star in the infinite sky that shines light on our lost way, O Leader! ..."

Leader, Yangtze River, the Great Wall, the descendants of the dragon ... you can imagine such lyrics, the rousing symphonic music, and the perfectly pronounced Beijing-accented words.  Also, "O Leader" had to be spoken with powerful hand gestures, an expression of devotion and the bright gleam in the eyes.  I seemed to remember that our team came in second place.  We touched many audience members and we returned to our school with glory.

My deepest memory was about the sentiment of comradeship felt by that bunch of 20-year-olds creating and working day and night, and we walked out in the middle of the night under the moonlit parasol trees to feel the silence of nature, the dreams of our people and the tranquility of the universe.  We had no idea what "the leader" was up to, and we had no idea at that moment of youthful romance, a university student had been arrested, detained, interrogated and then sentenced to life in prison for "reading the wrong things" and "saying the wrong things."

Our gestures were exaggerated, our speech tones were artificial, our orations were stuffed with the learned wills of the adults, our emotions were sincere, our beliefs were earnest and our motives were pure, and that was because we had no idea that the most sorrowful darkness was hidden in the shadows of the parasol trees.


I had an even deeper memory about my Berkeley professor watching us 20-year-old students marching on the parade ground in 1972, keeping our straight steps, shouldering our rifles, singing the national anthem and shouting out patriotic slogans.  His eyes showed a certain pity.  I saw his look, and I was surprised at that reaction.  What did that look of pity mean?  What had evoked that look of pity?  It would take several years after I left that parade ground, the stage on which I made the speech and the atmosphere about patriotism and greatness for me to understand that look of pity.

For the children who danced at the will of adults, he had expressed sorrow and pity.  But he did not hold forth a smug contempt nor an arrogant sneer.

As for this blogger, I have previously told you something about How Taiwan Robbed My Childhood.  I can list many more instances.  For example, how did I end up pledging allegiance to five different countries at one time or another and sung their national anthems?  How was I converted from Catholicism to atheism?  Why did the United States/United Kingdom wage war against Iraq?  Each is worthy of a book in itself.  And the list goes on.

Dear reader, have you thought about how much of your own childhood was robbed by the lies that your elders told you?  And I don't mean Santa Claus or the tooth fairy ...