Another reason is that I come from a family who experienced the communist dictatorship and persecution in Romania (ironically, as Romania was under a communist dictatorship, people were persecuted for not being “proper communist” whereas the Nationalist regime did the exact opposite in Taiwan). This experience was central for my father’s family and the exchanges I could have with my seniors, their silences, the things half-said, explain why memory was always an important issue for me.
To take part to 人權之旅 gave me the opportunity to understand the motivations of the students willing to participate, their personal backgrounds, how they interact with each other and with the former prisoners, in a nutshell, to exchange with them. Many people came to “understand the history not taught in textbook” whereas a few had personal connection with the White Terror as they knew that some case happened in their family but did not know much about it. It was very refreshing for me to see many enthusiastic young people eager to know their own country’s history. It is not that there are no data on White Terror but they tend to be confined to Academia which represents a small part of society only. It is indeed necessary to help to relay this knowledge toward society. Much more important, it is essential to give an opportunity for the students to directly exchange with their seniors. They are the main reasons to participate to 人權之旅. Even though they were victims of the political repression and saw many years of their life taking away by the nationalist regime, they are still willing to come back to tell their stories to the young generation. Their joys of living, their humor, their kindness are a great lesson for all of us. I really appreciated to see them joking with the students, or the participants’ surprise when one of the former victim – a communist born in Guangdong- told them not only he did not keep any hatred toward the KMT but he even votes for the Nationalist party because- and that brought laughter and applauses- the KMT and the Communist are now “best friends, one going hand in hand with the other”. It is one thing to read about White Terror or even to visit a given site with a guide, but it left a much deeper feeling to directly talk with someone who was unfortunately imprisoned there. Even if the ones we met are involved in many events regarding White Terror and are used to talk about their stories, their emotions are still palpable (可感覺到) as they, sometime in the same sentence, may suddenly switch from humors to much sadder recollection, such as cases of inmates becoming insane or other tragedies. In any case, we should listen while being thankful.
To conclude, the memory work on White Terror in Taiwan is far from being achieved. Taiwanese scholars did a remarkable work for the last twenty years, but the results are far from being shared through the dominant social framework of memory. The Foundation and other actors from the civil society play an important role by diffusing this knowledge, by playing the role which should be assumed by national education. Taiwan is still at an age where people who witnessed totally different “Taiwanese realities” are living together, and this cross-generational dialogue is invaluable. It is only by doing so, by giving anyone a room to tell his own story than they may be a memory able to reflect the truth while being shared by all the Taiwanese, overcoming the old divisions and consolidating the foundation of a common identity, of a common future.