The following is an excerpt from the recent anthology of poetry, “The War on Sleep” (2010), by Trista di Genova. The 228 Incident, also known as the 228 Massacre (Chinese: 二二八), was an anti-government uprising in Taiwan that began Feb. 27, 1947, and was violently suppressed by the Kuomintang (KMT) government. The Incident marked the beginning of the White Terror period in Taiwan, in which thousands more inhabitants vanished, died, or were imprisoned. The number “228” refers to the day the massacre began: February 28, or 02-28. Read more about it here.
of a peaceful, spirited generation
of innocents and intelligence
a people who responded
to treachery and betrayal
with hope, guilelessness,
an expectation of fairness
After all, it was their land.
It was their territory,
and it was supposed to be their future, not the future
of Mainland refugees,
who looted and pillaged
taking advantage of the pacific,
while all the while thinking only
of getting back to their homeland,
after they raped
this beautiful island of Formosa.
The Taiwanese were ready,
prepared for democracy,
better than almost anybody,
willing to fight for freedom even,
when they realized the true extent
of the perfidy of their new captors,
Chiang Kai-shek and his refugee armies;
their new colonizers.
Little did the Taiwanese
know their ‘liberators’
would be even more brutal
than the Japanese occupation.
To the Japanese
they were to become a new,
albeit subservient colony;
under the Mainland Chinese
they were to be looted, marginalized,
even persecuted in their own country
for speaking up for what should have been their rights.
Everything of value
and sent to Shanghai.
The most advanced country
in Asia went from bountiful surplus
to food & rice riots,
with Shanghai gangsters and soldiers
running amok, stealing bicycles from kids
that they didn’t even
know how to ride.
Chen Yi and Chiang Kai-shek
should go down in history
as the most ignominious of savages
ever given permission to enslave an island,
a scheming band of cold-hearted knaves,
who lied and covered up massacres,
saying they were part of a ‘communist purge’,
so the US would keep on throwing millions their way…
It’s a national disgrace
for the US to have supported, aided, abetted
and financed this bloody tyranny for so long,
to protect millions of democracy-loving Taiwanese;
instead, leaving them to be fed to the wolves.
It’s an untold tragedy,
of Biblical proportions.
Where was freedom-touting America
when the systematic slaughter
of tens of thousands took place
for months in 1947,
and for decades after?
Why didn’t the US
give a damn when innocents
were being shot and bayoneted,
in the streets of Taipei,
left for dead, left to rot?
Where was the US
when Taiwanese were dragged naked
out of bed to the riverside,
handcuffed with several others,
and kicked into rivers,
filling Keelung Harbor?
The Taiwanese waited,
tried to get the message through
to the outside world.
“LONG LIVE THE TAIWANESE PEOPLE”,
shouted Chen Chih-hsiung,
then they hacked off his feet
when he wouldn’t kneel
for his own execution.
Anyone of intelligence
who could make up a new government
was on a list for torture,
an “express ticket to execution”,
to hell on earth, without trial.
If they ran away to the mountains,
another family member would be taken instead.
Why did no one help?
Why did nobody come
to the rescue of the Taiwanese?
Formosans must wonder,
“Why didn’t anyone care?”
And today, why
do we still not know
all the victims’ names?
And the executioners,
where, for god’s sake even,
is their Shame?