I've been scanning the skies all day, but I still haven't seen any flying pigs. The weather forecast on TV says nothing about snowstorms in Hell. And yet something is different in this world. The China Post newspaper ran an editorial in today's edition that is, dare it be said, "evenhanded", "levelheaded", "insightful", nay even "rational". The piece in question, Makiyo case gives us no right to waiver in xenophobia fight, hasn't been posted on the newspaper's website yet (Update: click here), but here are some of its salient points:
(in reference to the group of taxi drivers who protested in front of the Japan Interchange Association 財団法人交流協会 demanding an apology for a "Japanese national beating up a Taiwanese person in his country")
What grounds did these drivers think they had for picketing the JIA? The next time a Taiwanese person commits a crime in Japan, should the Taiwanese authorities apologize? When a government commits an illegal or offensive act, governments and civic groups have the right to protest. But individual actions by individual citizens are just that. Protesting the Japanese government's handling of claims by former "comfort women" 慰安婦 is valid; connecting the Japanese representative office to the alleged assault perpetrator Takateru Tomoyori is not.
It's hard not to view the protest in front of the JIA as an expression of xenophobia. There were also hints of anti-Japanese sentiment on news sites, blogs or on social media sites where people made statements that strayed perilously close to racism; some comments crossed the line completely.
It should be remembered that hardly a week goes by in Taiwan without a news story about some alcohol-fueled dispute that turns violent. Our nation has plenty of thugs and gangsters as well as plenty of ignorant or even evil people. This is true across the world, in every country on the planet.
The editorial then notes that about 200 Japanese expatriates living in Taiwan have raised around NT100,000 ($3380) in a fundraising campaign for the taxi driver who was assaulted:
These Japanese people living in Taiwan are not connected to the offender in any way, and are not by virtue of being Japanese collectively guilty. But their generous actions should help demonstrate that there are kind individuals in every society, just as the alleged attacker's senseless violence demonstrates that there are uncivilized people in every society.
Whenever racism or xenophobia rears its ugly head it must be confronted and denounced. The fact cannot be overstated: the actions of Takateru Tomoyori have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that he is Japanese.
Wow. What is happening at The China Post? Has its editorial board finally realized that we are in the 21st century, that the Sino-Japanese War 中國抗日戰爭 has been over for 77 years and that Taiwan is part of a worldwide community and not merely an extension of Greater China 大中華地區? Or is the editorial an aberration, with the paper returning to business as usual in future editions? We'll have to wait and see.
This commentary should, in theory, persuade my female fan club (consisting of exactly one member) that xenophobia in Taiwan is not the sole possession of a group of Democratic Progressive Party 民主進步黨 supporters living in the southern part of the island (of whom she labels as "hicks" in a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word in its American context). I doubt it will have much of an effect, however.
Which brings to us to mushrooms. This afternoon, as usual, I headed to the hills of Dàkēng 大坑 to do some walking. This time, though, I took a different way from my usual routes. Approaching the area from the rear (via Zhōngxīng 中興), I parked my scooter at the No. 5 trailhead. However, instead of taking that path, I walked up an access road that eventually joined the staircase that runs along the top of the ridge. The sky wasn't as clear as it was yesterday, but the Central Mountain Range 中央山脈 could still be seen in the distance:
I walked along the ridgetop until the path reached the junction where it meets the No. 3 Trail. However, instead of taking a right and descending the No. 3, I took a left, which led to a paved road that wound its way downhill in the direction of Xīnshè 新社. After a few minutes, the path passed by the Celestial Holy Mother (Tiānshàng Shèngmǔ) 天上聖母 Temple, which offered more views of the mountains on the other side:
In all the years I've been tramping around these hills, the main hall of the temple has remained the only part of the complex with any ornamentation. The rest of the temple buildings continue on in a rough concrete state of limbo, hinting perhaps of difficulties in raising funds to complete construction. In any event, the lighting for taking pictures was much better from the rear than it was from the front:
Continuing down the lane, I passed by a number of buildings covered in black wrappings. Xīnshè is noted locally its mushrooms, and the dark conditions are ideal for their cultivation:
Eventually, the lane came to the main road, with the choice of turning right for the hot spring town of Gǔguān 谷關, or going left and heading back in the direction of Taichung (Táizhōng) 台中, Fēngyuán 豐原 and Dōngshì 東勢. As if there were any choice in the matter. Before turning I passed by some cherry trees in early bloom 櫻花:
The road leading back toward Taichung was surprisingly busy for a non-holiday Tuesday afternoon...surprising, that is, until I remembered that today is Valentine's Day. Sure enough, there were a lot of young couples out for a drive (as well as other things that shall be left unmentioned). The road was lined with mushroom vendors selling their, ahem, suggestive food items:
In the end, I gave in to temptation, and bought a packet of fried mushrooms for NT50 ($1.70) from a small roadside eatery to munch on during the walk back to my parked scooter:
And that was how I spent my Valentine's Day - alone in the mountains. But don't feel sorry for me - my daughter this evening presented me with a lovely handmade card that read "For Amber's favorite Daddy", which is definitely the best gift any father could want on Feb. 14.
Happy Valentine's Day!