(Gallery Place Chinatown, Washington D.C., 04/13/2013)
(The Prudential Center Newark, 04/10/2013)
One of my childhood memories in Taiwan was the military dictatorship. The first characteristic of dictatorship was the motto of: ‘life as a eternal battle,’ which was to militarize every aspect in life. I was taught that the communists were an evil force, driven by a dangerous ideology, and there were enemies without and within the society. The second was the wide spread symbolism: national flags and the portraits of the leader were literally everywhere. In the morning, school kids had to go to the playground to march and sing military songs.
However, militarization did not bother me too much. Kids always knew ways to have fun. Military assemblies were good chances for exchanging porno, meeting girls and handing over love letters. National flags were great things to collect because you can resell them in stores and earned a pretty good pocket money.
What really irritated me was the national anthem section in the cinema. Before the movies, you had to stand up and sing ‘Three Principles of the People’, which sounds like a funeral and ultimately ruined a mood for entertainment. Therefore, after the dictatorship was ended in the 80s, one of my greatest delights was that I never have to stand up at any movie theatres anymore.
In the tenth of April, 2013, at the hockey stadium of New Jersey, out of my astonishment, I had my first national anthem section after twenty years.
So there I stood, tried to squeeze my mouth out of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ Actually it was not a bad experience, the song fits with the hockey game in the stadium. Patriotism fits with sport shirts, banners and the cheerleaders.
After all, they are almost the same thing, is it not?
Hot stupid day. Washington was covered by bright sunbeams that burned everything and everywhere, the city was a gigantic microwave oven. From the hot air, everything looked twisted and distorted, dogs looked miserable, caught in their furs and dragged by their masters.
It took me one whole day walking from Lincoln Memorial to National Capitol.
Starting from the Westside of the city, I encountered series of monuments: Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Memorial, D.C. War Memorial and National WWII Memorial. Unlike the ancient Persian’s preference of stone carving how they slaughtered and tortured enemies, modern civilization in favour of moaning about their own casualties. Wars transformed from celebrations into self-pitiful whining.
Crossing Washington Monument, I entered the museum area: American History Museum, African Art Museum, National Gallery of Art, Hirshhorn and etc. In every front door, there stood securities. They opened my bag, poked in their chopsticks and looked for bombs. In front of art, history and humanity, there is no freedom left for human beings.
The stream of monuments and museums along with Constitution Avenue provided different reading of the history: Walking from West to East, humanity starts from the abolition of slavery, conflicts, creativity and finally ends in the utopia of democracy. Conversely, if you walk from East to West, humanity starts from the unsuccessful imitation of the Greek system, through capitalistic art industry, into imperialism, and finally arrives at a bearded guy representing the fact that slavery only changes forms but never disappears from this planet.
Finally, my epic walk ended at Capitol, I was paralyzed on a bench, I could barely walk, each step brought a mighty pain to my both ankles.
Few minutes later, the sun came down, the weather turned into freezing cold, I found myself shivering under the white dome of Western democracy.