Friday, December 9, 2016

You really need to come to the marriage equality rally this Saturday

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It is rare that I write a blog post that makes a direct request, but here we are.

If you care about Taiwan, and you stand for what is right, you will come to the rally this Saturday (1pm-8pm, show up whenever) at Ketalagan Boulevard, or to Taichung Pride on the 17th, or both.

I usually make snarky jokes and throw expletives around like I'm tossing necklaces off a Mardi Gras float. This is because a.) it's fun, b.) I like it, but also c.) probably I don't want to come across as too vulnerable, setting myself up for a post that is important to me that nobody really cares about, though I do occasionally break down those barriers and manage to eke something out that is real and hard to say, with a minimal number of F-bombs.

This is one of those times.

Please come to the marriage equality rally this Saturday. I am nakedly, pleadingly asking you with an awkward level of sincerity to show up. I even made a video, and to prove that I am willing to be 100% sincere about this, I'm going to link to it here.

I'll even tell you in passably awful Chinese:


我不常用臉書或我的部落格為了呼籲人來做什麼事。但是,現在台灣真的正處在一個十字路口。立法院在思考婚姻平權,委員在觀察上個星期反對平權的抗議和這個禮拜六支持婚姻平權的行動。跟反對平權抗議比一比,我們需要更多人站出來。如果人少,立法委員一定要覺得台灣人不是認真支持婚姻平權。一個人都是一個人而已,但是,為了讓參加的人數超過200,000,每個人都很重要,懇請每個人都來參加! 你們都知道婚姻平權就是對的道路,也知道大部分的台灣人支持,可是如果你不願意真的站出來,立法院怎麼知道?所以你們現在有機會作出改變。我非常認真要求大家禮拜六站出來,share那個活動的po文,鼓勵你們的朋友來。台灣在這個十字路口不能往後走。我們同志朋友值得真的平權,不能等幾年。這件是需要現在做的事,我們不能錯過往前走的機會!

I am doing so even though if this post makes it to Reddit, I'm sure I'll have like ten jerk commenters tell me I'm fat or my Chinese is bad (both are true, you can't hurt me), and I'll have to flag those comments as Spam (the closest thing I can do to blocking them.) This is annoying to me, but I am willing to do that to convince you that I am completely sincere and open in quite literally and nakedly asking you to please come to the marriage equality rally this Saturday. 

Putting up with gross sexist troll comments is practically Jesus-level stuff, but I am happily opening myself up to it in the name of marriage equality.

Why do I care so much?

Because the Legislative Yuan is watching.

I mean, not me (though if someone weren't keeping tabs on me given how often I attend protests, I'd be a bit surprised and maybe a little insulted), but us. Because the polls consistently showing that marriage equality is supported by a majority of Taiwanese, and a neutral issue for many more (meaning only a tiny minority oppose it) are apparently not enough, they are watching the Bigot Rally last Saturday and the Good People Rally this Saturday to get a sense of public opinion or support for this issue. Perhaps some are a bit, let's say, not as brave as they could be and want to know that if they pass it, they won't get angry mail.

What that means is that the numbers actually matter. Your presence matters. Every single person matters.

The anti-gay rally on Saturday was estimated at 200,000. We need to not only top that but dwarf it. It actually matters that you be there. Even one more body, if enough people decide to lend their bodies, means something.

This isn't for fun. This isn't like "hey let's go check out the protest wheeee". The people who actually have the power to change the civil code are watching and it really counts this time. 

Do what you can. Write to your legislator (I wrote to mine even though I can't vote for him). Share the event page and encourage your friends to attend. For the sake of all that is good - as in, this is the right and good thing to do - show up. 

Equal rights for all Taiwanese depend on it.

I'm not joking.

If you are my friend, share the event page and show up. If you are a loyal reader, do the same. If you hate my guts, that's cool, do it because it's the right thing to do. I don't care.

Just show up. Do what's right.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

China is Asia's shitty privileged fedora dude at a bar

No but seriously, if you were out with friends and this guy you know - maybe he lent you some money, but you are not exactly friends - was creeping on a friend of yours and was even making threats toward her, you probably like to think you'd step in, yes? Even if he was a pretty strong dude, maybe strong enough to take you down, you'd know that standing up for her was the right thing to do and take that risk, yes? Even if there was a chance you'd end up beaten up in the parking lot for crossing him?

Let's say he's been acting this way for awhile, totally weirding out his neighbors and any women he talks to, and he's...that type. Dominant, overbearing, seemingly well-educated but prone to being taken in by fake news articles, conspiracy theories and half-truths. He himself "alt right" but you know it's straight-up racism.

Let's say this guy - we'll call him Chad - is at a crowded bar and Tina gets stuck standing next to him. He's being a total douche to Tina but she can't just get away from him. He's creeping on her, saying if she won't go out with him he'll "just rape her oh haha but anyway what're you going to do about it". He also jokes that he "owns" her and she'll "never get away from him". Even if they were together that'd be creepy as hell, but they're not!

Tina's a good friend of yours, very loyal.

You'd go in there and be like "hey, Chad, leave Tina the fuck alone. And that rape joke is seriously not funny. If you don't walk that back I'm calling the cops because that's a real threat and it's not okay."

...right?

You definitely wouldn't be all "well, you know, Chad's going through a rough time right now. And I totally still owe him some money. So I probably shouldn't get involved. Tina can handle herself" (Tina keeps throwing glances at you, begging for help).

No way would you say "I mean Chad was just joking about raping her, right? He wouldn't actually do that! I'm sure Tina and Chad can work it out themselves!"

"When he says he 'owns' her, it just means he really likes her, he doesn't mean it like MEAN it mean it," you definitely would not state.

"It's not like Chad's raping her NOW. She's fine. Ew, he's totally pressing his hard-on into her thigh...that must really suck for Tina, but it's not my business. I have to trust Tina to deal with him herself. Maybe she should just talk to him about it and get him to understand that's not okay?"

Chad's raging boner


Certainly, you'd never say that.

"I mean, Chad totally buys her lots of drinks and she's drinking them. Well, okay, he's pressuring her to, but still. She could probably just say no even though she's really scared. I mean she looks genuinely scared! One of them probably has roofies in it, but she hasn't passed out yet. She can take care of herself."

You'd think you were being a horrible person if you said that, right?
"I mean, the last time we thought we could help out Irene and get her crazy ex-husband off her back, and look what happened, we totally fucked it up and ruined her life. So we definitely shouldn't tell Chad to knock if off."

Nope, not from you. You have integrity!

"The thing about Chad is, he totally thinks he's better than anyone else. He'll even tell you it's a race thing or a guy thing. Yeah, he's kinda racist but what're ya gonna do? He says we have to respect his views. I totally think that's bullshit, but I'm a tolerant person so I can't say he's a terrible person just for having a different opinion. Of course I don't agree, I care about women and other people no matter where they are from. I think everyone should be equal and the world would be better if we could all just get along. I would never say what he says, though, because I'm woke!"

You'd be all "whoever said something like that was a total douchebag", right? After all, you're one of the good ones!

"Also, about Chad? I really can't just step in because he might actually start a fight. I like Tina a lot, I really respect what a strong, beautiful woman she is. Everybody calls her Beautiful Tina! I can't say that too much or talk to her too much, or Chad gets mad at me."

"The thing is, I don't want to get into a fight with Chad so there's nothing I can do. Even though if he could beat me up he could totally wreck Tina. He could really beat me up! The last time we kind of knocked his fedora a little askance he totally complained about it for ages."

"If I stepped in it could be worse for Tina! He might get mad and go after her for real and that might really be a problem!"

"I know it's totally weird that Chad tells everyone they're dating already when they clearly aren't, but maybe she should just go with it? People already believe Chad anyway. Like, is that worse than getting raped?"

Tina: "For fuck's sake, is anybody going to help me get Chad off my back? I could really use some help here."

I hope you see where I'm going with this.

Chad and Tina
Consider the spineless liberal (and I am a liberal) super nice person - could be male or female - who nutsacks out of doing something in real instances of other people being harassed, threatened or otherwise pushed around by shitty privileged white guys, instead of growing a damn vagina and standing up and doing something about it. One thing the past few days have taught me is that you can be a great person in word, who says all the right things and has all the right beliefs (and I do believe there is a clear wrong and right in many, though not all, cases) but it doesn't mean much if you don't stand up for the other people (or countries) you claim to care about - and yes, I am very directly talking about failed Western policies in China, which have enabled it to grow into a Hulk-like bully that threatens Tina and all the other folks at the Asia Bar (and perhaps beyond).



Quite literally, y'all have been letting a shitty privileged dude get away with harassing everyone else and done nothing about it despite claiming to feel otherwise. Nobody cares about how you feel - we care about what you do.

I am a big fan of liberalism. I'm not as far left as a lot of my friends, but then a fair number are straight-up Communists (I'm not), but you can consistently count on me to fight for equal rights, fair pay, a strong social safety net and legal weed.

But I just can't get over the knock-kneed wuss-ass liberal approach to Taiwan. You - all of you - are quite literally watching your friend sit there and take credible threats and doing nothing about it, like that not-really-a-friend bullshit "but I'm not like that, I respect _____!" loser at the bar who won't stand up when it counts. The sort of person I wouldn't trust as a friend, because they would have so many pretty words but not have my back.

You are not a true liberal unless you actually stand up for what you believe in. That means standing up for the folks you claim to care about so much. In this case, standing up for Taiwan. If you want to continue to sell out liberal, democratic Taiwan in order to make nice with dictatorial China, but otherwise call yourself a liberal, you are a hypocrite.

I'm sick of the OMG PHONE CALL too, and I still don't want Trump to be the one to have made it. I still wish it could have been a competent leader under a coherent, ethical policy shift. The craptacular "oh but but but, oh but...we can't anger CHAD! We have to be careful with CHAD!" from not only most major media outlets - not only including but especially the ones with a liberal slant - but also the more liberal end of the diplomatic community has, shall we say, been less than inspiring. I'm starting to feel like, as much as I hate it, and as much as I do not and will not ever absolve Trump, and cannot and will never trust him, the people I wanted to make that call never would have.

This does not mean it's okay that a guy who can't be trusted to stand by Taiwan when it counts was the one to do this, it just exposes the hypocrisy of all the people who could have done so credibly, but didn't.

They'd have let Tina sit there stuck at the bar with Chad's trouser tent bruising her thigh, joking about raping her, and done fuck all about it because "oh no China might get mad oh no".

"This is not how things are done" and "this is a delicate matter!" are increasingly starting to sound like so much window dressing for "oh but there's nothing we can do, you know how Chad can be!" I'd be more inclined to believe it if I still believed they'd eventually do something about Chad. It is becoming quite clear they never intended to.

Obama, as much as I have otherwise supported him despite his sometimes weak leadership and occasional hypocrisies, would have never made that call, as much as I wanted him to. Clinton wouldn't likely have either. And their liberal media friends would have continued making hypocritical excuses for why not, and still insisted they really did care, but, you know, it's a tough situation.

So, I love you liberals. I really do. I am one of you. So I say this with love in my heart:

Shut the fuck up with your excuses. You are embarrassing yourselves. Stand up for what you believe in.


Monday, December 5, 2016

Trudeau-Tsai Phone Call Threatens Peace in North America, Likely Affront to America

OTTAWA (5 December 2016): America experts, specialists and the diplomatic community were left aghast on Friday as the President of Taiwan accepted the first leader-to-leader phone call from the North American territory of Canada in decades.

The United States of America views Canada as a renegade state and maintains that there is only one North America, composed of America and Canada. It has consistently protested efforts on the part of the breakaway territory's leadership to form diplomatic ties with foreign countries. Internationally, many countries maintain 'unofficial' ties with Canada but heed America's directive and maintain no formal contact with the territory. Taiwan officially adheres to a "One America" policy and acknowledges the US position on Canada.

The US and Canada split in 1776, when America declared independence from British colonial rule. Historically, Canada and the US were one and the same as before 1776, they were under the same government "since antiquity". Canada is currently governed by a liberal democracy, while the US is not.

The phone call between Taiwanese President Dr. Tsai Ying-wen and Canadian leader Mr. Justin Trudeau lasted 12 minutes. Both the Taiwanese president and Canadian leader congratulated each other on their election wins and expressed their wish for continued prosperity. No groundwork for official recognition of Canada by Asian superpower Taiwan was laid. Trudeau is the leader of the opposition 'Liberal' party, which the US opposes as they feel the eventual goal of Trudeau, and the party, is formal Canadian independence, which they view as unacceptable.

It is unclear how most North Americans in Canada feel about the idea of independence, although a recent study shows they are more likely to identify as "Canadian" rather than "American".

Most America specialists decried the call, saying it "upset the delicate balance of diplomacy in the America region" that has allowed the continent to move forward economically in recent decades.

"This is unprecedented," said America-watcher Li Yi-feng. "It is unclear what Trudeau's motives were, or why President Dr. Tsai chose to call him. Many are saying Tsai simply does not fully understand the intricacy and delicacy of the 'America issue' on any deeper level and simply bumbled into the phone call with Trudeau, or if her advisors arranged it. In any case, the US is likely to be very upset, and managing their diplomatic tantrums is of the utmost importance."

"It doesn't serve Asian interests to give recognition to the territory of Canada in this way," added American diplomat Chen Shu-ling. "Taiwan and the US have strong, but potentially fractious ties. Preserving the US-Canada status quo is best for all involved, especially us, and the US."

Chen added, "Taiwan is a beacon of democracy and freedom around the world. We stand for human rights and self-determination. However, it is important that we maintain our ties with the US. Destabilizing the current balance could lead to war."

"We hope for a peaceful, diplomatic solution to the 'America issue' that will not lead to war."

The US has consistently said that no independence for Canada would be possible, and any move towards independence would result in war.

Some, however, praised the call, noting that it was an important step forward in relations with democratic Canada. "It's hypocritical," said blogger Bichael Burton, "for Taiwan to recognize a non-democratic oligarchy such as the US while leaving its strong ally, both in terms of liberal democratic views and and diplomacy, out in the cold. This call is simply acknowledging things as they are: that the US does not control Canada, and Canada is an important friend to Taiwan."

The US and Canada formally reached an agreement in 1992 that there is 'One North America', but with different interpretations of what that means, although there is no existing documentation of this agreement. Canada has limited observer status in some international organizations and is allowed to compete in the Olympics as American Ottawa.

There has been no US response, as American leader King Trump has not yet issued a statement. America watchers say that possible retribution for the phone chat might include invasion, the nuclear bombing of both Canadian cities, the waterboarding of every Canadian citizen, or possibly dropping a US-made meteor on Canada.

The US formally lodged a complaint regarding the call, reportedly saying that the President of Taiwan had no business contacting the leader of a breakaway state. "If they wish to deal with Canada, it is only right and ethical to go through the US. This is a domestic matter and Taiwan would be wise to refrain from getting involved. The future of North America must be decided internally, by all 356 million North Americans. Our North American brothers across the border must understand this," the communique said. American media called it "a cheap trick" by Trudeau.

Lao Ren Cha did not contact any Canadians for comment. No Canada experts could be found, as it is a narrow issue generally covered by America specialists.

America expert Hsu Jian-ming made the case for continuing the status quo. "There is no clear benefit to pushing for independence for Canada," he noted. "The status quo has allowed Canada to prosper, and has reduced the threat of a US attack to the low twenty percents, at least. It signs trade agreements with the US and has consulates around the world. Just because they are not formally recognized by most countries, must maintain an otherwise unnecessarily large defensive military, are not full participants in international organizations, the US pressures other nations not to engage in diplomacy or trade with it and consistently attempts to meddle in Canadian territorial 'elections' does not mean they are isolated. What advantages would formal independence bring that Canada does not currently enjoy as a result of the peaceful willingness to postpone the dispute from the US?"

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Events in Taiwan are bad and the planners should feel bad

So yesterday my husband, sister and some friends decided to go to that "Strasbourg Christmas Market in Taipei". We figured it'd be crowded on a weekend but didn't really have any time we were all free during the week to go together.

I bought tickets in advance at 7-11, having heard that sales were limited on-site (which seemed like a good idea when I thought you needed a ticket to get in - limiting numbers. Great.) Then I found out entrance was actually free, but you got the cost of the ticket (NT$500) turned into vouchers you could spend at the fair. Okaaaay, I get not wanting every stall to be handling tons of cash, but it seems a bit byzantine, and it wasn't very clearly announced. Then I saw a video panning the market, saying they did only sell 1,000 tickets per day at the site (whether or not that's true is still unclear).

So we are told that because we have pre-purchased tickets, we could not get the vouchers at the area near the fair with almost no line. We had to go to Taipei 101 Mall's B1 information counter and exchange them there. We got there and took a number (so we bought a ticket to get a ticket to wait in line to get more tickets that we could use as cash?) and waited a good 10 minutes to get our vouchers plus some worthless plastic crap 'gift'.

We get our vouchers and get about 10 meters into the market when Brendan decides to bail - he had had to leave in an hour anyway for work, and we wasted most of that getting those damn vouchers, and honestly it was just too crowded to be any fun. So I completely understood.

We passed a few stalls of unimpressive stuff you can buy in any store - Carrefour, Jason's etc. - and way overpriced Christmas decorations (hey, wanna spend NT$300 on a cutout wooden tree ornament that you paint yourself? Me neither!) and noticed that instead of Christmas music, the live band - which wasn't very good - was playing...Green Day?

Why?

Like, why Green Day? When I think Christmas I don't think "Dookie".

Would it have been so hard to hire a jazz band to play Christmas classics, or even have a cappella groups or brass or string mini-ensembles here and there playing Christmas music (no Green Day!) instead of a big stage? Why did there need to be a stage at all?

Way too much market space was allocated to seating for people wanting to listen to music that absolutely nobody wanted to listen to.

So we found the more European-looking wooden stalls down one edge of the market - there were maybe ten of them. Some had food or sweets, but everything we wanted to buy was sold out (gingerbread cookies, olives and cheese) and nothing available was particularly appetizing. Some sold wine, one sold beer. We got some beer, that was fine, but the wine was way too expensive by the bottle. We got mulled wine which was okay, and the one thing we didn't have to wait for. We got egg nog which said it was spiked (in Chinese) but...if it was I couldn't taste it, and it wasn't egg nog. It was milk with some vanilla in it and maybe fake rum flavoring. It was not good.

It was so crowded: those ten, maybe slightly more than ten, stalls in that long, narrow space meant there was no way to just walk around. Even if you wanted to, random areas were cordoned off, but the crush of people near the stalls was so bad you literally could not move. We ended up walking behind them. There were a few tables and chairs, all of them constantly full.

Evening came and everything lit up - that was nice enough, and we finally got a table that was covered in some other group's trash. My friends got food at McDonald's because nothing at the market was appealing and fairly priced (I am rather used to this and ate in advance). My sister said she spent her voucher money and wasn't sure what she got for it - some mulled wine and bad "egg nog"?

There were a few other things you could buy, like truffle salt and foie gras, to bring home, but all of it was very expensive. There were no mid-range goodies on offer that people could buy as small Christmas gifts, and nothing pricey was impossible to get elsewhere, in less crowded
stores.

When it came down to it, the whole thing was poorly planned. The ticketing system was ridiculous - clearly nobody who'd ever worked in event planning and understood Taiwanese crowds had planned it. There were not nearly enough stalls. I would not have minded that some of them were fairly humdrum, like Carrefour, if there had been more stalls selling anything at all unique or at least appealing.

Taiwan-style crowds are to be expected, and can't be avoided. The organizer's clearly did not understand that basic fact about this country. It's a densely packed place, and weekend events like this will draw numbers that you simply won't see in Western countries. The event space was far too small, with far too little to do, for the number of people who showed. They either needed to control numbers by making it voucher-entry only (and have more on offer for the cost of entry), or pick a bigger damn venue. Banqiao, despite being far from the city, would have been a good choice, as would Maji Maji square if they decorated well and used both the outside and inside areas. Cramming it behind Taipei 101 was probably decided because it would bring in the weekend Xinyi shopping crowd, but it was a very poor choice of space in every other respect.

At the end, I had several hundred NT worth of vouchers I hadn't spent on mulled wine or shitty egg nog, and used it to buy bottles of German beer to bring home. I still had NT$100 after that, which wouldn't buy another beer, and went for some mediocre-looking Carrefour chocolate only to find that, too, had sold out in the time we'd been there. I ended up with a carton of pumpkin soup...for some reason?

That was even sadder, because I was planning to spend quite a bit more, maybe get some new nice Christmas decorations, chocolate and other treats, alcohol and stocking stuffers. None of that was really available, so I had to search for something to spend my money on (to be fair I would have bought the beer regardless, but the selection should have been bigger - there could have been more beer stalls in general).

The lights came on, and the stage was empty. My friend pointed out that the transition to evening before dinner was the perfect time for live music, but no music had been booked. A CD of generic Christmas songs played (at least it was seasonally themed and not, like, Weezer. But even Weezer has a Christmas album).

Because I got some German beer, and got to drink mulled wine, I refuse to call it a total wash. But, honestly, it was pretty bad. That is a shame, it could have been so much better.

So, organizers, if you are reading this:

Taiwanese events mean crowds. Plan for this accordingly. You did a bad job.
Fire whomever booked the music. Just kick 'em out.
Fix your ticket issues.
Consider what people really want at a "European Christmas market" and endeavor to offer that.
I don't need to feel like I'm in Europe. I'm not. That's fine. But I at least want to have an enjoyable time and not be stuck in a too-small space with too many people listening to fucking Green Day and drinking gross vanilla milk. Make it better next time. You totally could - Taiwanese clearly are eating up the idea of a European Christmas Market. Certainly you could get adequate food and goods vendors out to take advantage of that.

And that's just it - usually I am okay with crowds. Certain spots on the weekend (and some all week), certain public holidays, certain tourist sites, certain events? Crowds are to be expected in Taiwan. It's a part of living here - either you accept it and roll with it or you don't. If you go to the National Palace Museum, Jiufen, pretty much anywhere on a three-day weekend, or a night market on a nice weekend night, you know what to expect and you deal with it. But it's not too much to ask that the planners of these events freakin' take that into consideration and plan better events.

I might be so annoyed by this in particular because in the past, Christmas was the one thing I had. The one holiday where I could shop in peace because it wasn't a 'thing' locally. I didn't have to plan in October to get Christmas goodies because otherwise it'd be too crowded or sold out. Stores and offices decorated and department stores played seasonal music but that was about it. But it's a thing now - friends exchange gifts, people put up trees, people, well, go to Christmas markets. IKEA is already sold out of Glogg and the wrapping paper I liked, and it's not even December 5th! Christmas was the one time I could celebrate a holiday in Taiwan without having to plan for a guerilla offensive like a 5-star general, and it's gone.

Or maybe I'm so irritated because this is part of a trend of terrible events. A friend of mine was telling me that pretty much every Latin festival was so poorly planned that, for example, air conditioners wouldn't be turned on so people dancing would be about to pass out. I remember that kinda-terrible Taco Festival where lines for any given taco stand were 45 minutes long, and almost everything ran out by the time you got to the front, and how I had to leave and go eat pot stickers because I was so hungry. I remember friends of mine going to art exhibits at Huashan and saying it was, like, a few stalls of mediocre art and not much else. I honestly think the last expat-friendly or expat-planned events I've been to that were in any way well-planned were Dog Days in Drag 2014 (I couldn't make it this year and last year it felt like it ended well before midnight and well before all the raffles should have been done) and that British music thing by the river, which had to have been at least 3 years ago.

How is it not possible to do better?

I see one ray of hope: people are starting to complain about it. A lot of people bitched about how the Taco Festival virtually guaranteed by dint of poor planning that most people would not get tacos. Pretty much everyone is complaining about the "Strasbourg Christmas Market".

Do better.

Seriously...just...freakin' do better. There is no excuse for so many poorly-planned events. There is no reason why this market had to be so terrible. There have got to be locals or long-term expats here with backgrounds in event planning that you could hire.

Do.

Better.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Careful what you wish for

For years, I have wished for the US to take concrete strmeps to recognize Taiwan formally (as Taiwan) - and tell China that if they didn't like it, they could eat a big one. Well, I woke up this morning to find that *tiny mouth barf* President-elect Trump had broken with decades of US policy and spoken to President Tsai. 

Before coffee, I was amazed. In part because Trump managed to do something I agreed with, and in part because I didn't expect he'd know what "Taiwan" was (after all his products are no longer made here).

I really do want to agree with it. I want to be over the moon. Make no mistake, I am completely in favor of such calls and think US-Taiwan policy is a joke.

My problem is not the call - it's that Trump made (or answered) it.

In fact, I'm only 1/3 through my coffee so this is a good time to just give myself a minute to be happy about this. In fact, let's all just go ahead and wait to put our Serious People hats on for a second and just allow ourselves a moment of joy that a US president finally did the right thing vis-a-vis the Taiwanese president, and that Tsai was smart enough to seize this opportunity (I read that she called him). Let's just let ourselves have a moment of worry-free glee, shall we? We've earned it.

So...

*happy happy happy*

*so much fun thinking of China crapping their pants, ha ha, suck it China*

*drink some more coffee*

OK, now it's time to be sad.

I really want this to be something. I've always said that Taiwan, as a successful and sovereign nation, deserves international recognition and that ought to begin with the US - they need to back up their words about supporting democracy abroad and standing against human rights violations with the deed of calling out China and recognizing liberal democratic Taiwan (no need to switch diplomatic recognitions - just recognize Taiwan as "Taiwan", not China, because it's not China. Never was. Recognize both and when China complains, tell them to choke on it.)

I wanted this to be done - by a leader who fully knew what she was getting into, who understood the consequences and was prepared to stand by her choice. Trump is not that leader. Trump is not the person to be doing this - he doesn't seem to fully grasp what this means, and therefore is not a leader we can trust to stand by Taiwan as China rattles its tiny little saber. I want that hypothetical better leader to have answered that call. I have, for a long while, been disappointed in the Democratic party's boot-licking of China, and their willingness to play along with a stupid fiction to avoid angering a power that perhaps needs to be angered a bit. I have been angered by the hypocrisy of my fellow liberals on the Taiwan issue - so that the only welcoming arms the Taiwanese and Hong Kong independence advocates find in the US are on the hard right (more on that later).

I absolutely want the US to bring Taiwan out from the cold. I do not trust Trump to fully understand or follow through, though. It is possible to be in favor of the phone call, but not be happy Trump made it, and feeling that way doesn't make one anti-phone-call.

I feel like I just got my wish, but it was a monkey's paw wish. I feel like some imaginary ex I've been hypothetically pining over, but who was a terrible person, called me and I was both excited and very worried because I know he's awful and I really shouldn't. I feel like I've been tricked by a cranky genie.

I really want this to be a coherent policy initiative with an ethical grounding. Finally a leader seeing the truth and doing what is right. I want to believe that the words he exchanged with Tsai will translate into deeds: backing up Taiwan against an angry China.

But let's be honest. We all know it's not.

My friends have speculated: "probably he thought she was the president of Thailand", or "they probably spoke for a few minutes before he asked her to put her boss on the phone". I do give him an eensy bit more credit than that, but not much. Maybe he does know Taiwan is a place that exists and has a president which is not the same person as the dictator they have over in China.

More likely is that he doesn't fully understand cross-Strait (I never did figure out how to capitalize that and I am only halfway done with my coffee) relations, and is completely, bumblingly, unaware of what he's just done. Most likely, he won't fully understand why when China starts fulminating. Or he will, at least in a simplified way, but not realize he ought to do something about it.

In short, when China gets pissed and maybe makes some moves to threaten Taiwan, it won't even occur to Trump to have Taiwan's back. This truly needed to be a part of that coherent, ethical policy initiative that I've always said the US needs to pursue, but the ugly truth is that it's not, and it could ultimately do more harm to Taiwan than good.

Yes, I realize I've just basically said "Trump does bad things and I hate him; Trump does good things and he's too stupid to follow through, I will never like him no matter what he does." This is true. I will never like him, no matter what he does. He has no chances with me and I will never accept him as a competent leader. Why? Well, because of everything he's been, said, or stood for in his life leading up to the election, and plenty after too. I refuse to give him credit because that's what he's earned - no chances and no credit.

Michael Turton thinks this - or an attitude like this - is a part of "media bias against Trump". While I agree with most of the rest of this post, especially calling out progressives for their hypocrisy on Taiwan (except I am not quite as willing to just be happy about this phone call), I don't agree with that particular notion: media bias against Trump exists because that is what Trump has earned. It is entirely right to paint him in this light because he has shown it is the correct light to paint him in: he's practically chosen the colors himself. It is an entirely justified judge of his character.

Anyway, I just spent a whole blog post worrying about China, but legitimately this time. Nevertheless, I'm now 2/3 done with my coffee, and I would like to end by calling out the shitty, shitty news media for casting this in a completely bad light - they didn't even give themselves a few minutes to be happy, because they don't care about Taiwan - because what China wants, to them, trumps what's good for Taiwan. Pun intended. CNN even mentioned China before Taiwan in their headline and doesn't have a lot to say about the consequences for Taiwan, only for the US. Screw you, CNN. Sure, you have to discuss the cross-Strait ramifications of this, but could you at least give Taiwan top billing this one fucking time? Like, just once? Maybe talk more about US-Taiwan policy and what this means for Taiwan rather than China China China? Even a word as to Tsai's maneuver to call Trump, or anything Taiwan stands to gain from this domestically (in Taiwan itself I suspect Tsai's action will be met with a fair amount of approval, and may even increase Trump's popularity here)? Anything? No? Ugh.

I do see one tiny light in the darkness. If this call was made by Tsai, then she probably knows what she's doing. She is smart, cautious, a policy wonk, yet she took this step (this is true even if she didn't make the call, but answered his). I trust her to have a plan, or at least to know what the consequences are and have an idea of how to deal with them. I trust her in a way I will never trust Trump. So it could be okay? Maybe?

That said, I really hope that Tsai and other pro-independence and pro-localist leaders in Hong Kong and Taiwan know what they are doing when they get into bed with hard right American conservatives (ignore the ridiculous bias of that article please). It is not exactly a bed of roses. I have long expressed dismay that the side with the Taiwan policy I actually agree with the most is the side I can never vote for for other reasons.

Anyway, I will think of this as a good thing when words are backed up with deeds and the US tells China to lay off Taiwan militarily, recognizes Taiwan officially and pressures other nations to do the same. Somehow, I doubt that will happen.

So, will there be a war? Will China invade Taiwan over this, or in part over this?

Honestly?

Maybe.

Will the US come to Taiwan's aid then?

Probably not. If they do I'll eat my hat (I'm safe in saying this because I don't think I own any hats).

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Separate is not the same as equal

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I just wanted to share a few photos from Monday's gathering outside the Legislative Yuan, as that (heh) august body debates the same-sex marriage bills before it. I also wanted to make sure anybody reading this who doesn't know already knows about and is encouraged to attend another pro-marriage-equality gathering at Ketagalan Boulevard (in front of the Presidential Office) on 12/10.

I don't know what the lineup is for that event, but this one included several well-known Taiwanese activists, including Jennifer Lu, Lin Fei-fan, Miao Boya (at least I saw her near the stage but am not clear on whether she spoke) and others.

I don't have a lot to say that hasn't already been said by better-informed commentators than me, other than to reiterate my strong and vocal support for marriage equality in Taiwan. Taiwan has been struggling for years to be noticed internationally -for many who have never visited the country, it's like it doesn't exist. Many assume it's already a part of China. Others assume it is not a democracy (I had a family member make this mistake. They were corrected) or that it's a third-world backwater rather than a developed tech, artistic and industrial hub in the heart of Asia.

Being the first Asian country to make marriage equality a reality will not only help further separate Taiwan from the claws of China by creating an easily recognizable and irreconcilable cultural distinction between the two nations - which I fully support - and is not only simply the right thing to do. Being a pioneer in Asia in terms of human rights - yes, marriage is a human right, so if you want to withhold that from some people based on who they love, you do not support basic human rights and I have a few choice words for you and am not interested in your illogical arguments - but would also raise Taiwan's international image and recognition. It is not only the right thing to do, it is the right thing for a nation whose people desperately want it recognized as such.

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As most of you know, the Tsai administration on a few occasions has indicated a desire to back down from full marriage equality and push instead for "civil partnerships" (which would not necessarily confer the same rights to same-sex couples). For obvious reasons, I do not support this: as one protester noted with his wonderfully misspelled sign (which I did not have the heart to point out to him), separate is not equal. The people want real equality, not an empty gesture. Real equality means all marriages are equal. Nothing less is acceptable.

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You likely also know that the Taiwanese public, in a clear majority, supports marriage equality. This is not the 'conservative Asian country' you thought it was, or the sort of country you imagine when you imagine Asian culture, if you are working mostly off general impressions and stereotypes. Not only that, but beyond clear majority support, a huge percentage of people are indifferent, meaning it's a rather small minority indeed who are opposed to taking this step.

Indeed, the near 100% support of the youth of Taiwan for marriage equality is well-documented, but I can honestly say I've also heard it from grandparents, working-class folks in small towns, and middle-aged taxi drivers. On the way to an appointment in a taxi, the last rally, which I was unable to attend, was being discussed on the radio. I made a passing comment indicating my support and the septuagenarian taxi driver replied with "obviously. It's a human right. It's very simple. Of course everyone should have human rights."

Yes, exactly. 

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So why is it taking so long? Again, it is well-documented that the main opponents to equality are the influential Christian churches - most of them preaching ultra-conservative, post-truth, fundamentalist/evangelical ideologies. So, basically, the worst kind of fake "Christians" who don't really understand what following Christ means (here I am, an atheist, feeling this way about them. If my disdain is palpable, there's a reason. But please don't think it extends to all Christians. Only these kinds of hateful people who simply want an angry patriarchal sky daddy to rubber-stamp their bigotry rather than a cohesive philosophy of inclusion, kindness and forgiveness). These churches and their "Christians" have deep ties to both major political parties, the KMT possibly moreso than the DPP, though it's not clear.

Most Taiwanese, however, are not Christian. I've heard that only approximately 4.5% are (a quick googling confirms this).

The game of influence and power is easy to point out. What I'm wondering is, with politicians with ties to these churches going against the will of the people - and the will is pretty damn clear - how long until it starts to really cost them votes?

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Hear me out here. Taiwan has never been the ultra-conservative culture people think it is, at least not in any way we'd define as typical Western conservatism. To quote a friend, the Taiwanese have always had a rebellious, liberal streak, perhaps moreso than is apparent in other Asian nations, or at least it's a stronger cultural undercurrent. Being a strong ally and supporter of the US, with an openness to Western values and liberal democracy, has helped this undercurrent come more to the surface to be sure. However, it hasn't been until recently that the general hold of Chinese/Han chauvinism (and possibly also its more organically Taiwanese counterpart, Hoklo ethnocentrism) has been shouted down in a majority of society in favor of more liberal voices gaining strength.

To put it simply, it was perhaps easier for political parties to hide the extent to which their actions were influenced by churches in Taiwan under a veneer of conservative Chinese chauvinism, because it is not at all clear where Christian chauvinism ends and Chinese chauvinism begins regarding quite a few social issues (I've written about this before, by the way).



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Now that the young and liberal voices (not necessarily one and the same) are starting to influence both policy and culture, however, there is an expiration date on how much longer either party can hide that they are influenced by groups that, by and large, do not represent the Taiwanese electorate.

This is perhaps a bigger issue for the DPP than the KMT. The KMT's core is  more likely to hold conservative views. So the KMT continuing to more or less be the bigger obstacle to equality won't necessarily affect their decision to stay in the blue camp and the party has long since lost the youth vote. All the Jason Hsus in the world aren't going to fix that.

The DPP, however, still has a shot at those younger, liberal votes. Many have defected to the NPP and other small leftie parties, but many are still willing to vote if not for their local DPP candidate, than for a DPP president. Continuing to stall on marriage equality will eventually cost the DPP the youth vote, because they're just not going to stand for being dicked around much longer on issues that are important to them.

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So, as influential as those churches and their members may be in Taiwanese politics - an influence well outsize their proportion of society, at least one party is likely - in my view anyway - to start losing votes over it. If the DPP wants to capture and keep the youth vote, they're going to have to jettison the Christians who have their hands on the buttons of Taiwanese social issues in favor of the more progressive approach their party's name implies. 

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Anyway, I don't have much more to say except I am happy that Taiwanese are finally taking to the streets beyond the well-established Pride parade to show the government that the people do, in fact, want equality. Anti-equality bigots have their demonstration game down. The ethically and morally correct pro-equality, pro-human rights left needs to respond in kind and, while keeping it friendly and love-oriented, fight back and show the government how big their numbers are. 

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So, enjoy a few more pictures!


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I didn't have the heart to tell this poor guy he spelled every English work on his sign wrong :(

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Can you tell I hadn't slept well the night before? 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Dealing with life as an expat who hates Trumpism

As you can probably tell by now, I am devastated beyond words that my (in name only, in all other ways former) country chose to elect hate. Even those who didn't vote for hate per se felt it was an acceptable part of the package, which is itself an act of hate - no matter the reason - that I do not forgive.

It's not so much that I particularly loved Clinton, though I was excited to vote for the first female president with a serious chance, and I do not think she is the bloodthirsty vampire-she-beast that many have come to believe she is. And it's not that I am so devastated after every Republican win - I'm not (okay, I'll admit that when I moved to Taiwan I trolled my coworkers saying it was because GW Bush was re-elected, and I'm not sorry for this real life troll job, but that's what it was - a few lulz, nothing more. I left for other reasons entirely).

Now, though, I have come to feel more than ever that Taiwan is my home. I hadn't planned on returning to the US in any case, but it was always on the table, potentially. Maybe we'd have elderly relatives to care for, or maybe one of us would get a blockbuster job offer. New York seemed like a fine city if we could afford it: I could continue to treat mass transit as a core belief, and not have to buy a car. It might have happened.

That is all gone. I do not think I can return for more than a visit. Ever. We may not stay in Taiwan, but I truly cannot imagine moving back to the US. Not because of Trump itself, but because the people who voted for it (remember, a thing who openly bragged of sexual assault and ran a campaign with very strong, obvious messages of racism, who has already said it plans to take away my medical rights as a woman) will still be around, and I do not imagine that I can peaceably share a country with them. Forget anger - though there is that - I just don't think my psyche could take it.

And yet, I do feel a sense of guilt about this. A lot of people say they're going to move to Canada if so-and-so wins, and with Trump, that rhetoric was stronger than ever. I am in the fortunate position of being able to do so fairly easily. I married into the nationality because I'm smart like that.

But, then, another call came: don't move to Canada. The US needs you. It's a privilege to be able to leave, when those who will really suffer under Trump's regime perhaps can't leave, but will definitely lose allies and accomplices if you go. You need to be there to protest, to resist, to get involved, to fight back. To register yourself as a Muslim if it starts putting that Nazi-like shitshow into action. To walk women into abortion clinics and put yourself physically between a harasser and a minority being harassed. To provide help and possibly housing for refugees (potentially domestic ones, and I am not joking). To join local groups and donate to national ones. To get your ground game going. We need people to fight, not to run. To occupy.

I get it - and the argument is persuasive. I love a good fight, and that is something I do have the constitution for (certainly I don't care much what people think of me, and am quite happy to say what I think and stand up for what is right under my own name).

In fact, if I lived in America, I think I would stay for this reason. To make people who want to implement a racist, sexist agenda and set back our collective cultural clock to a racist, sexist time as miserable as fucking possible. Like, if you thought I was a bitch before, you ain't seen nothin' until I've got something real and tangible and scary to fight for.

Hell, I could probably even find common cause with decent, fundamentally morally good conservatives who  also hate Trump and everything it stands for. The basically okay folks who believe in personal freedoms (as long as they leave mine and my loved ones' alone in terms of who they marry or what medical choices they make - I'll even leave their guns alone in good faith), the folks with a conscience even if we disagree on some things, who have a similar idea of where we should go as a country but maybe have different ideas on how to get there (some of which are terrible, but that can be worked around civilly. Probably some of mine are too).

The thing is, though, that I don't live in America. I haven't for a decade. Does the call to stay and resist apply if you weren't there to begin with?

After careful thought, I have decided that it doesn't. There are good reasons why I consider Taiwan my home, and most of them actually don't have to do with my anger at the country I was born in. Those are not invalidated. Taiwan is still my home, and would be even if I came from the Land of Peace and Bubbles (a.k.a. Denmark, apparently?).

So, it is acceptable to decide to continue to live abroad guilt-free. If Clinton had been elected I would not have returned permanently, so this doesn't change that - all it changes is that now, even in the future, I won't. I do not imagine Trump will be president for more than four years, but even if it is, as someone who was already gone, I do think it is morally permissible to stay gone.

That said, I am still in the resistance. I do not consider myself absolved of my duty to fight as a decent human being who was born in the USA. Not because we "lost" - we've lost before. Who cares. It happens. But because this is actually terrifying in a way it never before was in my lifetime, in a way that could truly hurt many people I care about who happen to be LGBT, or Muslim, or Hispanic, or women who may need abortions, or whomever our brand new white supremacist in the White House may seem fit to target. This is some real honest-to-goodness Greatest Generation shit right here and we need to resist. We need to put ourselves at risk and maybe be uncomfortable. We need to start thinking about who stands to suffer most and figure out how we can either stop that from happening, or be of help when it does.

This leaves the question of how. From Taiwan there is not that much I can do. But there are a few things.

First and foremost, donate donate donate donate (I can't find a donation page for that last one, but if you can, you should try to help them stay afloat - here's why). Money is one thing that crosses borders easily. This is the first thing I plan to do once my next transfer to my US bank goes through.

Secondly, if at any point this whole super-duper-Nazi "Muslim registry" actually goes into effect, if you are abroad but able to do so online, register as a Muslim yourself to confuse the thugs. (You can sign the petition if you want, but that's not really the point - the point is to keep your ears open.) Or, do it on your next visit home, if it becomes a real thing. It can't target Muslims if it doesn't know which registrees are actually Muslim, and if you are targeted yourself, consider it as taking the place of a Muslim who now has the extra time to get away.

Thirdly, you are still a citizen. You can still vote. Call your representatives. Or write to them, though this is less effective. Sign petitions, join mailing lists, be a voice.

And finally, find out where the major protests are and plan your visits home around them. Make a sign, go march, occupy, do what you can. Confront your family members if you are at all able to do so. I am skeptical of this working much: while there may be some truth to the power of engagement, my experience has been that when someone calls someone else out as racist, it's not because the person they're calling out is talking about their problems and the listener is downplaying them or trying to tell them they're actually privileged. Replying to a story of economic woe or an opioid addiction crisis with "well actually you should be grateful because at least you're white, and if you don't see that you're racist" is cartoonishly insensitive - while I'm sure people like this exist, I have never met one.

No, it's because they are actually saying or doing something racist, and not calling that out normalizes it in an unacceptable way. I do not think Trump voters voted for racism because they're sick of being called racists. I think many of them voted Trump because they actually are racists, and whether or not you called them that, it wouldn't have changed anything (nor would being nice to them - no social movement ever got anywhere by asking nicely).

Side note: while I am sympathetic to someone's economic struggle, I don't excuse that as a reason to have ignored Trump's bigotry. Voting for it isn't going to bring those jobs back. The economy has been fundamentally restructured, and all these trade deals you don't like (guess what, I don't always like them either) are a by-product of that, not the cause of it.  Only finding a place for yourself in the new economy - and maybe accepting some government help or getting more education (which you deserve to be able to afford) to do so - is going to change the situation.

Though I do not believe this is the main reason most people voted Trump, I am genuinely sorry - no sarcasm - that your Rust Belt job is gone, but Trump isn't going to be able to bring it back. Even if it could, re-investing in fossil fuels will render our skies gray again. That's not a solution. In any case, I have struggled too, and I did not grow up in a wealthy family. I never took that as an excuse to ignore racist rhetoric in a candidate because they said what I wanted to hear about jobs. It was always my job to educate myself and find a place in the economy. So I take this "reason" for voting Trump as a reason to improve education, so people might better understand when a candidate's promises are not possible.

Perhaps I am a flawed person, but I do not think it is ethically right not to call out overt racism, nor do I think I have the constitution not to do so. But, I suppose you can try. Hail Mary, right?

Maybe don't bother with a safety pin on those visits - I guess you can if you want, I can't be bothered with that argument, let's not fight please - but do keep your eyes open for instances of harassment and physically intervene. You are only there temporarily but the person being harassed has to live with the threat of it every day.

Two more things - stop believing and posting bullshit from fake news sites (feel free to keep posting on Facebook: it's not that productive but it is therapeutic and helps people hone their real-life arguments, so there is some benefit). Get your real argument game on, get facts, listen to real media with real fact-checkers and trained journalists who are at least trying to be accurate. Subscribe to an online news source and actually pay for it so we can keep real media alive.

And - remember, Taiwan needs you too. The appointment of a few Taiwan-friendly folks to the cabinet is a good sign, but Trump's utter disregard for any sort of international diplomacy that doesn't result in a shower of shiny gold coins or telling brown people to get lost is still worrying. So be present and engaged and ready to fight for Taiwan if the chance presents itself.

There will be expats here, and some will support Trump. Engage with them if you feel you can, or avoid them (I do not necessarily think it is bad for someone who voted for a racist agenda, even if that's not why they voted for it, to feel a bit ostracized). Watch out for increased harassment and other hate speech among your fellow expats, and step in as necessary.

No matter what, if you plan to stay abroad - even if you plan to never return and quite possibly someday renounce citizenship as I do - don't think this absolves you from the fight.

Trumpio* delenda est.

*I have no idea what declension to use because I forgot all my Latin. So I made this one up.