Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Happy Birthday, Sons of Killers

I didn't create this. It came from somewhere on Facebook.

Here ya go.

And I will say that what I'm going to write below somehow feels different from the perspective of having permanent residency, something I didn't have at this time last year (this time last year I was actually in Turkey). I'm not Taiwanese but I am sufficiently invested in this country to feel as though it's worth it to say something.

Once again, I won't be celebrating "National Day" (well, I will, in the spirit of Dr. Sun Yat Sen founding the Republic of China so I could have a day off - thanks Dr. Sun!). It's not "Taiwan's birthday" - nothing of any note happened in Taiwan on October 10th, 2011. Maybe Old Chen took his chickens to market. Maybe District Governor Fukuda of the Japanese colonial government heard a petition from a local resident. Maybe Miss Lin and Mr. Li fell in love - but nothing really happened on that day in Taiwan. Taiwan wasn't under Chinese rule then, and the founding of the Republic of China did not reach these shores on that day.

If someone wants to say "Happy birthday ROC", that's fine with me - if they want to celebrate an imported Chinese holiday in Taiwan, which is not a part of China, well, it's a free country (country!) and they're free to do so.

But it is not - absolutely not - "Taiwan's" birthday.

I'm not terribly interested, however, in celebrating a holiday imported from a different country by the people who instigated the White Terror and martial law, and I am not interested in celebrating the continued rule of their sons. I know, I know, the push these days is to let the past be the past and to move forward together. Generally I agree with that, but the KMT hasn't done much for Taiwan recently - despite doing a hell of a lot for China - so I still see no reason to support them. Besides, as someone whose own family survived a genocide not terribly dissimilar from the White Terror (the Armenian genocide, which the Turkish government has yet to recognize, let alone apologize for), it's something that does arouse emotion in me and best not forgotten, even if the only path forward is to move past it.

When Taiwan has a birthday - when it is an internationally-recognized independent nation and has a National Day that falls on the day of such a declaration, I will run out into the street, and sing and dance and say "Happy birthday Taiwan!" For now, no.

I know, I know, there'll be at least one comment coming in (which I won't publish) that will be along the lines of "stupid foreigner, go home" or "you don't know anything". All I can say is that I may not be Taiwanese, but I love Taiwan. I love Taiwan. I don't really care about the Republic of China, but I love Taiwan. I can't say why (although I've tried), but I do. I've lived here for almost exactly six years, and I am now an official permanent resident - for reals, y'all, I paid my fee and everything, it's done - so I do have the standing to say that I am invested in Taiwan and my life here. I'm not leaving anytime soon. I'm not here for beer&women (not all expats who come and stay for two years and then leave are, but enough of them are that they've kind of got a bad reputation, and a not-entirely-undeserved one, although it's not nearly as bad as China or Korea). I have local ties and local friends whom I care about. As such, I may not be Taiwanese but my opinion is relevant. Maybe not as relevant as someone who was born here and has ancestry here, but still relevant.

So, uh, happy day off everyone.


Anonymous said...

NOBODY claims that double ten is "Taiwan's birthday". At least nobody with at least a minimum level of education.

What you don't want to see with your comical self-righteous attitude is that most Taiwanese accept the ROC as THEIR government and are proud of it.

They were sick of martial law and a ROC narrative that completely ignored them, yes.
But you equally cannot just ignore 3 decades of hyper growth under KMT leadership, or ostracize 17% of the current population.

Lee Teng-hui was smart enough to construct an inclusive identity, the "ROC on Taiwan" and the
"New Taiwanese" and received resounding election victories, mostly because THIS and not the "pure" (and frankly quite rabid) ideology of either DPP and KMT are what most Taiwanese really want and really feel.

Sadly, the DPP didn't get it, and that's why they have been unable to achieve anything or succeed at the polls.

Anonymous said...

The majority still voted for KMT/Ma this year, the election result was clear (and don't start with conspiracy theories, they don't work). It supposed to be a landslide for Tsai, if people would feel the way you do - apparently they do not. It's disappointing to read such article from you, it's below your standard.

Jenna Cody said...

If you think "most people don't think of today as Taiwan's birthday", then, well, my Facebook feed must not be coming from the real world but from some alternate universe, because I saw TONS of "Happy birthday Taiwan!" comments on there yesterday - from educated and smart people who should know better.

So on that count, I don't think you're correct. Plenty of people treated yesterday as "Taiwan's" birthday, and I got some pushback on Facebook when I said it was not ("Happy Birthday ROC" doesn't bother me - but I choose not to celebrate it).

Anyhoo, you know quite well I don't like the KMT. It's fine if other people want to vote for them - I am not in the business of telling people they have to/can't vote for somebody no matter how vehemently I disagree - but I can't stand them.

I don't ignore the economic gains the KMT made, but those were in the last century. However, my own family history means I'm quite touchy about genocide, and the so-last-century gains of the KMT are not enough to erase their bloody history for me. "They murdered a lot of people and many families have still not seen justice...oh, but don't worry about that, because ECONOMY!" No.

No no no. Not from me. If others want to vote for them, fine, but Ma's presidency has done nothing to change my views. Fortunately for him, I guess, I can't vote.

I'm also generally not the one who sides with the pro-business party, as business practices - including treatment of workers - in Taiwan (and elsewhere) is despicable and deplorable. The KMT is quite clearly the pro-business party and cares more for lining the pockets of the already wealthy (generally their friends and relatives) than helping those who are working 60-hour weeks for NT$35,000 a month or some other crazy low wage for far too much time at the office.

I don't feel the current administration has done enough for Taiwan - their initiatives have mostly been tail-between-the-legs conciliatory measures with China that, for all their hype, have really done nothing in Taiwan. I'd say Ma has done *one* good thing in 4 years: securing direct flights to the Mainland.

Otherwise, no. ECFA? Not exactly helping. Brain drain? Still a problem. Chinese tourists allowed in? Doesn't seem to have done much for the economy and now all the most popular tourist sites are overrun with people who don't respect cultural norms (to be fair, some do, but not all). Economic growth? Better than the USA but still "eh" (as an American, though, I'll take it). Wage depression? HUGE problem that the KMT seems barely concerned about. Underemployment? Again, huge issue, and not nearly enough being done to address it.

My dislike of the KMT isn't along racial lines, or even cultural ones. I don't think they've approached China in the right way (far too nice to a government of liars - they need to demand more respect), they've done little for the economy in recent years, I don't think I can ever forgive a party that once perpetrated a genocide - and no, they haven't changed all that much since then, despite what they claim. They're too pro-rich and anti-worker, they care little for advancing the cause of women's rights, and despite holding the aboriginal and Hakka vote, they don't do much for those groups either (especially the aborigines). They've done nothing of any great effect to address what I feel are the top problems in Taiwan now: wage depression, overwork and brain drain.

So, comment all you like, but these are my views. Others may have different views. These are mine and this is my blog. So...there ya go.

Jenna Cody said...

As for "the ROC in Taiwan" - that's fine, whatever.

But I don't care about the ROC. I care about Taiwan. They can have a holiday if they want, and those who care may celebrate it, but I choose not to.

My issue here is that I saw a lot of people saying "happy birthday Taiwan" yesterday - and it was NOT Taiwan's birthday.

If it matters, I don't really "care" about the US government either. I care about my loved ones, and I care about some aspects of the culture I grew up with, and I'd like to see my country change for the better, but if you asked me if I cared much about the United States of America as a governing body, I'd say no. I don't celebrate July 4th, either.

I feel the same about the ROC.

Katherine said...

My Facebook wall was awash with the same stupid comments about a birthday, resulting in me posting a status update telling people to knock off the misinformation.

And I'm with you on the deep seated dislike of the KMT. Just because there's a KMT president, as one of your previous comments noted, doesn't mean we have to wholeheartedly support the bastards because a majority did in the election. People need to keep calling them out on their bloody, cruel history.

Jenna Cody said...


My dislike of the KMT (and lack of respect for Ma Ying-jiu) is my opinion, on my blog, which I do feel I've supported with ample reasoning.

I'm not going out and telling others "you can't vote for them!". I'm saying what my opinion is.

Does it really matter if 800,000 more people in Taiwan voted for him over Tsai in terms of my liking him? Am I supposed to change my view because 800,000 Taiwanese people feel differently? I mean, George Dubya was re-elected, but I didn't like him any more than I had before.

I don't feel Ma's win was a conspiracy. He legitimately won. I'm not convinced the vote count was perfectly representative of the full sentiment of Taiwan for several reasons, among them vote-buying and lack of absentee ballots, and a tendency to favor stability and harmony over personal opinion, or allow your family's political values to override your own (which is changing, but still something you come across in Taiwan).

So no, even though Ma won the election legitimately, that doesn't mean the final vote count perfectly mirrors the sentiments of the Taiwanese. Bush II won re-election in the USA, but his re-election under no circumstances perfectly or even accurately reflected the view of Americans.

I am not so much rabidly pro-DPP as I am anti-KMT (which is not quite the same as my apathy toward the ROC), and I would like to see the DPP eschew their Hoklo-only slant in favor of inclusiveness.

Either way - does it matter? I don't have to like or support the person who won the election just because more people voted for him.

Mike Fagan said...

I think the more interesting story is the future of the DPP - I think they are already finished as an ideological force, and haven't even begun to realize this yet.

It seems to me that intelligent young people already identify themselves primarily in individual terms with, at best, only an apologetic reference to the collectivist terms of either the greens or the blues.

Whichever party wins an election from now on does so on the balance of the prevailing cynicism.

Jenna Cody said...

That could well be true, although I do hear young people taking up the rallying cry of the old fightin' for democracy guard (and more of them than I hear any true enthusiasm from the youth for the KMT - there are youth who vote for them, but primarily because either their primary focus is making money, or their parents are blue, or both).

If it's true, it's true for both sides. The KMT is just as done as an ideological force.

Which is a good thing: now both parties have to win on the basis of their platforms at the time of the election rather than their "we are us, they are them" cultural collectivism.

That's good for the DPP, which needs to shed it's "We're Tai Ke, this is our country!" image, and good for the KMT, which needs to shed its "we're the educated ones, you ignorant Tai Ke farmers don't worry your teapicker-hatted wittle heads about running a country, we're the ones qualified to do it and you are just peasants" image.

Mike Fagan said...

" both parties have to win on the basis of their platforms..."

Oh the electoral launch platforms always have me pissing myself with excitement I have to admit.