Sunday, October 29, 2017

Our Own Worst Enemies

As the fight for the opportunity to apply for dual nationality for all foreign professionals (and I hope someday all foreigners, including laborers) grinds on, I've noticed something about the pushback against this goal, who is against it, and why.

I started caring about dual nationality when I came to the realization that I wanted Taiwan to be my permanent home rather than a place I called home for a portion of my life before eventually leaving to live elsewhere. This happened soon after receiving permanent residency and realizing that, despite the word "permanent" in the name, that it would not be sufficient to make it possible for me to actually remain in Taiwan. I've gone over the reasons before here: the one-sentence summary is that retiring and living out my days in Taiwan will not be possible without the ability to buy an apartment, access to a pension system and ability to build a credit history. I can't do any of these things - either legally or simply because foreigners are discriminated against - with permanent residency alone.

When I began talking about this issue, I expected disagreement from locals. After all, it's their country and I moved here as an adult. It's to be expected that some Taiwanese will have a vision for their country that does not include our truly living here permanently, or that despite the fact that Taiwan is not the monoculture that people often think it is, that they might not want a more diverse or multicultural society. While I disagree with this, it is a possible viewpoint, and people are entitled to have opinions regarding what they want their country to be like even if I disagree - and even if their perspectives, if implemented, would hurt me directly. Most of my supporting points to my dual nationality argument addressed this assumed opponent: that Taiwan is already diverse (with data to prove this), that those who would seek to attain dual nationality would be fairly small in number and the vast majority are already here, so it wouldn't really change much in terms of the makeup of the Taiwanese citizenry but would be life-changing for us, that sort of thing.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that, on the contrary, Taiwanese people seem to generally have no problem with the idea of dual nationality for foreigners like me (a lot of the latent anti-foreigner sentiment is aimed at Southeast Asian migrant workers, however, and I do not mean to excuse this). In fact, most people I've talked to had assumed it was already possible, and the reason that so few foreigners had dual nationality was because we hadn't applied, not that it was impossible. Although I'm sure the local opponents in my mind's eye exist, I have yet to meet them. Even within the government, the main issues seem to be a lack of prioritizing this issue coupled with fear of the unknown, not open opposition to the idea of dual nationals who do not have some sort of "Chinese" origin.

Instead, I have been shocked to learn that the most vocal opponents of dual nationality are other foreigners. 

I still struggle to understand why. It often comes across as long-termers crapping on other long-termers out of some sense of assumed superiority. I can't think of a reasonable reason why I have never met a Taiwanese person who opposes dual nationality - and I have talked about this with people across the political spectrum, from deep blue KMT to Hoklo nationalist to moderate to Sunflower - and yet have come across so many foreigners in Taiwan who do.

All I can say is that this attitude hurts all foreigners in Taiwan, hinders our progress, and shows a lack of understanding of how this issue is viewed locally, and hinders what sort of local assimilation is possible (although I do agree that total, perfect assimilation is not possible at this time - there are still a lot of assumptions about what a Taiwanese person looks like for that to happen right now).

With this in mind, here are a few of the points I've heard these anti-dual-nationality foreigners raise.

The most irritation iteration of this belief is the "superiority complex", that is, other foreigners in Taiwan who think that dual nationality is not necessary because we should be happy and willing to stay here and contribute as much as possible to Taiwan without asking for anything in return - and that to ask for immigration policy that matches the rules for born Taiwanese (who are allowed to hold dual nationality) is a selfish thing to do. I suspect people who hold this particular view see themselves as somehow selfless for putting up with a pointless and unnecessary double standard. That perhaps unrequited love for Taiwan - because Taiwan's immigration policies do not love us back - is somehow noble or right.

I reject this on its face: asking for fair-minded immigration policy in which both born and naturalized citizens have the same right to dual nationality is not selfish, it is asking simply for what is fair. It does not mean we don't want to contribute to Taiwan, or that we are here to mooch or that we want to get, get, get without giving. I don't think there is anything noble about accepting a system that discriminates against people like me. I don't believe in continuing unrequited love out of some sense of selflessness - that's just not what selflessness is - and I certainly don't believe in unconditional love. I am deeply uninterested in the "I'm A Better Selfless Foreigner" game.

This is also a strain of thought in which people who oppose something tend to think of those who want more rights, or fair rights, to be "entitled" (whereas they see themselves as "selflessly giving and working hard") rather than just normal people reasonably pointing out problems and unfair policies in a system created in China in the 1920s which does not suit 21st-century Taiwan. All I can say is that when I fight for fair immigration, I'm fighting for their rights too, not just my own.

There are also the Straw Man Foreigners, who seem to think that supporting dual nationality means supporting anyone who shows up at the airport immediately being able to apply for citizenship. This is an obvious straw man - nobody thinks that - so all I'll say is that the general consensus seems to be that eligibility should begin after one has had permanent residency for at least 5 years. That's a 10-year commitment to even apply, and that seems quite fair to me.

There are also those who defend unsupported ideas: for example, those who believe that opening up dual nationality would cause a flood of people to come to Taiwan, or who think they are defending Taiwanese people whom they believe generally do not want many naturalized dual nationals. I've already covered the latter issue: it is simply not the case that Taiwanese people are generally against dual nationality for naturalized citizens. They are defending a viewpoint that is in the minority, acting as stewards of "what Taiwanese think" without actually considering what Taiwanese think.

Regarding the former issue, there is little evidence to support this. There aren't even many permanent residency holders, and the eligibility for that has opened up considerably. It was easier for my husband to apply just recently than it was for me to apply in late 2011! There has not been a corresponding uptick in foreigners moving here - most who come do eventually plan to leave, and those who would apply for dual nationality are generally already here.

This group also tends to ignore the blatant double standard of allowing dual nationality for one type of citizen (those born here, and those of Taiwanese or Nationalist diaspora ancestry who want to come here) but not another (those not born here whose ancestors did not flee China in the 1940s). They ignore the fact that someone who has never set foot in Taiwan but whose grandparents fled China with the Nationalists to some other destination can very easily get Taiwanese nationality without giving up their original citizenship, but those of us who have lived here for years cannot. They also ignore that people who were actually born and raised here are still considered "foreigners" despite their having a stronger connection to Taiwan than many who do qualify for dual nationality.

And, of course, they ignore the fact that, if China were ever to annex Taiwan, that foreigners who have renounced their original nationality will essentially be stateless - there is no way that China would give them citizenship, not that they generally want it. Taiwanese would end up becoming Chinese citizens, which sucks, but is marginally better than being stateless. Those who think renunciation is reasonable generally fail to think through this potential - if unlikely - scenario.

There are also those who think that they understand the lives of those who want dual nationality enough to assume that permanent residency is sufficient for them (which I've covered above), or that renouncing their original nationality is not too much to ask. I've covered the latter in previous posts, but the short of it is that, beyond the potential for statelessness should China ever annex Taiwan, if I give up my original nationality I have no way to return to take care of family long-term - and work at the same time, which I would have to do because I am not wealthy - should the need arise, which it probably will. A subset of this group has either already renounced and therefore thinks everyone is equally able to do so, or renounced but reclaimed their original citizenship and doesn't care that not everyone can do that.

Related to this, there are those who think dual nationality is not deserved because we wouldn't "fight for Taiwan" should it become necessary (yes, this an actual 'argument' I've heard). Leaving aside all of the issues related to this - fitness and training to fight, for example - this is exactly backwards. I personally would want to fight for a country that would give me citizenship, but don't see why I should fight for one that won't, and I doubt Taiwan would even allow non-citizens to take up arms in wartime. I'd even argue that naturalized citizens would be more willing to stay and fight than some locals who, given the chance, would leave at the first bomb drop.

And, of course, there are those who think that only superhero-level foreigners should be granted dual nationality, as though nothing short of renouncing all worldly attachments and going to work in a village in the mountains (and conjuring up food and shelter with no money, apparently, because in this scenario the selfless hero doesn't need to work?) is good enough. This argument tends to deify missionaries - as though they do what they do out of pure selflessness rather than for their ultimate goal of winning more converts to their religion - and kick down those foreigners whom I think deserve dual nationality the most: the ones who were born and raised here. It prioritizes those with an institutional advantage - a large religious organization paying their bills - and closes the door to anyone who does not believe in religion.

It also dismisses the contributions of regular foreigners to Taiwan which are similar to those that Taiwanese citizens make, and spits on the value of work, even though regular work is a part of what helps an economy grow, and there should be no problem with being financially independent, supporting oneself, being a part of the economy and paying taxes.

Again, I'm not sure why thee anti-dual-nationality foreigners make these arguments, or how they can make them sincerely, but that they do so shows that we are our own worst enemy: the problem is not merely convincing Taiwanese that we are worthy. They seem to be mostly already convinced. It's not only getting the government to act - although that is also important - it's that some foreigners here want to hold others back for no reason - well, no good reason - that I can think of. I'm not interested in this whole "I'm a better foreigner because I don't want equal rights" or "they're better foreigners because the church pays for them to be up in the hills helping the poor whereas you pathetically have to work to earn money to live like a loser" or "you're so selfish and entitled for wanting a fairer system" game.

It is especially odd, seeing as they'd benefit from increased rights and fairer immigration policy too. If they didn't think it was important or didn't want or need it, fine, but then the sensible course of action is to not get involved. But to actively oppose people like you working towards something better? To want to continue the double standard? Why? I really don't get it.

I just hope we get what we want - fair-minded immigration policy - despite this inexplicable attitude from our own.

Fortunately, we don't need their support, and from my discussions with locals, we already have considerable local support.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Just a little light news commentary

Greetings from San Francisco!

Lao Ren Cha has been silent these past two weeks because I've been traveling in the US visiting family and friends, and frankly just haven't had the time. I wasn't even supposed to be in California, but I missed my flight and as a result I'm going to miss Taipei Pride 2017. I had had a rainbow skirt made for the occasion and everything.

But, with a bit of time to kill before my flight, I'd add a little commentary to two stories that caught my eye.

First, a petition to ban the Chinese flag in public places has passed the 5000-signature threshold for a government response. 

I've made the case before that pro-unification demonstrators should be banned (and also made the case that they shouldn't), but I hope it's clear that I don't necessarily buy my own devil's advocate argument.

It's true that China bans the ROC flag, and this would be tit for tat. It's true that pro-China protesters have a track record of violence, it's true that the Chinese government is an existential threat to Taiwan and must therefore be treated differently from other foreign governments, and of course we all ought to know by now that few of these pro-unificationists are sincerely expressing an ideal. They're either gangsters, associated with gangsters, or as I suspect in many cases paid by the CCP as "fake civil society" agitators. Many protest not to convince Taiwanese - a lost cause if there ever was one - but to create appropriate photo ops in China of "pro-unification Taiwanese".

All of these are reasons, I suppose, to prohibit them from demonstrating.

But you know what? I don't think it matters. Yes, China bans the ROC flag, but we are better than them. It is a stronger example to show that we can allow the flag of a threatening country to be shown in public without fearing that its very image could destabilize Taiwan than to ban it out of fear. Treating China as an existential threat is important, but also a separate issue from allowing Taiwanese citizens and legal residents to exercise their rights of speech and assembly. Pointing out the irony that they are demonstrating in favor of a country that would take away their right to demonstrate is another way to handle this without putting an unnecessary gag on free speech.

And yes, we need to do something about the violence, but using "they are violent!" as an excuse to disallow certain kinds of protests is a path we really ought not to be going down. It could theoretically be used on anyone. Keeping an eye on certain individuals known to be violent and a law enforcement presence similar to that seen in other, peaceful protests is the way to deal with it - as well as finally locking up gangsters known to be pro-violence, pro-China agitators who have committed crimes (that is to say, White Wolf).

Certainly, we could ban them because they are disingenuous, but this is very hard to prove, and also a problematic approach. Do we also ban anyone from protesting who has received money in any capacity or is employed by an organization that advocates for the issue behind the demonstration? Do we ban paid political party staff from marching in support of an issue their party also supports? We can and should put more restrictions on foreign funding in Taiwan, but I suspect a lot of these payments are personal - think "red envelope full of cash" - and difficult if not impossible to trace.

As for the point that these demonstrations are more to generate visuals in China than to impact anything in Taiwan - who cares?

In short, there is just no way to reasonably ban these guys in a free society, although they should be held more fully legally accountable for any violence they incite. The best we can do is make sure the general public is educated about who they are and why they are doing this.

As for the second story, in this article on indigenous Taiwanese reclaiming their names, this line caught my eye:

First of all, many people could not pronounce his [Neqou Sokluman's] name because he chose a rare character. And whenever he went to a hospital or to a government agency, the staff would ask him in English, “Are you Taiwanese? Can you speak Chinese?” and treat him as a migrant worker from Southeast Asia. [emphasis mine]. 

It goes without saying that indigenous Taiwanese, and everyone, frankly - should be able to have and use their real name. I'd only add that it is also necessary to educate the general public on not only the existence of such names in Taiwan, but also the need to respect them. I'll also point out that the rule that one must adopt a Chinese-character name is not limited to indigenous people - if a foreigner registers a marriage in Taiwan with a Taiwanese citizen, they are also required to adopt a "Chinese name". In addition, it's not at all fair that I can have both my English and Chinese names and nobody whose opinion matters raises a fuss about it. And, of course, I have more than one Taiwanese friend who has been forced to choose and use an "English name" that they don't want. That's not right.

Although these situations are not the same as what indigenous people face, one can draw a few comparisons.

But...what really bothers me is this: I don't want indigenous Taiwanese to be treated better than Southeast Asian migrant workers. I don't want anyone to be treated better than Southeast Asian migrant workers, because these workers ought to be treated with just as much respect as anyone else, as equal human beings. I don't want the phrase to even have a reason to exist, because you can't equate poor treatment to the experience of a group if no group is treated poorly.

This goes way beyond elevating one group and right to the heart of treating all people with respect regardless of socioeconomic status, visa status or national or racial origin (or gender, or orientation, or creed, or weight, or age).

People deserve respect because they are people, not because they are "indigenous" or "Taiwanese" or the right kind of foreigner (so says the Garbage Foreigner), and everyone should be able to have the name that they want - their name - and just be who they are.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

My latest for Ketagalan Media: The conversation about Taiwan's symbols matters

I got a weapon in my lungs
So tell the fuckin' cops to come
Get ready now
We never back down

- Back Down (Traudes)

This is what I was listening to as I worked with Ketagalan Media on the final edits to my latest piece, a rebuttal to J. Michael Cole's editorial on the importance (or lack thereof) of Taiwanese vs. ROC imagery and symbolism.

And it occurred to me: there was a time in Taiwanese history that my writing a piece like this was illegal, and the cops would have come. In many cases, the cops did come, and people died, some by their own hand. Now, thanks to the efforts of the Taiwanese people and not the dictatorship that persecuted them, I can say these things freely. The cops aren't going to come.

And yet, the symbol of the party that once sent the cops a-knockin' is still on the national flag for some unfathomable reason. I cannot agree that this isn't something we should keep talking about, nor that those who want to see party symbols wiped off the flag should settle down and 'play nice' so we can 'transcend' our 'small differences'.

That is to say, while I agree with some of Cole's points, I take exception to others: it is neither narcissistic nor a 'small difference' to have a legitimate point of contention that the symbol on the "national flag" is the symbol of one political party (in a democracy!), and the party that committed mass murder at that.

I'm sure a foreign resident giving her unvarnished opinion on the imagery associated with a country she is not a citizen of is likely to raise some hackles. All I can say first, is that this is my home too, and I do get to have an opinion on the goings-on in my home.  And secondly, that there are a lot of people who agree with me.

Taiwan deserves better. And I may not be the perfect spokesperson for that, but every last one of us has a weapon in our lungs. Let's use them.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Kind of Blue


I'm sitting in my apartment in downtown Taipei as my two cats scurry around the living room and my husband cleans up from dinner. I think about my job, my friends, my pets, my home which I am very comfortable in, my life and my livelihood, and they are all in Taiwan. I think about what I would lose if I were to leave, and it's quite a lot. I have no home in the US and no obvious city to move to there. My prosperity is tied to Taiwan's prosperity. Taiwan is my home, and it would affect my life profoundly if I were to leave.

However, this is not reflected in my legal status (I've written about why before).

This is not a post about dual nationality, though, it's a post about the battle for Taiwan's soul, and what it means when we are too kind to those whose ultimate goal is to bring Taiwan as close to China as possible even when public sentiment is not in their favor - and what happens when we downplay their side of the argument while telling those with legitimate points of contention to settle down and play nice. 

This is, however, related to my own struggle.

The laws that keep me foreign are Republic of China laws, written in China before the ROC had any reason to claim, or desire to claim, Taiwan.

Contrast that with the welcome Taiwan gives me: a lot of foreign residents here say they are singled out, treated as 'other', not allowed to assimilate. Sometimes that happens to me too, but most of the time I live my life and am treated like a normal person and normal neighbor. Most people I talk to have no idea that I can't become a citizen without giving up my American citizenship and are horrified to learn that fact.

I can't help but feel that while Taiwan wants me here, the ROC doesn't.

There have been attempts to patch up these differences through amending the laws but none have been sufficient. This issue is a microcosm of a bigger problem: the legal system of the Republic of China and the framework Taiwan actually needs to build the country most want it to become are irreconcilable. There is no patch that can fix it - the framework can't just be amended. It needs to be completely revamped.

So, when people say "the ROC is just a name", or "let's not fight over nomenclature and symbols", I do get annoyed. My life is directly impacted by the existence of the Republic of China, and it goes well beyond a name, right down to laws that were written in Nanjing in the 1920s without any reason to consider Taiwan or what kind of country it might become.

Considering all of this, I just can't agree that the symbolism of Double Ten day is mere imagery. It may be true that in the great swaths of the non-political, colorless or centrist population that we are more alike than we are different, but what differences we have run far deeper than a flag, an anthem and a name.

I also cannot agree that it is mere imagery that divides us. There is a portion of the population in this country who may not be pro-unification, but who do think of Taiwan as ultimately Chinese. This is not a minor difference that can be ignored: it informs all sorts of beliefs.

In fact, I genuinely do not believe this is true:

The fact of the matter is, and notwithstanding the nomenclatural issues that arise for many within the green camp, today’s ROC — how it is lived and experienced on a daily basis — is a transitory, albeit official, byword for what everybody knows is Taiwan.

No, not really. Today's ROC for many - not for everyone, I concede - is a byword only for "the ROC", which is in Taiwan and includes Taiwan, but is Chinese. It's a byword for the ultimate cultural underpinnings of Taiwan, and for something they quite likely hope will happen someday: a liberalized and democratized China that they can convince the Taiwanese to happily unite with. Perhaps not in their lifetime, but someday. This is what they mean when they say they are not pro-unification.

It is a byword for "let's not rock the boat" at best, for "no matter what you say you are fundamentally Chinese" or "no matter what people think being Taiwanese is about having Chinese ancestry" at worst.

Wait, no, at worst it is a byword for - and this is a real quote from Foxconn chairman Terry Gou - "you can't eat democracy".

If I am wrong and "the ROC" is, in fact, a byword for "Taiwan", somebody better tell my neighbors, because they sure don't see it that way.

It is the driving belief behind rewriting history to make the KMT seem benevolent - "228 was a necessary step to 'stabilize' the situation in Taiwan" - and those who fought for Taiwanese democracy "troublemakers" (while re-writing that democracy as some kindly deathbed wish by an enlightened and saintly Chiang Ching-kuo). It's the belief marginalizes all non-Mainlanders, which prioritizes Mandarin as the primary language and Chinese history and culture as the primary focus in schools. It's the belief which keeps pushing for economically problematic deals with China. It's the driving force behind treating Taiwanese culture and language as something for 'peasants' and teaching children that before the KMT came in and "fixed everything", Taiwan was a poor backwater (this is, of course, completely false). It is the side that complains about Taiwanese who won't call themselves "Chinese", as though anyone had any right to tell someone else how to identify.

It is a byword for all of these things - for how they want Taiwan to be, in direct contradiction to public sentiment as well as what Taiwan already is.

One can argue that those who hold these beliefs and yet do want to see a future for Taiwan are just another side of the pro-independence coin, and I'd actually agree to an extent. I'm not that interested in the "taidu" vs. "huadu" debate; I find the whole thing a bit overcooked. Those who want Taiwanese independence can want it however they want, and I too am not sure there's a huge difference.

What I am interested in, however, is the papering over of the pro-China slant of the KMT. For example (and from the same link above):

Thus, despite its [the KMT's] stronger identification with ROC symbols and nomenclature, it is unfair to describe today’s mainstream (read: electable) KMT as pro-unification; when one recent chairperson flirted with the idea of uncomfortably closer ties with China she was quickly cast out and will be no more than a footnote in the party’s history.
That isn’t to say that a number of KMT politicians have not, rather unhelpfully, played the China card in a bid to gain an electoral advantage against their opponents from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) or the New Power Party. But more often than not this was political expediency rather than the expression of an actual commitment to PRC ideology or unification. 
Here's the problem with that: just as being pro-independence no longer means voting for a pan-Green party, being pro-China no longer means being pro-immediate-unification. Being against immediate unification does not mean one is against eventual unification.

The politicians who use "closer ties with China" as a campaign platform aren't doing so for political expediency alone: they may not support unification now, but generally do not believe in independence, ever. This is not "huadu". This is a "let's wait it out" pro-China belief system.

Generally speaking, it is pretty clear to me that their deeper political beliefs are oriented towards China: a cultural and ethnic (Han) notion of China that transcends PRC and ROC, but ultimately ends with unification, because Taiwan is simply not a wholly separate identity to them, and will never be. Not in this generation, anyway. They are not "huadu", they are "status quo right now, unification someday far down the line". There is no "du" (independence) about their beliefs, only biding time.

Those who have no love for an PRC ideology do not necessarily believe that Taiwan's future is one that is free of China. Remember, they feel Taiwan is ultimately Chinese and they are offended and threatened by the idea of a separate Taiwanese identity that has no ties to China beyond a few dubious ethnic links and a few hundred years of being a colony of the Qing. Being pro-China, rather like being pro-Taiwan, is also on a spectrum. They are not necessarily on our side for the long haul.

You don't have to be a unificationist to feel that way. You don't have to be White Wolf or Hung Hsiu-chu. You can be any run-of-the-mill politician who still stands by the old symbols of a dead regime, who still feels Taiwan is Chinese.

And, if you still feel Taiwan is Chinese, you can use that to justify not teaching much Taiwanese history in schools, whitewashing what history you do teach, and continuing to be dismissive of expressions of Taiwanese identity and the cultural importance of the Taiwanese language (you might even, against all linguistic evidence, insist that it is merely a "dialect").

It is about way more than the imagery: it's about the ultimate identity of Taiwan, and about how that identity informs everything from a constitution that no longer adequately governs the Taiwan we have today, to a legal and governmental framework that does not fit Taiwan - remember, we got rid of the Tibetan affairs council very recently and we still don't treat China like a regular foreign country. It also includes everything from fundamental ideas of how children should be educated - what history they should be taught and why - and which languages should be given priority to what extent Taiwan should move away from being a state whose citizenship rests mostly on family history to one that is more international.

It is not just nomenclature, and it is not just an anthem. It is more than imagery. It directly impacts lives, including mine.

That said, let's take a look at that imagery. I don't think enough people appreciate that the reason why the pro-Taiwan side hates the flag of the Republic of China is not necessarily because it is not a flag that originated in Taiwan. Certainly that is an issue, but what inspires such disgust for the ROC flag is that big ugly KMT sun. The reason people protest the national anthem is not that it's "not Taiwan's anthem". That surely instills some level of dislike or annoyance in many, but a lot of it is the lyrics that blatantly refer to one party (just look at the first few lines). The issue is not as much the ROC as it is the KMT's centrality and privilege within it. Many see that flag or hear that anthem and think of the relatives and ancestors that that party killed, imprisoned, tortured or "disappeared" - and yet there they are, still on the flag, still in the anthem.

How is it not obvious why this bothers them? Why should they be the ones to bridge this gap and accept symbols that are directly linked to the pain of their history?

Why should people be expected to "set aside" this difference? Why on earth should they have to pretend it's not a problem?

Yes, we have an ROC in which the KMT is out of power, but they still occupy that place of privilege on the flag and in the anthem. I do not see how it is acceptable that one party is enshrined in this way in a democracy, and do not see how such symbols can ever be viable symbols for that democracy.

Why should they look at that flag, celebrate Double Ten or hear that anthem (or look at that portrait of Sun Yat-Sen) and think Taiwan? If I were Taiwanese, I wouldn't.

I can't condone an attitude that the victims of a historical injustice should just quiet down already, because they're causing trouble with their protesting that the party that once killed their family members and mucked up their country for a generation still has their damn sun on the flag like it's all okay.

Yes, in today's Taiwan it is possible to refuse to sing the first two lines of the anthem, or to change the lyrics. It is acceptable to refuse to pay homage to Dr. Sun. It is okay to speak your mind about the flag and the party logo enshrined on it.

The problem is, we shouldn't have to do any of that. Taiwan deserves a flag that doesn't remind some of its citizens of the suffering of their ancestors, an anthem we can stand for proudly and a holiday that doesn't give us mixed feelings.

It doesn't do anyone any good at all to say we should push all of that down and pretend it's not a problem. It very much is.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

My heart is Taiwanese, not Republic of Chinese


I am not a patriotic person by nature. Even when I was young, with flags in every classroom and prints of portraits of the founding fathers in our history textbooks, the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and the generally rah-rah pro-America conservatism of the town I grew up in, I just wasn't into it. I mouthed the words to the Pledge; pretending to go along was easier then. I applied the same logic to religion: after my parents' shocked reaction when I proclaimed my atheism at a surprisingly young age, and clear disapproval at choosing any belief system that didn't include faith, I pretended there was a God all the way through my confirmation because it was easier than fighting people who had no business telling me what to believe anyway.

Being ex-hippie liberal academics, my parents' attempts to make me into a wholesome young woman who feared God, prayed to Jesus and loved her country were half-hearted but sincere. Their worldview was a constrained liberalism that, while openminded, ultimately colored within the lines. In particular, Mom lamenting that she "didn't do enough" to make me into a good Christian and happy, honor-defending American was an attractive but ultimately specious reasoning for my turning out the way I did. There's nothing she could have done. I decided God didn't exist around the time I figured out Santa Claus wasn't real - I told you I was young when it happened - and I expressed a desire to live abroad as early as junior high school.

What I'm trying to say is, this is a pretty baked-in character trait. I see patriotism as a more Earth-bound form of religion: different faiths and their interpretations are ultimately fake lines drawn in the heavens that mean little beyond how they affect our real-world interactions, and patriotism is the worship of fake lines drawn across the globe delineating arbitrarily-decided "countries" which only matter, again, insofar as they affect how we think and interact (or are allowed to interact) as people. The borders themselves though? They're only real in our minds.

When I was younger, my desire to live abroad was a bit more Machine-approved. I'd always assumed I'd do it through the foreign service, international business or NGO work, academia, that sort of thing. None of them were working out - I hadn't considered in my plans that someone who is at best institution-apathetic would not fit in well at a large organization.

Forget chips on shoulders: I had bricks. Packing up and doing it on my own with a few thousand dollars in savings - and let's be honest, a hefty chunk of white middle-class privilege because I can not entirely escape the benefits of institutions - mortared those bricks right up into something like a moveable fortress. But at least they were off my shoulders.

That was ten years ago. Listen to me now, and I sound like a Taiwan missionary. Spreading the gospel of Taiwan to everyone I meet, and probably being deeply annoying in the process.

Have you accepted Taiwanese democracy into your life?

Here, read this article about Taiwan. It will change your life! I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Did you know that many Taiwanese died for the freedoms we enjoy now, and someday the Republic of Formosa will rise again?

If you are interested, you are welcome to come with me to a protest this Sunday.

Okay, I'm not that bad (usually), but I am a true believer.

So what happened? I'm not a different person - I didn't suddenly decide that loving one's country was great and we should all love our countries and place deep importance on national borders. I didn't become a flag-waving, anthem-singing, crying-eagle-meme-posting patriot. I'm still the same old Jenna who doesn't function well as a cog in a corporate (or government) machine, who thinks God is an interesting fantasy, and who wants to keep her American citizenship as a matter of convenience and who has done her best work without a boss issuing commands.

Yet I do believe. As I've written before, I can really believe in a country that, despite having thousands of missiles pointed at it, wakes up every morning quietly insisting on its continued existence, perseveres, builds and improves itself and refuses to be ground up like so much pork filler in China's world-building sausage-fest and has, against the odds, turned itself into a pretty damn solid first world democracy. I didn't want to be a cog in an organizational machine, and Taiwan refuses to be a casualty of the global realpolitik machine. I feel that. I feel it like some people feel Jesus.

As Double Ten Day approaches - celebrating start of the Xinhai Revolution (in China, not Taiwan) on October 10, 1911 - and as the usual array of "Happy Birthday Taiwan!" nonsense starts appearing, it's given me a moment to reflect on how this came to be. That is, how I managed to be so enamored of Taiwan and yet not a patriot.

I think it's because Taiwan both is and is not a country. It is a sovereign nation in every respect that matters: it is self-governed, has its own military, currency, constitution and international relations and flag. Sort of.

It is also not a country in that the government currently in place here is a foreign one. All of the things it has, which make it fully independent, come from a government neither conceived nor formed in Taiwan, and certainly not by the Taiwanese. That government decided back when Taiwan was a colony of another country that it ought to be theirs - nobody asked the Taiwanese how they felt about this. That government has localized in some ways but not in others, and arguably not in a lot of the ways that matter. (To give one example, the citizenship laws were written in China in the 1920s and have not been meaningfully amended since.) This makes it a colonial government. The Republic of China is a country. Taiwan is still under colonial rule, playing host to its foreign master. It is also independent, a situation which is just as difficult to explain to non-believers as all the contradictions in the Bible are, except in this case it's true.

Imagine if the British government lost its territory in the 1800s and relocated to India, and India today was fully independent under the name and governmental system of Great Britain. Imagine if few recognized this government, opting instead to recognize the People's Republic of Britannia in the British Isles, and nobody recognized that India had a right to not only de jure independence, but to have that independence as India, not Great Britain. It's like that.

Imagine if the day after tomorrow was Magna Carta Day, and all of India would have a public holiday and be expected to celebrate the signing of the Magna Carta, and told all their lives that this was somehow relevant to their own history and land.

I doubt if I were an immigrant in that other-universe version of India that I would care much about "Magna Carta Day", nor about "Great Britain".

Similarly, I don't care much about the Republic of China.

Thinking along these lines, I realized that my love - and missionary zeal - for Taiwan has nothing to do with patriotism. I love Taiwan - the concept, the land, the history, the civic nationalism borne of shared values. I do believe Taiwan deserves statehood and I would happily reside in that state, but I doubt I'd ever be a typical "patriot". I love Taiwan not in the way one is taught to love the arbitrary boundaries defining one's world but which were not chosen: the religion, country and family one was born into (though I do sincerely love my family). I love it the way one love's one's friends or spouse (no, not like that, you know what I mean). As something one chooses because of shared values and other commonalities and compatibilities. I will love Taiwan no matter what happens to its national boundaries, although I wish for it something better than what it has now. After all, I was not born here. My family is not Taiwanese, but my friends are.

I still don't dare say I am Taiwanese - a lot of people get the wrong idea, sure, and also on some level I don't think I deserve the honor. But my heart is here.

The Republic of China? That could disappear tomorrow and I wouldn't care. If it were replaced by the Republic of Taiwan, I'd celebrate. Double Ten Day will come and go this year, as with every other year, and I just won't care.

In short, my heart is Taiwanese, not Republic of Chinese.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Latest for Ketagalan Media: Catalonia and Taiwan are not the same - but why does Catalonia get more international sympathy?

I'm back in Ketagalan Media, this time writing about the Catalan independence referendum and why it has received generally sympathetic media coverage, whereas Taiwan generally has not. When it is not being ignored completely, Taiwan's desire for de jure statehood, or at least the right to a referendum on it, is couched in critical terms, with China's claims often leading the story.

Why is that, and why is it a problem? Well, you can read more here. 

Catalonia aside, I think the two biggest issues facing Taiwan vis-a-vis the rest of the world are first, getting the outside world to understand what Taiwanese nationalism is about, and second, changing perceptions that politics somehow works "differently" in Asia (the old "Asian values" nonsense, even though the 90s are over and Lee Kwan Yew - the most well-known proponent of this idea - is dead).

To wit:

There are good reasons for the West to support a referendum on Taiwanese statehood, however. The post-war Western world has moved away from the idea of ethnic nation-states, having correctly decided that pigeonholing people into specific nations by ethnicity only causes more tensions rather than easing them. Yet Catalonia, an area whose identity is deeply fused with ethnic identity, enjoys international sympathy for its desire for a referendum. Taiwan, on the other hand, has no “ethnic” claim to nationhood. It is made up of ethnically Chinese Hoklo and Hakka people, a number of distinct indigenous groups, and a growing number of people from Southeast Asia and the rest of the world who have made Taiwan their home. Its nationalism is today a civic nationalism based on shared values, and these shared values line up nearly perfectly with those of Western democracies.

I cannot emphasize this point enough. Taiwan exists as a place, an idea, an identity and a state because of the shared values of democracy, human rights and self-governance that the Taiwanese share. Taiwan is not an ethnic enclave, so it cannot exist based on ethnocentric reasons (although previously, Taiwanese nationalism was tinged with a fair amount of Hoklo chauvinism, to its detriment). This is an idea that the rest of the free world can and should - I would argue must - support. It worries me that other nations don't understand this - I have heard before that Taiwan ought to be Chinese moreso than Tibet or Xinjiang because at least they are ethnically the same, as though that should matter in the slightest! It worries me even more that some people perhaps do understand this, but don't care.

And there's this:

There may be a deeper, more troubling reason [for the lack of international support for Taiwan] as well. When discussing current affairs in Asia, there is a fear of “imposing Western values on Asians.” Westerners are perhaps more willing to support self-determination by a minority within a Western state; when asked about a territory in Asia, may point to “Asian values” or how politics happen “differently” here, where people view issues of governance, democracy and human rights through a different lens. One might even hear “Confucian” values evoked to defend this stance.
While this attempt at multiculturalism and intercultural understanding is laudable in some ways, when it comes to issues of human rights and freedom, such a view essentially states that these things are for Westerners and are not available to Asians. Or, even more troublingly, that Asians as a whole don’t want them or that they somehow do not apply to Asian cultures. By this logic, Westerners are entitled to self-determination, but in Asia one apparently does not deserve such privileges.
Such a view is acutely harmful to Taiwan, a free and liberal democracy that values self-determination in much the same way Western nations do. Such a view also benefits China, an unfree and illiberal state whose values are in direct contradiction to those of the free world. The Chinese government has said openly that these values, which ought to be universal human values, are merely ‘Western’ and therefore do not apply to them. For the West, to support such a view is to undermine its own moral framework. 

No but seriously, I'm gonna throat-punch the next well-meaning liberal who throws this stale 1990s-era garbage about "Asian values" at me. It happens too often and it's got to stop. Here's an "Asian value" for you: treat people like people. Or do as Lao Tzu said - I'm paraphrasing here - and just chill already. Here's another Asian value: democracy, self-determination and human rights matter. Want to know why that's an Asian value? Because an entire nation of Asians - that is, Taiwan - believes it! In fact I think they'd be offended to hear the idea that they somehow don't deserve these basic rights because Asia is somehow "different", or that they don't need them, or worse, that they don't want them. Or, worst of all, that the mere suggestion that they should have them is itself "culturally imperialist". 

You know who supports the idea that Asia is somehow "different" so the West can't impose so-called "Western values" (which are actually universal values) on them?

Dictators, that's who. Because it's convenient for them to do so - it suits their ends, which are not the ends that any person who believes in human rights and bettering the world can accept.

By acting as though Asia is somehow less deserving, we are helping the dictators, authoritarians and power-hungry expansionist regimes willing to torture and murder their own citizens. Is that really what we want to be doing? 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

BREAKING NEWS: Scientists discover Taiwan had human settlements before 1945

In a groundbreaking discovery announced Monday, a team of archaeologists, historians and ethnographers shook the scientific world by determining that the island of Taiwan was populated before the Kuomintang settled there and declared it a part of the territory of the Republic of China.

The announcement shocked many students of Asian history as well as institutions of higher learning, as it was commonly believed before the discovery that Taiwan had no human settlements and was therefore an unoccupied territory that could be rightfully claimed by any government who cared to lay claim to it.

The nature of the pre-Kuomintang settlements on Taiwan are as yet unclear, but the team has announced plans to continue its research if additional funding becomes available. "The funding issue is far from settled," noted Dr. Jill White of the University of Southern Dakota. "We will first have to negotiate with the Confucius Institutes and Chinese Student Associations at our respective schools to secure backers in our departments. If we wanted to study, say, the Qing Dynasty presence in Taiwan this would not be a problem, but the era we are interested in - 1895 to 1945 specifically - is, shall we say, a sensitive issue."

Asked for further comment, Dr. White did not respond as of press time.

The announcement outlined what life may have looked like in Taiwan before 1945. "There appear to be the ruins of many structures resembling Japanese-style architecture," the transcript noted. "The exact nature of these structures is unclear, but point to a potentially Japanese-influenced culture on Taiwan. If true, this overturns everything we thought we knew about Chinese history."

Not everyone was convinced, however. "Pre-Kuomintang settlements in Taiwan? Well if that's true, then everything we write about Taiwan in the media now is wrong!" exclaimed media worker Ralph Wiggum. "That's unpossible!"

"This isn't news," noted Taipei housewife Doris Ouyang. "Everyone in Taiwan has always known that Taiwan has been a part of the Republic of China since 1911."

However, some people watching the news seemed hopeful that this could lead to a more accurate understanding of Taiwan and East Asia in general.

"This is earth-shattering," said Ridgemont High School Social Studies teacher Lucy Brown. "All this time I had been teaching my students that the Kuomintang took refuge in Taiwan in 1945. I didn't even think to consider that there might have already been people there. Oh well, it probably doesn't matter, I'm sure they were primitives living in a backwater. Anyway it looks like things worked out well for Taiwan."

The team has submitted a paper to the Journal of Applied Asian Studies, however, it was rejected without feedback by the journal.

"This is inaccurate and harmful false 'history' propagated by splittist elements looking to discredit and harm the image of China abroad," noted journal director and China specialist Dr. Bill Black when asked for comment. "It is, as Confucius says, merely a clumsy oxen throwing stones among tigers."

"I know that obscure idiom because I'm a scholar of China," he added.

"In addition, such mendacious falsehoods hurt the feelings of the Chinese people. Have they no respect for China's excellent 5,000 years of culture?"

Monday, October 2, 2017

...that's a lot of rapists

Focus Taiwan reported yesterday that a special operation that took place from March to May resulted in the apprehension of 31 fugitive rapists.

While this ought to be good news - 31 is a lot of rapists - it raises more questions than it answers.

First of all, would a "special mission" have been necessary if the Taipei City police had paid more attention and allocated more resources to catching rapists generally? I don't think anyone knows how many people in a city the size of Taipei would, on average, be rapists, but...this just seems like a lot, no?

Assuming we should not be nervous that there even were 31 rapists to apprehend - again, I have no idea how many any given Taipei-sized city would typically have on the files - I have to wonder how they managed to catch so many in 3 months. Could it possibly be because they had some idea who these people were, and therefore once it was made a "special mission" with "extra resources", finally bothered to go out and nab them?

Could they not have apprehended any of these fugitives sooner? Because really, I cannot emphasize this enough: 31 rapists is a lot of rapists.

I know I'm supposed to be applauding the police, but I can't shake the feeling that they were sitting on their hands before, not taking rape cases seriously when it was even remotely challenging - or perhaps not even challenging - to find an accused rapist and take him (or her - but usually him) into custody.

Let's keep in mind that the rape law in Taiwan was only changed in 1999, which is a very long time to wait for a change in such a law. Until then, the old law was written to define rape as an offense against women, in which the offender used force so that she "could not resist", and was a "crime against public decency" (it is now a "crime against sexual autonomy"). Under the old law, men were not included, and not all types of coercion or non-consensual pressure or activity were covered. The 1999 change was an improvement, but I have to wonder if its being less than 20 years old has anything to do with current attitudes towards rape: not that I think the police don't care, but that they don't care enough to devote resources to finding offenders, or perhaps still think of rape as an issue of "chastity", or something that is perhaps, to them, not as much of a crime if the use of force was not as violent as they might expect.

I know that's a pretty strong accusation to make, and to be fair, every police officer is an individual, and I am sure many of them take rape reports seriously. However, if there is no truth to it, why is it that it took until May of this year to apprehend so many rapists, and how were they apprehended so quickly?

Finally, I fear that the general attitude of law enforcement is laid bare in the final paragraph of the Focus Taiwan article, and it is deeply problematic.

Although the mission has ended, police efforts to crack down on sexual assaults will continue, Taipei City Police Department Commissioner Chen Chia-chang (陳嘉昌) said. He also urged women to take precautions for their own safety, such as avoiding walking alone in remote areas and always locking their car doors after getting in. 

Ahem - excuse me?

First, this ought to cause any woman in Taipei to question the old belief that the city is completely safe for women.

Secondly, while I understand the impulse to warn women to be careful, I can assure you that more or less every woman is already well aware that the world is a more dangerous place for her than for men. By admonishing women with something we already know, Chen is not only being condescending, but drawing very close to victim-blaming.

Instead of telling women how to be safe, Commissioner Chen, how about working to make Taipei safe for women? How about continuing to spend the resources necessary to apprehend rapists in a timely manner rather than waiting for a "special mission" so that women can safely walk alone in remote areas and don't have to fear being chased into their cars? You know - so that we can walk around safely and not feel nervous whenever we get into said car?

A woman being as safe as a man on the streets of most Western cities is often considered a distant dream, but it is possible in Taipei, which is generally regarded as safer. I walk around in Taipei, alone, at all times of night. Just this past Saturday I walked from my sister's apartment to my own - Brendan had gone home early - at 2:30am and did not feel unsafe.

Taipei could be a city where women are safe in public as men are, but it won't happen if it takes a special mission to capture all of those rapists - really, let's just consider one final time how many rapists that is - and it certainly won't happen if the police themselves, rather than allocating resources to keeping women safe, admonish women that Taipei is not safe. 

Sunday, October 1, 2017

I have massive flag angst

From Wikimedia Commons

Who would have thought a simple question about a flag could bring up so many emotions about a country I'm not even a citizen of?

But that's exactly what's happened.

A friend pointed this out on Facebook, and he's not wrong:

I think younger people have actually subverted the image and robbed the KMT of the intended meaning....

Now, it seems, the people who have grown up with the ROC flag as a symbol of Taiwan...only see it as representing Taiwan. The China part has been totally lost no matter how hard the KMT tries to push it. The KMT has had their dear symbol stolen from under their noses and they can't do a single thing about it. 

This is true (and is also not the first time the point has been made). The current generation of Taiwanese have taken that symbol and turned it into their national flag, stripping it of its previous association with the KMT one-party state and its inherent Chinese/Han chauvinism and unificationism.

Stores sell it, people wear shirts decorated with it and get in trouble if they try to wave it at international sporting events. Some may feel a wave of pride when they see it abroad, as its image is suppressed anywhere Chinese 'soft' power (there is nothing soft about it).

Try as I might to be okay with this, I'm just not. To me, this isn't a victory, although it has positives. This is an accident of history in which a flag that stands for authoritarianism, annexationism and ethnic chauvinism, by being subverted, has made it harder to create something better, something uniquely Taiwanese, something that doesn't create deep feelings of discomfort among some people. Although I'll probably be criticized for this, on some level it feels like that flag, with its KMT sun in the upper left feels like it sort of Stockholm Syndromed itself into the national consciousness (I await your hate mail). With no other clearly superior options forthcoming it became the de facto choice, perhaps making its own subversion necessary. What else do you do without other clear options?

Before you get on my back about those other options, a quick re-tread of a road we've already been down: the green-and-white independence flag is too similar to the DPP flag and the hearts flag and moon flags are a bit boring, and for most don't stir much association with Taiwan. The tiger flag has its own issues - although it is my favorite design by far, I have been told by someone who should know that the tiger was chosen because in Chinese symbolism, tigers are subordinate to dragons, and the stated fealty of the 1895 Republic that flew that flag was to the Qing Empire, whose symbol was a dragon. Also, there have never been tigers in Taiwan. With all of these other choices wanting, what other choice is there but to take the national symbol shoved down your throat and turn it into an actual national symbol of the nation you always envisioned rather than the nation it was meant to represent?

But let me be clear: that KMT sun makes me want to barf. There it sits, as though that party has some sort of special privilege or sacred place in Taiwanese politics more so than any other party; as though their brutal, dictatorial and murderous past could be so easily whitewashed. As though any party deserves a place of privilege in a free democracy, with their party symbol on the national flag. If adopting/subverting the ROC flag as the Taiwanese flag settled the question, to me, that question was settled with the wrong answer.

I'm not entirely sure why I care so much - I didn't grow up here. The KMT didn't torture, murder, imprison, force into exile or 'disappear' any of my family members. I'm an English speaking white girl from New York and not a citizen of Taiwan - why on Earth should I care what the flag is?

And yet here I am, going against the mainstream and being open about not liking it one bit.

This brings up all sorts of difficult questions.

On most issues of Taiwanese civil discourse, I have in the last few years found myself agreeing with a pretty substantial majority, or at least a strong plurality, of locals. I don't hide my pro-marriage equality, pro (eventual, de jure) independence views, my general gravitation towards the views of the Third Force parties, and my support of Taiwanese identity not as a problematic ethnocentric belief but as one of shared history (even recent history) and values.

There was a time when this was not the case - the early Ma years, for example - but back then I didn't have such a strong 'Taiwan identity'. I still don't feel fully comfortable claiming to be anything other than a foreigner, but I don't feel remotely the same way as I did in 2008. Back then I still assumed I'd go 'home' someday, or travel and live elsewhere, and that 'home' was in the United States. It was easy to say that my personal opinions didn't really matter because I was not Taiwanese, I could not vote, and ultimately what I thought wasn't important. This was a good thing for the time, because many of my views, while now mainstream, were absolutely not the majority view then.

At some point, something changed; something inside cracked open (if you were wondering if this happened around 2014 - yes, yes it did). I went from "I'll probably go home someday" to "I want dual nationality because this is my home." Not everyone understands this, though, so when I talk to such people, I still tend to frame my opinions this way: yes, I believe in certain things, but so do many, if not a strong majority, of Taiwanese. So I'm not trying to force my opinions on anyone - I more or less support what most people do.

This is the easiest way to buffer the criticism that being a foreigner living in and writing about Taiwan inherently courts, because honestly, there will always be people who just don't get it. Some might incorrectly think that my considering Taiwan home is a weird racial fetish thing (it's not - the desire to change one's race strikes me as deeply odd and problematic). Some might think I want to be just another whitey hoping to climb to the top of the dogheap in some kinder foreign country where being white confers extra privilege simply due to standing out, because I couldn't make it where I came from (also not true: my ambitions don't include wanting to be at the top of anything.) Some will think a foreigner in Taiwan - or a Westerner in any non-Western country - is always an invader, leech or both. Some will think any opinion I have that diverges from the mainstream is simply that of yet another whitey who thinks their 'superior' view can 'enlighten' the 'locals'.

Very few understand that I simply have an opinion on my home because I live here too. What happens here affects me, and it is natural to have opinions about issues concerning one's home. American politics, at this point, feels like 'foreign affairs' to me even though that is the country in which I vote. What happens in Taiwan affects me on a granular level. Why wouldn't I care about that?

Even fewer understand that I'm not necessarily out to change local minds on this or almost any issue, and in fact I rarely write in Chinese because I don't necessarily like the idea of a foreign resident trying to affect local discourse in that way (one exception can be found here, regarding convicted sex offenders being allowed to hire domestic workers).

I might say I support self-determination - the right of the Taiwanese to decide how to run their country. And I do. At the same time, I just don't agree with the way society has chosen to accept that flag, so saying "well I just support self-determination" comes across as insincere if not hollow. I just don't like it, and although the people I hang around tend to agree with me, most people don't.

Of course, these two things are not the same, which is easy to digest when the discussion is centered on one's native country. I don't like the way the latest American election turned out, but that doesn't mean I think democracy is a load of crap (I do think the electoral college is, but that's another issue). I can likewise support the right of Taiwanese citizens to decide for themselves what the ROC flag symbolizes, without liking the outcome.

However, it's so common for critics of expat political commentary in any country to not draw that distinction - assuming that foreign nationals must agree with local decisions otherwise they're just White Savior Western Cultural Imperialist Jerks - that it must be clarified.

So, to what extent do I get to have and express my own opinions on Taiwan, especially when they diverge from the mainstream? At what point does doing so make me someone trying to push a foreigner's view on the rest of the country? How long do I have to live here, and what sort of assimilation is necessary, before my views are as legitimate as those of any Taiwanese? I can't say it enough: this is my home. Am I still obligated to subordinate my personal views to that of the majority in a way a dissenting local would not? What right do I have to have a minority opinion about a country I'm not from?

At what point is this an opinion I hold about my home, rather than an opinion a foreigner holds about a country she does not hold citizenship in?

I could ignore all of this, knowing that haters are, as the adage goes, gonna hate. If someone has decided to believe that foreigners' dissenting views are never welcome, that's just what they're going to believe. On a molecular level I don't really care what they think. If you're reading this now and you hate me - well, first, you're probably not alone, but secondly, I sincerely and truly don't care. My opinion isn't going to change just because you don't like it.

On the other hand, if I am going to advocate for Taiwan more generally, I have to engage with these questions. It keeps me honest - if I ever tread too close to 'enlightened white lady wants to make the benighted locals' I want to know about it so I can stop. It also helps me remember that I'm not writing about these issues because I think I know better than Taiwanese society, but because this is my home too, so I get to have and express an opinion. It helps me remember when it's worth taking that expression beyond the expat and English-speaking bubble and into the realm of local discourse (answer: almost never). It also helps me work on framing what I have to say in a way that can't be as easily dismissed.

It also helps me remember what privilege I do have. I lack the ability to be activist in certain ways here - I'm too easily identified, too easily made a target, too easily criticized for being "not Taiwanese" or "making it all about me" (Taiwanese Americans might be similarly criticized as not 'Taiwanese' enough, but it's not quite the same as having an obviously foreign face). I do think it's important to seek out Taiwanese voices on Taiwanese issues and to actually listen to them. That might get me down, but I have to remember that, for all of the things I can't do, standing out (that is, making it easier to draw attention to what I have to say) and being a native-level English user from a background of comparative advantage - how many Taiwanese can up and move to the US the way I moved to Taiwan? - are privileges I should neither forget I have nor take for granted.

I don't have answers - I'm still not sure where that line is. All I can say for sure is that this is my home, so I do get to have an opinion as what happens here affects me too. Everything else is still kind of up in the air.

My politics are open: I'm not a fan of the flag of the Republic of China, nor of the Republic of China generally. I view it as a foreign entity that unfortunately governs, but is philosophically and historically distinct from, Taiwan. Taiwan is my home; the Republic of China is not. I feel nothing when I see the flag of the Republic of China flying. I feel quite a bit when I see images I more closely associate with Taiwan.

It's easy to get involved when one agrees with the zeigeist. It's not so easy when one opposes it, but is very obviously foreign. I know there are locals who agree - it's not just Lao Ren Cha against the rest of Taiwan. The question going forward is how to best support those locals and work with them without making it all about me.