Showing posts with label american_politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label american_politics. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

American voters in Taiwan (or anywhere overseas): be vigilant about your absentee ballots

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How is this undeliverable to the address on the label they themselves provided? 


There are a few good things to being American (y'know...a couple. One or two.) One of them is the ability to vote from overseas, so you don't have to fly back to your designated polling place or skip the election. Although there are good reasons why Taiwan doesn't have absentee voting (mostly that it would be a huge security risk in terms of China tampering with the votes of Taiwanese residing there through any number of means, but it's hard to make an argument to allow absentee voting for everyone but those residing in China), that means voting in Taiwanese elections means flying back. That, or don't vote.

I've realized in this past election, however, that one's absentee ballot is not nearly as guaranteed as it might seem. I had trouble myself, which is how I became aware that this was an issue.

I did an informal poll of American friends here in Taiwan, most of whom had no problems with their ballots in the last election, but those that did all had similar stories to tell. They were also far higher in number than I am comfortable with: about a quarter of the people I asked had trouble. That number should be in the single digits, or approaching zero.

So, what can go wrong with your absentee ballot?

My husband and another friend encountered a suspicious issue: Brendan's ballot mysteriously disappeared (he did something about that and emailed a new ballot, which was accepted, in time for the election). Just today he received his original posted ballot back, marked as "undeliverable", even though - and I cannot stress this enough - he used a label with the address that his own board of elections had provided. It was their envelope - how could it be undeliverable to their address? And the address on it was clear.

My friend also had a ballot returned as "undeliverable" despite, again, using the envelope that was provided by the very organization he was sending it to. There is just no good reason for this to be happening. He had a family member bring it in person to the election office, but that should have never been necessary.

My own ballot took far too long to arrive: I mailed it three weeks before the election, on October 17 (my state allows you to download and print your ballot, but not to email or fax it back) and only realized on election night that I could actually check the status online. I was dismayed to find that there was no record of it having been received. Mail from Taiwan is generally reliable and takes about a week, so I was understandably nervous.

I called the elections board that should have received my email, only to have it confirmed: there was no record of my ballot being received. As another rule my state has is that absentee votes need to be postmarked the day before the election, it was too late by then to send another ballot. I had no idea where it ended up, and no way to track it as it hadn't been sent by registered mail (because I truly didn't think it would get lost). Another Facebook friend had the same thing happen to him - same congressional district, coincidentally. Same Board of Elections.

The bigger issue for me wasn't that my vote in this election might not have counted - my choices for Congress and Senate won - but that I had never before thought to check the status of previous ballots. I had just assumed they'd been counted. I had to wonder: was my entire adult voting life a lie? Have I been a non-voter this whole time when I thought I was casting ballots?

My story has a happy ending too: the day after the election the system finally marked my ballot as received. However, that was not a foregone conclusion.

Even more worrisome? I was able to check the status of my absentee ballot as an overseas voter. Another friend who is absentee but domestic (same state, different district) had no way to check that her vote was received. She'll literally never know.

Of course there are also the issues with absentee votes simply not being counted - as we're seeing with the absolute fuckshittery (Brendan's word, credit where credit is due) going on in a few states, signature matching issues and voter roll purging (at least as an absentee voter you'll find out early if Republicans are trying to suppress your vote because you won't vote for their racist, sexist rich-people bullshit. And yes, I am saying one party is entirely responsible.) These issues are in addition to everything else going on.

It's quite worrisome that it's hard to know if one's vote is going to be counted. It's not something to be dismissed. People died for the right to vote; it's worth taking seriously. Civic engagement matters. A lot of the bullshit that gets passed goes through because otherwise good people don't vote. Because the youth - who frankly, tend to end up being right on classic liberal issues like marriage equality - don't turn out to vote in the same numbers. A lot of things could change if more people voted (including better candidates so we'd feel more empowered to vote for people we actually want in office).

So, what can you do about it?

1. Vote early. That gives you weeks or possibly even months to ensure that your vote is in and counted.

2. Drop off your ballot if possible. That might mean sending it (in a third envelope that holds the two required ones) to friends or family who can take it in personally, or bringing it to your embassy if that's possible (I know that's possible in the UK but don't know if it is in Taiwan. I'll check. Does anyone know?)

3.) Keep tabs on your vote. Don't do what I do and blindly assume it will be received because the mail is reliable. Wait a week then check the status every few days. If the election is getting close and your vote still has not been received, send another through more secure means.

4.) Spend some money. By this I mean, send it registered mail (which I've been told doesn't actually do anything, but so far everything I've ever sent this way has been received) or, if you want to be really sure, send it by Fed Ex or some other guaranteed service where someone must sign for it. I hate this, because it amounts to a poll tax for ensuring that your vote is received, with no other way to be absolutely sure that something you send will get there. But, it is a way to make sure you do vote.

5.) Don't vote for dagweeds! Seriously, don't vote for authoritarian dipclowns who want to do things like cut important government funding ("we want less government" often translates into cutting funding for things like making sure elections run smoothly, updating voting machines/procedures/etc. and hiring enough poll workers.) Don't vote for buttparrots who say we shouldn't count every vote because "they're probably fake anyway". Don't vote for turdburglars who try to close polling locations, purge voter rolls in suspicious ways and don't seem to think it's important that voting machines run out of batteries, aren't set up (as in, they're found locked in a closet later, never having been used) or have confusing user interfaces that cause people to mess up their votes, or which may be insecure. Don't vote for people who try to convince you that voter fraud is a prevalent issue, when it's actually extremely rare. SERIOUSLY STOP VOTING FOR THESE PEOPLE. JESUS H.Q. CHRIST. IF YOU DO THINGS WILL ONLY GET WORSE. And I would say that even if the people doing it were on "my" side - though, to my knowledge, no one on "my" side is engaging in this crap.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Sexual assault: Taiwan's great under-reported problem - my latest for Ketagalan Media

My latest piece for Ketagalan Media takes this previous post of mine as a starting point, and investigates an important issue in Taiwanese politics further. In short, it seems as though the reason why there are so few sexual assault scandals in Taiwanese politics is not because they just don't happen, but because if they do, they are likely not reported. On the other hand, in the US, women are beginning to speak out more, but the powers that be just don't care. We're not taken seriously - not even to the point of meriting a real, serious - not a joke of a circus show - investigation. 

Some numbers for you, from the piece: 


The US population in 2015 was 321 million, and reports of sexual assault in the US in 2015 totaled 431,837 (male and female). That indicates a per capita reported assault rate of 0.00134. Taiwan’s population in 2015 was 23,485,755, with 10,454 reports of sexual assault in Taiwan 2015 (gender not specified), for a per capita rate of 0.00044.

This is a massive disparity: even considering differences in population, the US still has a far higher report rate of sexual assault than Taiwan, by a factor of three.

Does it make sense that people in Taiwan are three times less likely to be sexually assaulted than in the US? It is unlikely that there is simply less sexual assault in Taiwan overall (although crime in general is on a down swing and Taiwan remains a very safe country). The picture for comparison is clearer when we look at the gap between estimated sexual assaults and the number reported for the two countries: in the US it’s estimated that about 2/3 of sexual assaults are not reported, or around 70 percent. In Taiwan, it is estimated that the number of actual sexual assaults compared to those reported is seven to ten times higher.

Estimating the actual number of cases, Taiwan’s number of actual assaults per capita is somewhere between 78% to 111% of America’s.


Sources for these numbers are linked to in the piece itself. 

And there's this, a point that cannot be made often enough: 


Having spent twelve years in Taiwan, I have encountered “cultural” excuses for gender-based violence here, generally along the same refrain of “it’s Taiwan’s traditional culture” or an appeal to outdated views of gender which are common across both Asia and the world (one need only look at many American conservative views to see how such sexism plays out in the West). There is no truth to these “cultural” excuses: Taiwan has undergone a seismic shift in how society views gender for several generations, yet culture and traditions in Taiwan, regardless of changing attitudes towards gender and sexual power relations, remains robust. The United States has been evolving in its views on gender since the 19th century, and yet I would argue culture in America remains identifiably “American.”  Cultures can embrace gender egalitarianism and still retain their essence.



Anyway, enjoy! 

Monday, October 1, 2018

Two roads diverged over wood

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From Wikimedia

Since my last post about men behaving badly and the woman-haters who defend them, I've been thinking about Taiwan's specific situation vis-a-vis politics and sexual assault.

Perhaps it is too simplistic to say "America sucks, but in Taiwan, if there is even a whiff of sexual misconduct your political career is finished!" More accurately, one might say that in the US, only in recent decades are people beginning to fully understand what sexual assault means, and are slowly gaining the courage to point fingers at powerful men (the assailants are almost always male).

In Taiwan, however, it is simply less likely that sexual assault will be reported. I did a little back-of-the-envelope number crunching for 2015 (I have statistics for Taiwan 2017, but had trouble finding specific information on sexual assaults in Taiwan for 2016, the last year that data seems to be available in the US. So, 2015 it is.)

US population in 2015: 321 million
Reports of sexual assault in the US in 2015: 431,837 (male and female)
Per capita: .00134

Taiwan population in 2015: 23,485,755
Reports of sexual assault in Taiwan 2015 (gender not specified so I assume both): 10,454
Per capita: .00044

That's a huge difference - considering differences in population, the US still has a higher report rate of sexual assault than Taiwan.

I highly doubt that there is just less sexual assault in Taiwan, and that's why there are so many fewer reports. In the US it's estimated that about 2/3 of sexual assaults are not reported, or 70-some-odd percent. In Taiwan, it is estimated that the number of actual sexual assaults c.f. those reported is seven to ten times higher. We also know that domestic abuse is a massive problem in Taiwan, and dare I conjecture that domestic violence and sexual assault share enough characteristics (they are both about power and control, they both disproportionately affect women, they both generally stem from misogyny or a sense of entitlement over women's bodies) that where there's a lot of one, there is probably a fair amount of the other? I do dare - and low report rates of both likely have some connection to the way the Taiwanese judicial system is likely to treat women who report, not to mention cultural stigma surrounding reporting gender-based violence and the "defamation" lawsuits women who make allegations but don't wish to press charges may face.

Taking that further, it's hard to imagine that Taiwanese politicians somehow commit sexual assault at a lower rate than the general population (a rate that is much higher than statistics would lead one to believe), especially given the relationship between violence - including sexual assault - and power. I suppose once in office, some of them might realize that committing such a crime would ruin their career irreparably, but it would be silly to think that such selfish (because such a realization is not really about respect for women) reflection would extend back to their youth.

Considering that Lien Chan is widely believed to have committed domestic abuse (frankly, I find it more than likely that the allegations are true), and the penchant of Taiwanese politicians - or pretty much all Taiwanese men in positions of power - to visit 酒店 or hostess bars, it just seems unlikely that Taiwan's public figures have clean histories regarding women.

Rather, it seems a lot more obvious to me that sexual assault by Taiwanese public figures before or after they take office go unreported - or are shut down before fingers are publicly pointed at identifiable people - rather than that they don't happen.

What this means is that Taiwan may not, in fact, be much better than the United States in this regard. In the US, women feel increasingly willing to hold powerful men to account, publicly, for their misdeeds. The vast majority of the time, these women are telling the truth - research shows that, to the best of our knowledge, only 2-6% of sexual violence accusations are false. Culture is changing in the US, both in ways that can be felt (certainly, as a child of the 1980s, I can say that this culture shift is real), in ways that can be researched, and in ways we can document. Even looking at the Wikipedia entry for sex scandals of federal elected politicians, there has been an uptick as the years go on - almost certainly because women are more likely to step forward now.

Taiwan doesn't seem to have gone through that transformation yet. It's not that sexual assault is considered acceptable here - it's certainly not - it's that ideas of what constitutes sexual assault here sometimes (not always, but sometimes) feel like they're straight out of the 1980s, and the stigma surrounding reporting seeming more like what my mother and grandmother might have faced, rather than me. I mean, this is a country where raping a domestic employee once doesn't bar you from hiring another one after a period of time.

But, there's an entrenched feeling that those in power still just don't care. In the US, Dr. Blasey Ford's testimony against a screaming, weeping Brett Kavanaugh is considered by experts - and basically every woman who has had something like this happen to her, which is a huge number of us - to be credible, there's a fair chance he'll still make it to the Supreme Court. The same thing happened in 1991 with Anita Hill. We know that the President of the United States is unfaithful to his wife, and there are 22 sexual assault allegations against him as of today (20 as of when this was written - included here as it's a better source). Yet, he gets to be president, and his supporters either defend him, or are willing to believe that that many women are lying. (I, personally, think it's so obvious that Trump is a sexual abuser and possibly a rapist that I find it astounding someone might think otherwise.) Every few years, it's a massive battle to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.

So, great, we can speak out now and someone might actually listen, but it still has ruinous effects on the women - hurting careers, exposing them to more trauma and harassment - and hasn't made much of an impact on the political machine, or sexual assault rates in general.

In Taiwan, if you manage to publicly accuse a political figure of sexual assault - overcoming all of the pressure not to do so and knowing you'll likely be torn apart in the gossip rags and forums full of angry young dudes (have you seen PTT? Jesus) - and people actually listen to you, great, his career will be over.

But good luck getting to that point.

Alright then - two roads diverged, but they're really worn about equally the same.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Taiwan has issues with sexism, but we don't put known attempted rapists in office

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An innocent golden piece of wood from the Grand Matsu Temple in Tainan



All I can say about the Blasey Ford / Kavanaugh hearings is that at this point, in 2018, if you still support the Republican Party, then you hate women and think sexual assault is okay.

I don't care if you want to identify as a 'conservative'. I don't know what that is supposed to mean anymore, but whatever. Fine. We don't all have to have the exact same values and there is room to disagree or have differing perspectives on quite a lot.  I'm talking about specifically supporting these monsters. And I mean it: at this point, doing so would lead me to seriously question your character. I can tolerate disagreement on many issues, but I cannot tolerate woman-hating attempted rape-excusers.

Yes, attempted rape. If you hold a woman down against her will and try to tear off her clothes as you stop her from screaming, you're not horsing around or copping a feel, you are attempting rape.

Of course, I could have said I felt this way after the election, when the country elected a known sexual assailant. Hell, if I had been old enough, I could have said it in 1991. I could have asked then why it was acceptable for these men to be elected or confirmed to office when no decent person would tolerate that sort of behavior - including talk - from their own sons, brothers, husbands or fathers. But I was a kid in 1991, and Trump exerted a hypnotic pull on the dumber half of the country that turned them into something more like cult members than actual rational voters.

Now, however, it is clear. We know what they do and we know what they will accept. We know they are either sex predators, or they think being a sex predator is acceptable (if you are a straight, white male). If you support that or even just accept it, there is no longer any excuse for you.

Contrast this to Taiwan. Taiwan is far from a paradise of equality - I have female students who tell me openly that they want to go abroad because their families treat them unfairly because they are daughters. More than one adult female student has told me that she won't marry because she has no intention of taking on the expected duties of a wife, and hasn't yet met a man who truly understands that. The same goes for women who have decided not to have children. There is a lot of particularly heinous crime against women by men (although the overall crime rate is dropping, including "non-negligent manslaughter" and what the government weirdly calls "forcible" rape), and the media covers it in the most sexist way possible. Domestic violence is still an issue and there's still a pay gap. I have my own stories of sexism at former jobs.

But as far as I know - and please correct me if I'm wrong - Taiwan has never knowingly elected or allowed the confirmation of someone like Kavanaugh, or Clarence Thomas, or Trump - to a position in the government.

Taiwanese politicians may often be horrible people, but if there's even a whiff of sexual predation about you, your political career is finished. In this country, if you so much as touch a boob without consent (which is also not okay, by the way), as far as any sort of public office is concerned, you're done.

That's just about how it should be: as I see it, if someone has something like that in their past, they demonstrate remorse and do attempt to be a better person, an acceptable consequence is that they may never be fit for political office. As a person, however - again, if demonstrate remorse and personal growth are demonstrated - a second chance may be warranted.

Seriously - Taiwan hasn't yet figured out how media should report on crimes against women, how to treat its wives and daughters fairly or how to close its own pay gap. But it has figured out that sexual misconduct of any kind is an immediate disqualification for political office.

Supposedly one of the most "egalitarian", "meritocratic" societies on Earth, where may credit the modern feminist movement with gaining steam, can't even figure that out. They can't wrap their heads around what a geographically small, often (though not always) parochial nation often described as "conservative", "Confucian" and "passive" (though I don't agree fully) has already figured out.

Good job, America, at demonstrating to the world what you actually think of women. Remind me to laugh in the face of the next person who tries to tell me that the US is so much 'better' when it comes to women's equality.

Monday, September 24, 2018

We may have bipartisan support, but it's still hard to vote for friends of Taiwan


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Like any good Snowflake SJW Avocado Toast Millenial*, I'm excited that Beto O'Rourke - a liberal described as "the next Obama"  - is actually a realistic challenger to Ted Cruz in Texas. Texas! Where "no democrat has held state-wide office since 1994"! In a midterm election year that is not only seen as a referendum on Trump's two years of terrorizing from his perch in the White House, but also the only realistic chance we as a nation have of curbing him, to see this kind of progressive stand a chance in Texas of all places is huge.

This is especially exciting as he stands to unseat Ted Cruz, who ran for Human President in 2016 and who hates women and the LGBT community which is odd as I'm not sure his species has 'genders' or 'biological sex' in the way we understand them. In any case, pretty much nobody likes him.

So he could be gone! Yay!

...right?

Oh, wait, you support Taiwan and want to vote for representatives in the US government who are friends of Taiwan.

Then, not yay.

I have no idea what Beto O'Rourke thinks about Taiwan, or about foreign policy in general, and it seems neither does anyone else. His own website has no guidance whatsoever as to what, as a senator, his foreign policy would be.

But, as 'the next Obama' I can make some educated guesses. Obama was not a great friend to Taiwan.  See here on arms sales (Taiwan advocates didn't seem terribly impressed and neither was I), "reducing tensions on both sides of the strait" (as though the source of the tensions weren't entirely one-sided), his advisors totally missing the point of Taiwan independence, ceding the high ground (and insistence on standing up for what's right) to McCain, and seeming to care more for Beijing's tender baby feelings than actually doing the right thing. Then there's support for the milquetoast, only-because-of-politics status quo ("a high degree of self-determination?" Screw you, buddy. Total self-determination like any other democratic nation or GTFO). Perhaps necessary, but harmful to Taiwan.

Long and short of it? Lots of talk about doing what's right on the American left, but then they turn around and play politics just like everyone else. I don't imagine an Obama-style liberal like O'Rourke will be a great ally of Taiwan.

Who knows? He might surprise me. But I doubt it.

Ted Cruz? He met with Tsai Ing-wen. Ted Cruz (Ted Cruz!) said this:


Another champion of Taiwan and supporter of the travel bill, is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who met with Tsai in Houston on Jan. 8, 2017 despite Beijing’s strong objections.

In an interview, Cruz slammed as “absurd” a December threat by Chinese diplomat Li Kexin during an event at Beijing’s embassy in Washington. Li told colleagues that he had warned U.S. officials against docking American warships in Taiwan.


“The day that a U.S. Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People’s Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force,” Li said, according to Chinese media reports cited by Reuters.


“The threat from a low-level Chinese diplomat of a military invasion of Taiwan was absurd, unduly provocative and should be met with laughter and derision,” Cruz said.


Cruz also denounced China for “vigorously” lobbying to kill strong ports-of-call language for Taiwan that he wanted included in the 2018 defense authorization bill, Cruz said.



I'd cream my damn pants if Obama said something like that.

I know, I know, a senator can say things a president can't, but remember, Cruz wanted to be
president.

But wait, there's more!

"Texas stands with Taiwan," Ted Cruz also said.

While I'm not sure why Cruz is such a strong Taiwan supporter - general wisdom has it that most pro-Taiwan Republicans support this country because they oppose "Communist China", that is, they're still stuck in Cold War thinking - I'm definitely of the school of Taiwan advocate that feels Taiwan should take the help it can get. I'm not inclined to say we don't want his support because he's awful in just about every other respect.

But, as a liberal pro-Taiwan voter, I'm damn glad I'm not a Texan.

Sure, we have bipartisan support and I am glad of that. I won't pretend this is a war of Dems against Reps for the future of Taiwan or anything like that.

But, what's a girl who supports Taiwan, enjoys bodily autonomy and wants her gay friends to have equal rights to do, when the guy she would vote for is very likely not going to be the Taiwan ally she wants to see in office, and the champion of Taiwan he stands to defeat pretty much hates her on account of her having a vagina?

If the only issue she cared about were Taiwan, the choice would be obvious (and very self-harming, if not masochistic.) But when every other platform of the friend of Taiwan she wants to see in office is so odious that she feels she must vote against him, only to worry that that strong bipartisan support for Taiwan in congress might well waver - maybe just a ripple - by voting out a Taiwan ally and voting in someone who doesn't appear to have a foreign policy at all, let alone any sense of the importance of Taiwan.

All I can say is, if this issue were to ever face me as a voter in the northeast, I would honestly spin myself in circles with anxiety. It quite literally feels like it comes down to "Taiwan, which is what is right", and "everything else that's right".

I want a tried-and-true friend of Taiwan in office, but I also want O'Rourke to win for literally every other reason.


So yeah, bipartisan support or not, it's really difficult to use our votes as Americans to support Taiwan.



*not really a Millenial but let's pretend

Friday, February 2, 2018

Taiwan made a hawk of me

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I want to be a peacenik.

I used to be one, in fact. There's a hippie-dippy inside me who is all about flowers not bombs, non-violent resistance, refusing to keep the cycle of control, war and poverty going. The military industrial complex has no place in my heart.

There's a part of me that is tugged by the very persuasive argument that getting involved in the affairs of other countries the way we do - in Libya, in Syria, in Iraq - does not work and cannot work. We keep trying to get involved, we say it's for the greater good (well, that's the message sold to us), and we keep mucking it up.

I'm a big fan of liberal thought in general, and modern American liberalism is all about avoiding military intervention - peace at all costs. It's all about assuming there is always a diplomatic solution.

And yet, I just can't do it anymore. I live in Taiwan, a nation whose existence is under the very real threat of a growing, aggressive and unfriendly expansionist China, whose values as a nation do not at all match those of Taiwan. I won't go so far as to say "Taiwan can't defend itself", because I don't know Taiwan's true military capability. But, given that we might be able to ward off an initial attack, still it seems unlikely we could win that war alone. We'd need help. We'd need big friends in high places, who understand the value of keeping a successful liberal democracy and ally intact, at that ally's own request. Because if China wins, it is Game Over for Taiwan. We can't let it happen.

This isn't Syria or Afghanistan - we're not trying to bring down a government. It's not Iraq II, where we not only brought down the government, but did so uninvited. This isn't the same as screwing over Latin America time and time again by supporting juntas and regimes friendly to our interests rather than their own people's. It's a friendly, developed, democratic nation asking for assistance should its spoiled neighbor turn its temper tantrums into real action.

To be clear, I don't mean there ought to be military intervention now, and I hope that just the threat of it will keep China's expansionist garbage in check. I don't want a war - nobody does. But the only way for that to be effective is for it to be very clear: if a war is what China wants, the promise of US military intervention is sincere.

So, I have to be pro-military to some degree. I have to be pro-US intervention abroad. I have to be pro-US arms sales (although we can debate about which weapons we need, we do need weapons). I have to accept that war is a possibility - and it is, because the only possible outcomes here are formal independence or war, given that Taiwan is not going to choose to unify peacefully (and it's not - why would it?). I have to be okay with that so we can get on with the business of figuring out how to defend ourselves.

And yes, it has to be the US - nobody else can even come close to being a real check on Chinese expansionism.

Peace at all costs assumes no cost is too high, but the cost of losing Taiwan is not acceptable. Forcing 23 million people to give up the freedom they fought for because the angry dictatorship next door decided it wanted their land is not acceptable. Encouraging Taiwan to move towards unification (or to peacefully accept annexation) because "the alternative is war" is not acceptable. It might result in peace - China would mightily like it for that reason - but it will not result in justice. And peace without justice is cruel.

We have peace now, but it is an unjust peace. It is quite literally asking the victim - the bullied person - to accept being victimized and bullied for the sake of "keeping the peace". It's goes beyond "can't you two just work together", with its stupidly racialized - or ethnicized or whatever - idea that because people in both countries are "Chinese", that this should be easy, we should desire it and joining the two nations is a desired outcome...because why again? I'm not really clear on the underlying assumptions here unless it's the Western liberals who are  really shilling ethnic stereoty----oh.


It goes straight to asking a successful, developed, liberal democracy to give all of that up and just accept being oppressed under a brutal authoritarian regime because, oh yeah, doing that would be peaceful and peace is the most important thing, more important than preserving the freedom millions of people already have.

Or, it goes straight to something more cowardly: voicing weak support for Taiwan's cause and affirmation that their values are shared by Western nations, while not actually doing anything to shore up an ally's defenses. It's the ~*~thoughts and prayers~*~ of foreign policy. "Oh, it would be terrible if China invaded, so sorry we can't help but good luck!" (Yeah, you thought "thoughts and prayers" were only things insincere conservatives offered. Nope!)

I can't help but draw a mental connection with asking women and people of color in Western countries to accept an atmosphere of harassment, bullying and discriminatory treatment because to confront the bullies and victimizers disrupts "the peace". Keep quiet and suck it up because "keeping the peace" is more important than doing the right thing. "I'm so sorry Cousin Jack called you the n-word, but if I confront him it would ruin Thanksgiving!"

In fact, I really feel like a lot of the talking points defending this worldview come down to this:

"C'mon Taiwan, can't you just peacefully play China's long game, even though you know what they're up to? We have to keep the peace....

...Justice? What's that?

Oh, you want justice. Oh, aherm...yeah...justice is good...ahem..uh...oh my iPhone 8 is ringing. Excuse me."

And if you push back: "No, I don't support authoritarianism abroad, it's just that we can't always get involved, and it sucks that China's so terrible, so sorry."

I just don't have much respect for a worldview that boils down to "dictatorship is bad, mmmkay? And dictatorships shouldn't take over unwilling smaller nations just because they want to. Unless, like, a really big and strong dictatorship that we do a lot of trade with. It's still bad, but, well...we need to keep the trade peace."

This worldview either assumes that freedom, democracy and human rights are only things one need to have for oneself (but are not necessary for others), or that only nations with big militaries - or those not under threat - get to be liberal democracies. Everyone else can suck it.

Or, even worse, it assumes that the liberal democracies of Western nations deserve to be defended, but Asians..."well, they all look the same so whatev Asia is far away and they have to handle their own affairs."

Because come on, you know that if, say, Australia's democracy was threatened, we'd be far more likely to step in. There would certainly be more public support from it, among both liberals and conservatives.

(Yeah, maybe you also thought racism was confined to conservative circles. It's not.)

How on Earth can I say I am against US military intervention abroad when I live in a country that wants the help, deserves the help, is friendly to the West and upholds as essential civic values - freedom, democracy, human rights* - everything Western countries say they believe in and want to promote and defend?

I have to support selling arms to Taiwan. I don't want to support selling arms to anyone, but how can I not? We don't want a war, but if war is brought to us we have to be able to defend ourselves.

I have to support the idea of US military intervention abroad, because while I'd like Taiwan to be able to defend itself without help, I'm not at all sure this is realistic (I hear varying reports on this).

I can't be a localist, because doing so will quite literally choke Taiwan to death. I want to be anti-war, but I just can't if I am going to be pro-Taiwan.

This is especially difficult as, of course, most Taiwanese don't want a war either. This makes sense - war wound devastate Taiwan far more than the US regardless of any intervention it launches on our behalf. It's entirely sensible to try to maintain peace at a bearable-enough cost for as long as possible in the hope that something will shift and movement will be possible.

But I can't rule war out - I can't insist there has to be another way - when I know perfectly well that there might not be.

I could cling, unflinching, to my liberal hippie-dippy core and say "if it comes to that, then we go full Gandhi. We non-violently resist. We refuse to cooperate, but also refuse to fight."

I love that idea, and it worked in another context, but not even the British Empire is as bad as China. Forget non-violent resistance, China will quite literally just kill us - millions of us, should it come to that - before the international outcry would even begin to make a difference, if it ever did. By the time we realized we needed to do more than protest...

...look, what I'm saying is they'd just kill us all, millions if they have to, and not even think twice about doing so. Non-violent resistance works when there is a line your opponent would not cross, and I can say honestly the Chinese government has no such line.

Remember, Taiwan may prefer peace, but so does China.

Everyone wants peace. It's just that some people prefer real peace, and others are just fine with a cruel peace, which is no peace at all.

And if that's how it is, I can't be a dove.

Against my instincts, I have to be a hawk.

Frankly I wish I could convince more liberals to join me. I mean not quite to the point of telling them to stop worrying and love that bomb already, but if they believe in the fundamental concepts of freedom and democracy, then it makes sense to support Taiwan. If it makes sense to support Taiwan, then it makes sense to support defending Taiwan. And if it makes sense to support defending Taiwan, then it makes sense to re-consider the advantages of being a bit of a hawk.



*I have to say I grow less sure of this one as I read more stories of the treatment of foreign workers (and Taiwanese workers to a lesser degree), though.

Friday, December 1, 2017

One tiny opinion...and time for a break

So first, I'm going to be cutting back on my posting between now and March/April. Grad school deadlines are getting closer and while I'm chugging along nicely with my written assignments, I need more time to focus on them and that time has to come from somewhere. I am (almost certainly) about to start doing teacher training as well which means more time planning lessons as I get used to my new role. I just won't have the time to write like I did this summer and autumn.

Frankly, I also have some personal junk to work through and I need to make time for that. Nothing serious, don't worry. Nothing even hugely life-changing.

This doesn't mean Lao Ren Cha will be totally dead between now and then - I have a few posts on the back burner that will be going up, and if something really catches my eye I'll take the time to write about it. The volume, however, will be considerably less.

I'll also still occasionally put work out through Ketagalan Media - watch for an interview with a well-known Taiwanese artist coming up soon - and I have another (paid!) writing opportunity coming along, so I'll be around.

And now, for an opinion.

As the whole world knows, in the US chaos continues to reign. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on his way out, some fucker is on his way in (yeah yeah the CIA director...but also whatever, everything is a shambles and we're all gonna die), and Tom Cotton seems destined for the CIA role.

So...Tom Cotton.

You know when I've said in the past that I have an issue with the sorts of conservative Republicans who tend to support Taiwan, because they're so horrible in every other way? Well, Cotton is one of them. He's a horrible person with horrible opinions who happens to have one correct viewpoint - Taiwan. Frankly, just by association with the hellscape that is his political worldview, this makes Taiwan look bad. I'm happy for support in the halls of US government, but it sure doesn't look good for us that he is the sort of person supporting us (and Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, and all sorts of other terrible people).

Of course, I've come around on that a little, seeing this bipartisan letter in support of the TRA, but it still remains that we have a menagerie of horrible far-right ideologues supporting us too.

And now that Cotton is in the national spotlight, all the people whose support we want are talking about how horrible Tom Cotton is, how awful every single one of his policy stances are, and how he has "taken outspoken stances far to the right on every issue domestic and foreign".

I've long feared that the left, hating everything about the right, might continue to not support Taiwan simply because horrible people do support it. In government I'm not that scared - clearly there is bipartisan support. But in terms of winning more Americans over to Taiwan's side (that is, getting them to know Taiwan exists and that China treats us like garbage is one of the many reasons why China ain't great), I could well see American liberals who think of themselves as 'well-informed' turning against Taiwan because someone like Cotton supports us. (The right does this to the left too, but it's the left I'm concerned about persuading). Just because they are usually right and generally do not hold abhorrent social views, do not kid yourself that lefties are smarter - there are plenty of idiots who will hate something just because someone like Tom Cotton likes it.

I've already been seeing it happen. In the past day, more than one person in my Facebook feed has expressed hatred for Cotton and everything he stands for. So far they've been open to hearing that he's actually right about Taiwan, but I doubt every "we hate everything about Tom Cotton" liberal is going to be so easily persuaded, and most won't be approached at all.

So yeah...mixed feelings about this. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it doesn't matter. But it hasn't stopped me from worrying. I want support for Taiwan, bipartisan even, but support from people like him just taint us by association with the people we want to convince. To use a tired cliche, it's a double-edged sword.

Anyway, I need a bit more wine and then to sleep, because I don't have any free time ever.

See you when I have more to say and time to say it.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Sometimes I change my mind

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You know, I have said that I have trouble voting my conscience in American elections, because the people I support on (almost) every other platform are the people who either don't care or seem to be just plain wrong about Taiwan (although even that is sometimes hard to gauge). It's the same reason why I do not attempt to get into more hardcore pro-Taiwan advocacy in the US - when it comes to the conservative blowhards whom I want to mouth-punch on one hand for trying to take away my bodily autonomy as a woman, I doubt I could just turn around and talk to them civilly about Taiwan. It's my reproductive system they want to get their grimy hands in - it's kinda personal. I can't distance myself from it the way a lot of (male) people who are not threatened because of their gender can. I don't doubt they abhor it as well, but the ability to compartmentalize...well, that seems like a really nice privilege of having a penis.

I have also said that, while I was generally a Sanders supporter back when I could be one, and did vote for him in the primary, that I was concerned about what kind of president he would be vis-a-vis Taiwan. He was not exactly known for his foreign policy acumen, or at least was seen as weak in that area.

I mean, Trump is Trump and he's just hair and fart sounds so whatever, but generally Republican presidents have been better for Taiwan than Democratic ones. Those same Republican presidents have been bad news for women.

When you love Taiwan but have a vagina, this is a problem. It didn't seem possible to fully vote my conscience, because it appeared that those I could never vote for had the best possible Taiwan policy - that's not to say great, but the best thing going under the circumstances - and those I otherwise supported, shall we say, did not.

I had friends assure me that support for Taiwan was bipartisan, but that seemed unlikely in a world where Republicans were in the media doing everything I wanted Democrats to be doing - meeting with Hong Kong dissidents, introducing pro-Taiwan legislation. Then we have (rumors? Leaks? Real? Fake? Who even knows?) that Hillary Clinton wanted to discuss ditching Taiwan.

Then I saw this letter urging President Hair and Fart Sounds to support the Taiwan Relations Act in light of his (then upcoming) visit to China to meet with President Angry Pooh.  And unless it's some elaborate troll job aimed specifically at me (it's not), it induced elation and despair at the same time.


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Robert Menendez. Ron Wyden. Edward Markey. Chuck Schumer. Chris Van Hollen. Catherine Cortez Masto. Heidi Heitkamp (though I don't always agree with her). Joe Manchin. Sherrod Brown (who says a lot about Taiwan and it almost never seems to get media attention). Gary Peters. Elizabeth Warren. Al Franken. Bernard Sanders.

Now, I'm not trying to claim that the Taiwan Relations Act is the gold standard of the way the world should be treating Taiwan. It's not. Nobody in the world is treating Taiwan the way it should be treated, not even its (checkbook) diplomatic allies. Taiwan deserves better than what it's getting, period. It deserves international recognition and support, including support for changing its governmental framework from fundamentally Chinese to fundamentally Taiwanese. I'm not a fan of support for the "ROC on Taiwan" as a way of opposing Communism or even simply opposing China - I'm not a fan of the ROC at all.

I'd prefer a world in which it was a given that Taiwan could decide its future without international threat, and in which support for Taiwan was based on it simply being the right thing to do - supporting Taiwan for Taiwan's sake and everything it has to offer the world - and not in any sort of relation to how the world handled China. That is, however, not the world we live in.

Considering Taiwan's former authoritarian leadership's complicity in creating the state of limbo the country still finds itself, and considering that "rah rah ROC because we hate the PRC" - and "well, here's the Taiwan Relations Act which is a bit milquetoast but it's something and frankly a unique piece of policy given the situation" are not ideal but are, unfortunately, how the 20th century shook out, I'll take it.

So, I've changed my mind on a few things.

Yes, GOP rhetoric on Taiwan, while imperfect, is still closer to the mark than Democratic rhetoric. Conservative rhetoric on Taiwan is more acccurate - though again, flawed - than liberal discourse.

However, it is clear that despite this, support for Taiwan is a bipartisan issue. Call me a Doubting Thomas - I needed to see it in the flesh. You don't get Al Franken, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Freakin' Sanders signing a letter alongside Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz if something is a partisan issue. You just don't.

This helps, but does not make me any happier that more than one "friend of Taiwan" is no friend of mine, as a person in a female body who expects bodily autonomy. For every good thing they do or say regarding Taiwan or Hong Kong, I can name some way in which they have tried to subjugate women. The part of me that loves Taiwan cannot reconcile this with the part of me that has, and would like to retain control over, ovaries.

It is also clear that, as much as I might disagree at times, and as much as I might think the US can and should offer something a bit stronger to Taiwan than the weaksauce currently on the table, that those at the top forming policy do, in fact, understand (at least enough of) the intricacies of the Taiwan issue.

Do I entirely trust them? Nope. But I'll take it for now.

So why do I despair?

Because the one thing that consoled me as Sanders left the 2016 race and I cast my vote for Clinton - besides genuinely wanting a female president and knowing that, while I might not like a lot of what she does, I did trust her to do the job competently - was that "Sanders would have been weak on Taiwan".

Except...oops. Nope.

It's not possible to know what a President Sanders would have done vis-a-vis Taiwan, but we can make some educated guesses, and his name on this letter is telling.

And because I actually voted against Chuck Schumer in 2016. Hey, don't judge me, I knew he'd win anyway, I just wanted to give a big pointless middle finger to the Democrats in some small way. I voted Green Party for Senate, knowing they'd lose. Now I kind of regret that a little, maybe?

Oh yeah, and I despair because despite this being a bipartisan issue, Taiwan is still stuck in the status quo morass with a world that does not appreciate what it has to offer and can't bring itself to just do the right thing, and also because this letter was delivered to President Hair and Fart Sounds, which means...ugh.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Taiwan's Catch-22

Some Shower Thoughts - yes, this is what I think about in the shower. I've been traveling in Vietnam and, having returned to Taiwan on a red-eye after an overnight bus ride, am light on sleep. Hopefully this doesn't mean the post below is incoherent or overly repetitive. I'm sure someone has written about this before, but hey, I like to share Shower Thoughts so here goes.

Anyway...

I hear a lot - in media, in real life, in comments - that the US need not change its "One China Policy" because "Taiwan" doesn't exist as a national entity and the "Republic of China" still technically considers itself the rightful and only government of China. That, barring a formal change in the constitution of the ROC (and one would assume a name change as well) making this claim, there is no need to re-examine US policy because people "on both sides of the Strait" still officially believe that there is "One China".

Putting aside the already-debunked notion of the US's "One China Policy" (there isn't one, not really - acknowledging someone else'sposition does not constitute a position of one's own, and everything else isdeliberately vague), I have a few problems with this idea that Taiwan would have to formally make this change before the US would be obligated to take any policy changes into consideration, and because they have not done so, clearly they (the government, but, it is implies, also the Taiwanese people), they don't want to.

No no no no no this is wrong no.

This is one of those things where a perspective that is reasonable on its face actually hides much more sinister motives, even if unintentionally so, though I often doubt that they are unintentional.
What this particular argument is doing, by appearing to simply defend official norms, is playing straight into Chinese propaganda, if not China’s outright strategy to marginalize Taiwan. 

Those who say this must know perfectly well that Taiwan can’t change its official stance, no matter how much it may want to (and polls consistently show that thepeople want to). Doing so would, in Chinese eyes, constitute a move towards formal independence (which is what the Taiwanese likely actually want), which China has consistently said would cause them to immediately declare war. While Taiwanese do favor independence and do consider themselves, by and large, Taiwanese rather than Chinese, pretty much nobody in Taiwan wants to go to war because they quite rightly realize that war, well, sucks.

Taiwan, therefore, regardless of what the people want, is locked into making this claim that they are officially the government of China – a claim they pretty much try to ignore because its existence is just as inconvenient and unwanted as it is necessary – because the other option is to watch the country they have built get demolished by the PLA.

Consider the double standard: you insist Taiwan must change their claim if they don’t want to be considered Chinese, and to continue to have a government that considers itself “China” can only mean that the people are, or think of themselves as, Chinese. Yet you also insist that they not do so: to “provoke” China in such a way would be problematic, would cause war, would make Taiwan a “troublemaker”. Taiwan doesn’t want to make trouble, does it? No, little Taiwan, just sit tight, don’t make Big China angry. Don’t start a war. You don’t want to be a troublemaker, do you?

Oh, but if you don’t make trouble and instead choose not to make any official changes, you must therefore think of yourselves as Chinese, because you didn’t make any official changes. If you want us to think of you as Taiwanese...

...oh but don’t do that because you wouldn’t want to be provocateurs, would you?

How is this not a painfully, nakedly obvious Catch-22 for Taiwan?

Consider as well that the only reason the ROC – and therefore its vision of China - exists in Taiwan is because the Nationalists decided to claim Taiwan, then flee to it, and then proceed to set up a government that nobody in Taiwan said they wanted. They weren’t invited, they invaded. That constitution claiming to be the sole government of China, even the name “Republic of China” or even calling themselves Chinese, are not things that the people of Taiwan ever decided, together, through self-determination, that they wanted to claim or do. They were ideas forced on Taiwan by a government that was never invited to govern and has since democratized, under a name that can't be gotten rid of so easily.

Consider, then, what you are really saying when you say “the last time I checked ‘Taiwan’ was officially the ‘Republic of China’ and therefore considers itself a part of China, too”: you are saying that any sort of indication of what the people of Taiwan want doesn’t matter, all that matters is a position decided by a regime that came from China uninvited and decided unilaterally for the people already living here what their government stood for, that now cannot be changed because the country they fled has threatened war if they do so.

What you are saying is that you do not believe in self-determination. What you are saying is that you think modern-day colonialism is okay, not only that, but that a provision in a document that can’t be removed under threat of war is a perfectly fine barometer by which to determine the will of a people. That they literally must risk getting pummeled by China in order to change a few words on a piece of paper before you will take them seriously. You know it is impossible; you know that what was claimed by the ROC back when the ROC was a dictatorship does not reflect the will of the Taiwanese people, but you demand the impossible anyway. Why?

Let’s say a dictator claimed to speak for you, and then years after dismantling that dictatorship you could not officially, on a government level, disavow that dictator’s words without watching your city get blown up, but on a personal level were quite clear that you never bought into the original rhetoric. How would you feel if everyone else in the world stuck their fingers in their ears and shouted “la la la we can’t hear you, you must think that because your former dictator said so and you don’t want to die, la la la”?

How would you feel if your country underwent a massive upheaval in civil society, bringing it from a nation unwilling to speak truth to power about its identity to one willing to own its nationhood unapologetically, and the rest of the world collectively ignored it, pretending you all still felt the way you seemed to before it all happened? Because that's basically how Taiwan has been treated since the Sunflower Movement.

Does that make any sense at all? And if it does, is it really so easy to tune out the cognitive dissonance of claiming to care about freedom and democracy around the world? Can you really claim to be anti-war if you think that a nation must risk war – a war it will lose - to express its true desires? Can you really claim to be pro-democracy if you think the ideas of a former dictator speak for the will of a democratic people? Is that really the price an already-sovereign nation must pay to be taken seriously when there are other valid ways of knowing how the people of that nation feel?

Consider this as well: this is exactly what China wants you to think. They want you to set an impossible standard for taking Taiwan seriously: either they are “troublemakers” provoking a “war” or they “clearly still think of themselves as Chinese because their government officially says so”. There is no path forward for Taiwan to claim its sovereignty and identity on an official level. You’ve blocked out in your mind the notion that a people might have a different will and vision for their future than what they are forced to claim by a hostile power. Or perhaps you are claiming that the position they are forced to hold, literally at missile-point, is a sincere one when you know full fucking well it’s not.

And you’ve done this because this has been China’s propaganda campaign all along. They want you to mentally block Taiwan off into two alternatives: either they are a troublemaker and warmonger disturbing peace in Asia, or they think they are Chinese. The more impossible you make Taiwan’s position by refusing to consider data that shows the true will of the Taiwanese people, the easier you make China’s goal of annexing Taiwan and then pretending it’s not a hostile takeover of a sovereign state.

In short, i
f you insist that Taiwan has to disavow the positions of the ROC (which were forced on it) in order to be taken seriously as a sovereign nation with a national identity, but then say that any provocation of China makes Taiwan a "troublemaker", then you've set Taiwan up for a Catch-22. Either you know that and you're a jerk, or you don't and you're a useful idiot.