Showing posts with label public_discourse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label public_discourse. Show all posts

Sunday, February 16, 2020

住在台灣的外國人為什麼有在乎「台商的孩子」?

I don't often blog in Chinese, and I am sure there are many mistakes. What can I say, I'm a second language learner.

But, I want to address a primarily Taiwanese audience so I'm going to go for it. Enjoy my terrible Mandarin!

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大家可能想問我,「妳為什麼那麼在乎那個小明/台商孩子的問題?」

就是因為我是個住在台灣的外國人。我沒有台灣國籍,所以我聽台灣人說,「台灣人第一」或者「所以我們不需要在乎和幫忙那些孩子就是因為他們不是台灣人」 我問自己~~~

如果台灣有一個疫情/流行病的狀況,他們怎麼對待我?有人會說我不能去醫院,因為台灣沒有足夠的醫療服務,台灣人比較需要,台灣人第一!?雖然台灣就是我的家,我沒有美國的家,我沒有可以去的地方,此外我在台灣納稅,有人會說我可以「回去」美國為了找醫療服務,但是無法用台灣的制度?

我了解我跟台商真的不一樣。我選了台灣,他們選中國(但是,他們的孩子沒有機會選)。我住這裡,他們住在國外。我在這裡納稅,他們避免。我支持台灣主權和台灣獨立(從中華民國殖民地制度獨立!),他們大部分支持統一。真的不一樣!

可是,我聽「台灣人第一」的時候,這讓我想起川普跟他的支持者。那些人也覺得「移民歧視」就是還OK的啦。在美國,這個民粹主義態度讓我不舒服,在台灣,我絕對有一樣不舒服的感覺。「台灣人第一」的意思不但是「小明第二」而且也是,外國人在台灣是第二階級,是不是?如果在未來台灣有個危機,台灣還是我們的家,但是,台灣對我們怎麼樣?我在台灣平常很舒服,我看台灣人很歡迎我們,但是,這個「台灣人第一」讓我不舒服。我需要問自己,「我真的是完全歡迎的嗎?」

我了解大家對這件事有很重的感覺。這個問題非常複雜,沒有一個完美解決的方案。我們住在台灣的外國人對不穩定的情況非常熟悉,因為我們的家不配合我們的國籍。我們大部分支持台灣,也支持台灣獨立。如果中國恐嚇台灣,我們也願意為台灣而戰。我們大部分不是有錢人,我們的生活很像當地人的。讓小明近來也影響我們,因為我們也住在這裡。但是,我求你想一想,我們為什麼在乎這件事情?

就是因為我們很容易會想像我們自己在類似的狀況。我們緊張,「台灣人第一」也排除了我們嗎?

Friday, February 14, 2020

If abandoning Taiwanese children is the 'will of the Taiwanese people', then the people are wrong.

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This is how this whole thing makes me feel.
Every DPP and CECC official who supports this should be ashamed. 


It's rare that I write a post which is not about the KMT or CCP, and have trouble calming down enough to write it because I'm so thoroughly disgusted.

But recently, this happened:


Leading Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) members yesterday defended the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) decision to overturn the Mainland Affairs Council’s (MAC) announcement allowing the entry of Chinese children of Taiwanese and Chinese couples into Taiwan, and praised the Executive Yuan’s quick response.

Basically, that means that the Mainland Affairs Council was going to allow spouses and children of Taiwanese working in China to evacuate to Taiwan in the wake of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) epidemic. Then the DPP and health officials tasked with coordinating Taiwan's public health response overturned that decision, citing two reasons: first, that it would over-burden Taiwan's health workers, which is obviously something that must be taken into consideration, but not as a blanket excuse, but an aspect of risk assessment.

Second:


The Executive Yuan was quick in reading the pulse of public opinion, and put a temporary stop to that policy to reflect the will of Taiwanese, Cho told reporters at party headquarters in Taipei.

Even the Taipei Times calls them "Chinese kids" in the headline. But they have one Taiwanese parent - they are Taiwanese kids just as much as they are Chinese, although their paperwork may not reflect this. Taiwan may not have a legal obligation to them, but as the children of Taiwanese citizens, I'd argue there is some moral obligation.

This comes on the heels of an uproar over an evacuation flight that was meant to bring people at elevated risk back to Taiwan, but ended up carrying a number of Chinese spouses and children of Taiwanese, including one known case of infection, bumping at-risk people to take them instead, and not informing Taiwanese officials of the passenger change.

That understandably provoked public fury - or at least, it was understandable that people would be angry about at-risk individuals being bumped from the list of initial evacuees. 


This, however? No.

I'm surprised and horrified by the low quality of public discourse on this issue. There are good points to be made about public health, exactly how many children are affected, and what we can do in the face of an intransigent China who is sabotaging Taiwan's evacuation efforts.

But, although some people are saying these things, what I'm hearing instead is "Taiwanese First!", which makes me, as a foreign resident, wonder at what point I might be denied services in a crisis here. "Those kids are Chinese so they are not our problem!" - legally, no, but ethically - they are the minor children of Taiwanese. "Their parents chose for them to be Chinese, this is the consequence!" - for the parents, that has some logic - for the kids, though? They didn't choose their passport.

And, of course, "thousands of them will come over and infect us all!"

It's worth pointing out that these were the original requirements set forth by MAC for minor Chinese nationals with a Taiwanese parent to come to Taiwan:



"Allow Chinese minor children of Taiwanese and Chinese couples who... 
- have an Alien Resident Certificate or a long-term visa for visiting family or relatives  
- placed in home quarantine for 14 days after arrival. 
- only include Chinese children who are under 18 years old 
- have been living in Taiwan  
- have no one to take care of them in China 
- must apply for entry and gain approval from the National Immigration Agency"



Frankly, I think that sounds quite reasonable. It's doubtful many children will meet those requirements, and they specifically target the children of Taiwanese nationals in need. So "thousands of them will flood our system!" is simply not a rational risk assessment. We don't know the risk, but given less politicking, the government could probably figure that out. As far as I'm aware, they never even tried.

I do wonder, if these children were any other nationality, whether this debate would be happening. In which case, the problem isn't "we can't take them" but rather "we don't want them because they're Chinese".

I understand that people are upset not only about what happened on the first flight, but that the parents chose Chinese nationality for them, and that these couples have chosen to live in China, not Taiwan. Emotions are running high. There's no easy answer.

But there seems to be a lot of throwing around of whatever facts will fit someone's pre-conceived opinion, and very little time taken to reflect on whether one's response is adequately compassionate. Nobody's really thinking about what it actually would mean to not allow minor children with no one to care for them in China to come to Taiwan.

To be clear, that is exactly what the government is saying:


Chen said he believed Chinese spouses, who unlike their children are still permitted to return to Taiwan, will make appropriate arrangements for their minor children if they have to leave them in China. 
The new policy may put some pressures on Chinese spouses, but since they chose not to apply for Taiwan citizenship for their children, they have to take responsibility for making the required arrangements for them now, Chen said.


In effect, the government is stating that they may well tell parents that they can leave China, but their minor children have to stay behind. I don't know any parent who would actually choose that.

It is this simple: when given a choice between politics - the "will of the people" - and children's lives, the Central Epidemic Command Center and DPP officials chose politics.

They surely know that the real risks of letting some children in cannot possibly be as high as opponents say, as they shriek nationalist slogans like 'Taiwanese First!' - which sounds like something Trumpists would say.

To be fair, there is no good choice here. Health care capacity is an issue, and without a clear way to know who would be on those flights, it's difficult to say they should continue. However, at the end we should err on the side of helping as many people as we can, and on keeping families together when possible. 


The government could have made coherent public health argument for going slow, taking our own ability to treat people into account, and figuring out what to do about the problems on the China end. If they had said "we can't continue flights until we can guarantee that Taiwanese officials can oversee the passenger lists", I wouldn't be writing this. If they'd said "we have to ensure that they don't get priority but we'll try to get everyone out as we are able", nobody would argue with it. If they'd said evacuation needed to be stalled until these things could be worked out, this piece would not exist. They didn't.

Instead, they went straight for the nationalist sentiment - "the people don't want it, so we won't do it".

If including (some) children of Taiwanese people in the evacuation plans even if they don't have Taiwanese nationality 'looks bad' to the Taiwanese public, I'm sorry, but the Taiwanese public is wrong. 


We justifiably complain that Taiwan's exclusion from the World Health Organization harms global health, especially in a time of crisis, denying human beings safe harbor in Taiwan is also harmful. Surely people will die who would have lived, if political posturing hadn't been deemed a higher priority. If Taiwan complains about the WHO putting lives in danger over politics - well, we are doing the same thing. We lose all moral high ground when we play the same damn game.

And these DPP officials are congratulating themselves for deciding that it's okay if children whom they could have saved, die (from the Taipei Times article):



DPP Chairman Cho Jung-tai (卓榮泰) lauded the government’s quick response after MAC’s announcement on Tuesday drew a predominantly negative response....
DPP Legislator Wang Ting-yu (王定宇) said that MAC officials made a “foolish” announcement on Tuesday.
“Right now, most Taiwanese are very worried about the ‘Wuhan virus’ and they are distrustful of the Chinese government,” Wang said. “As such, people were riled up and criticized MAC officials. I see this reaction as a very good thing for Taiwan, as it sends a strong signal of their discontent about the decision.” 


I have admired both Cho and Wang in the past.

Today, I am disgusted by them.

"Distrust of the Chinese government" is not enough of an excuse to tell families that only some members can be evacuated.

I cannot stress this enough: this is horrifying. It's macabre. It may not be murder exactly, but it is murder-adjacent. 


Yes, it would create more work for health care workers, and we can't ignore that. But consider how completely overwhelmed health workers in China are - people are dying before they can even get into a hospital. Taiwan has fewer than two dozen cases, and no community spread - it is absolutely possible to formulate a strategy that takes health care capacity into account.

What kind of country is unwilling to even attempt to figure out a solution for the children of its own citizens?


There are those who say that Taiwan needs to "protect its own citizens":

“However, it is clear that in light of the epidemic, the public believes that the government must prioritize protection of its citizens, and that their welfare must come first,” he added.

And of course, Taiwan simply cannot save every child in China. But please remember, these are the children of citizens, and not even very many of them. In that light, this sounds more like a nationalistic argument than a rational one.

It would not be an evacuation of Chinese people with no connection to Taiwan. They have the right to access Taiwanese (well, ROC) citizenship themselves. The children are half-Taiwanese! In many cases, this policy will surely put Taiwanese citizens themselves at risk as well, as many will be unwilling to leave their families.

I can imagine myself in such a situation. My husband has Canadian citizenship, but I don't as we've never endeavored to live there. If there were a pandemic in Taiwan and the Canadian government said that my husband could be evacuated to Canada but he'd have to leave me behind, I highly doubt he would go. 


Some say that if these family members have never sought the proper documents to come to Taiwan, that technically they have no rights here. Legally, I don't know if that's the case - they might truly have no rights, or they might have rights (especially the children of Taiwanese nationals) but be unable to access them.

This is not a compelling argument. The PRC doesn't allow dual nationality, especially not with the ROC. In theory, one cannot 'give up' PRC nationality. In practice, immigrating to Taiwan means giving up Chinese documentation and obtaining ROC documentation. The PRC doesn't recognize these documents, but considers the new household registration to be in 'Taiwan province'. If you get such a household registration, you lose the one you had in China. So, practically speaking, you are giving up one nationality for another. There is no other way for Chinese nationals to become Taiwanese citizens.

There's an argument to be made that they 'chose China' and therefore Taiwan has no obligation to them. I get that. But - if you've gone to China for work and your spouse is Chinese, getting your child ROC nationality isn't easy to do. 


I understand that as an American abroad I lose some of the guarantees that come with being a US citizen, and I am not guaranteed a safe evacuation should problems arise in Taiwan. I too felt that the Taiwanese woman working in Wuhan who returned to Taiwan knowing she had COVID-19 symptoms was selfish - she put others in danger when choosing to work abroad means accepting that you may have to be treated through local medical care.

These are official channels we're talking about, however, and children who didn't do anything wrong. That's not the same as putting others in danger by sneaking back in with a fever.

In any case, if a Taiwanese person goes to China for work, meets someone and has a child there, it would make sense that they would stay there. Yes, it would be preferable if these families had chosen to put their faith in Taiwan, but it doesn't make them bad people that they chose a path that looked sensible to them personally.

I've also heard that this is how things are because relations between Taiwan and China are not like normal countries. This is true, but it's not a reason to separate families.


And if this is what the people in Taiwan want, they are wrong, especially if they're crying "disease knows no borders!" at the WHO, while closing their borders to the families of their own citizens.

People are justifiably angry over the way China has treated Taiwan. They shouldn't trust the Chinese government, but any belief that prioritizes politics, nationalist sentiment and hurt feelings over the lives of children is problematic.

I chose to stay in this country because I believe in what it stands for - a beacon of freedom, and not in the drum-beating American way. In standing up for yourself in the face of unimaginable, seemingly insurmountable opposition. In refusing to back down when everyone is against you, because you are in the right. In doing all of that unflinchingly, but also peacefully, because nobody wants a war.

I believe in the kind of country Taiwan can be, and I think it can do better than this.

Perhaps I was wrong. At a time when the Tsai administration, DPP and CECC could have shown leadership - not pandering to the worst impulses of people but rather demonstrating and encouraging higher standards in our actions and discourse - they chose pandering.

Independence or a unique identity from China is not enough - Taiwan has to not just stand up as a country, but decide what kind of country it wants to be.


This country could have shown the world that, unlike China and the WHO, it won't sacrifice families children for the sake of politics. It didn't.

Taiwan can be - and needs to be - better than this. 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Nobody knows anything about coronavirus, and there are two reasons why

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Source: Facebook (I've seen it in several places, I have no idea who to credit for creating it)


I noted in my last post that "we know nothing" about coronavirus, and I want to expand on that a little and talk about why.


...the international media is taking government data as gospel, which people in China know right now not to do. We don’t know what the fatality rate is because nobody knows how many people died before being diagnosed because they couldn’t get care. China keeps reporting “2.1%”, a number I don’t think anyone in China believes. We have no idea how contagious it is, either. We know nothing.

Let me be clear when I say "we don't know anything" - we don't know the fatality rate, as I noted. We also don't know yet where it came from (though as SARS originated in a wet market, coronavirus probably did too). We don't know how contagious it is, because if we don't know how many people have it, and how many have died from it, how can we know how easy it is to get?

We probably know that it's transmitted through aerosolized body fluids - that is, droplets of saliva from normal breathing - and you can get it by getting it on your hands and touching sensitive membranes in your face. At least, we think we know - that information also comes from China, but it seems highly plausible, even likely. In fact, it's hardly groundbreaking, that's how most colds and flus spread. 


In fact, if you're going to be worried about anything, don't let it be coronavirus. If you are not in China, you probably will not catch it (even if you are in China, you might be fine). Be afraid that we don't know anything about anything, the people fighting it don't really know anything, and even if the CCP did know, they'd probably lie about it.

But why? We can blame two factors - the first is that the Chinese government and health care "system", such as it is, is completely overwhelmed and it's likely they themselves don't have a clue what these data actually are. The second is that the Chinese government thinks it can decide what is true, and attempts to push a political agenda even to their own detriment, as well as the world's. 


So there are two layers of unreliability: the CCP is lying about data it doesn't even know itself. 

The first reason isn't entirely China's fault. I mean, it is absolutely their fault that they covered up the initial outbreak, allowing it to get worse. If they've learned anything from SARS, it's manifested in a slightly faster path from "pretending this doesn't exist and punishing anyone who says otherwise" to "admitting we have a problem", not in eliminating the first stage altogether. It is also their fault that they've allowed the nation's lackluster health care - which is absolutely not "free" or even "public" as many Westerners believe - to fester for so long.

But it is not their fault that the virus broke out there; these things happen around the world. So it's not their fault that they are the epicenter, nor that they had to be the first to fight it, while the rest of the world got a heads-up and some time to prepare.

The second - their consistent lies and cover-ups when SARS should have been a lesson against such behavior - obviously is their fault. That should not need to be explained. The lying, yes, but also their consistent opposition to Taiwan's participation in the WHO and other international organizations (such as ICAO) where their expertise and superlative health care and responsiveness to the epidemic could be of great help in combating it.

With all that in mind, let me hazard a few speculations about these things we don't know. 


First: coronavirus probably is highly contagious - we just don't know to what extent. We don't have enough data to compare it to the common flu, so please stop doing that. But the flu exists in China, and hasn't created an epidemic like this in previous years. If people going out for hot pot can infect much of their family and it's possible to contract it just transiting through Hong Kong, that points to potentially high contagion rates. It's possible that China is overreacting by locking down entire cities, but I doubt they'd self-destruct their own economy - through two sources I know that even Shenzhen is in full-city quarantine, which would be economically devastating - if they didn't have reason to worry.

But - how much of that contagion is simply because it is highly contagious, compared to how much is potentially caused by overwhelmed health care systems in China and poor public hygiene in general? I contracted bronchial pneumonia twice in one year in China; this is almost certainly a contributing factor. How much of it is due to an inability to practice appropriate epidemic-fighting hygiene protocol because masks, sanitizer and alcohol cleaner are all impossible to get, in a contagion zone?

I have no idea, but the fact that the virus seems to be spreading slowly and is basically under control in most of the rest of the world means that it probably can be contained, and isn't necessarily going to be a global pandemic. You might want to keep people in China in your thoughts, however. They don't deserve this and with every Chinese system on overload, it's probably going to get worse.


How much of the unknown fatality rate is caused by those same factors - an overwhelmed system, shortages of necessary hygiene supplies and poor general public hygiene, as well as paranoid quarantine policies that put people in non-virus-related danger and have resulted in at least one death?

It's impossible to say, but the fact that a lot of people are dying from coronavirus in China (though we don't actually know how many) and very few have died abroad shows that the environment and poor government response in China are factors. 


That brings me to my final points - first, I don't even know how much to blame China for actions which seem malicious. That charter flight meant to bring at-risk Taiwanese back to Taiwan, that ended up being full of wives and children of evacuees (who also deserve to be flown out, but not at the expense of at-risk people)? You know, the one which ended up containing at least one confirmed coronavirus carrier? Some have accused China of purposely putting infected people on that plane as an attack on Taiwan, but I honestly think, in conditions that have been described as "wartime", that it's far more likely that they didn't have the wherewithal to intentionally put a carrier on that plane, and just let a person who'd bribed their way into a seat take what they'd paid for.

Second, if you are not in China, please stop freaking out. Taiwan's response has been exemplary - this is what open information and quick responses can accomplish. Japan has done a good job as well; Singapore is pretty good at this sort of thing. In fact, it seems that even if this coronavirus is highly infectious and highly fatal, that a strong public health response can keep it in check. Again, it's not China's fault that it was the epicenter - only that it spread in a government-imposed information vacuum.

That the rest of Asia has done a brilliant job of organizing a strong response before it could spread further is good news for the world.

This is probably not the last epidemic virus that will originate in China - the huge population, generally poor public health care, poor public hygiene (think bad plumbing, undrinkable tap water, rarely-cleaned public toilets, public spitting - though that has decreased markedly in the last decade) and prevalence of wet markets almost guarantee it. I certainly hope for the people of China that coronavirus is brought under control, though I also hope that they can overthrow that useless CCP and create a government more capable of responding to such outbreaks.

In other words, sunlight is in fact the best disinfectant. Open information, strong public health and quick action seem to be pretty effective in combating coronavirus, and they are protecting entire populations. I can only hope China figures out those three coronavirus 'vaccines' sooner rather than later. 


But the ability of much of the rest of Asia to coordinate a containment response and share what information they have freely is good news for the rest of the world. Forget the "first island chain" and South Korea in terms of traditional defense - warships, airstrips, bases and whatnot. This is the front line when major epidemics originate in Asia, and rather than excluding a key node in that defensive chain from organizations like the WHO, maybe the world should stop pretending the CCP is a true ally, and start realizing that the rest of Asia - including Taiwan - should get more credit. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The kids are all right

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Yes, it's been almost two weeks since I've updated, and no, it wasn't planned. I just really had to get my dissertation proposal in. I was going to jump back into blogging with a few restaurant reviews, a few long-overdue trip reports, a book review...you know, the sorts of things that a person who's just spent the past two weeks deeply stressed out might post. But no, some kids in Kaohsiung decided to be awesome, and now that has to come first.

I have a jumble of thoughts about these kids - who are old enough to have been my kids in a very different timeline, which is super weird because I totally want to buy each of them a Taiwan Beer like an old friend or Cool Aunt. I love how creative they are, how willing they are to take public risks to say what they think, and how thoughtful and full of integrity they are at that age. How civil the points they are making are - there is nothing uncivil about telling the mayor to finish his term, or pointing out that he lies. He does lie. It's speaking truth to power at an admirably young age.

I mean, damn - I was a total dipshit at 17. To be honest, I'm jealous. If these are our future leaders, we're going to be okay.

My first thought is that if we can keep Taiwan safe - as in, still a functioning democracy and not sold out to China - long enough for this generation and their immediate elders (think Millenial Taiwanese) to be the most influential voting block, then Taiwan will be just fine. A large enough percentage of them are smart enough to see Chinese media infiltration and other nefarious tricks for what they are, and showed up in droves (tens of thousands, not thousands) to protest it. They understand what equal rights really means and are willing to put in the time to physically show up and voice their discontent.

In fact, their way of protesting Mayor Han was creative and ballsy enough, clear and concise yet civilized, that Taiwanese civil life will be made better as more of them grow up to be activists and public figures, or start otherwise contributing to the discourse here. They are quite literally doing what their parents and grandparents won't, seeing things their ancestors are too naive (or wrongheaded, or brainwashed) to see, and noticing that if a public protest against Han is going to be lodged, they're the ones who have to do it. They're doing what their elders should be doing - but aren't - as it becomes clearer that Han is a Manchurian candidate, with a whole host of undesirable puppet masters.

They know the pro-Han, pro-China, pro-KMT media won't report on their rebellion, but they also know their parents and grandparents will be in the audience or see those photos. They're aiming their protest not just at the media, at Han, and Taiwan at large, but at their own elders, in such a way that they can't look away or ignore it. That's just smart.

That's the thing, though - China knows this. The KMT knows this. The unholy China-KMT Union (yes, it is a thing, don't pretend you don't know) knows this. They are perfectly well aware that they will never, ever win the hearts and minds of the youth, so the plan is to rip the carpet out from under the youth before they gain enough political power to stop it. The war (yes, it is a war - yet again, don't pretend you don't know) is escalating because they know their window of potential victory narrows every time an easily-manipulated older person dies, and a more attuned one gets the right to vote. They need to destroy Taiwan's democratic norms and will to resist before that happens, and frankly, we're not fighting back fast enough.

That's not to say every older person is 'easily manipulated', but enough of them are that it's a real problem, and China is absolutely seizing on it.

My next thought concerns this response from Han, from the Taipei Times link above:

“I think it is a great thing when young people speak their mind,” Han said yesterday in response to media queries. 
He has always encouraged young people to express their opinions and will support them under any circumstances, but it is “inappropriate” to tie political issues to an educational event, he said. 
“If students have opinions, they can express them off-stage,” he added. 
Taking a photo on stage with the mayor after receiving an award for graduating with top grades is the “most honorable moment of [a student’s] life” and he hopes such educational events can remain pure, Han said.

First, Mr. Han, if you really thought it was a 'great thing for young people to speak their mind', you wouldn't say that they should do it offstage - in the least effective way, where it won't hurt you at all. You're fine with them saying what they want as long as nobody listens.

Secondly, this whole thing is a massive concern troll - "inappropriate", "it's an honorable event, keep it pure"? Yeah, okay, and I bet you're just "worried about their health" or "don't want them to have any trouble later", too. Whatever buddy.

And, of course, it's absolutely laughable that a politician showing up at an event would say that event should be free of politics. If you want a politics-free event, politicians should not be invited. They are public figures and must accept that they are fair game at any public event. They make it political by being there. Otherwise Han's just saying that his politics - photo-ops with award winning students are inherently a political activity undertaken to make a politician look good - are apolitical, but everyone else's politics 'impure'.

A lot of people are saying that these kids are the brightest, the award-winners, the smart ones - they're not representative of Taiwanese youth as a whole. And yes, they do stand out. But every generational shift and successful social movement has the people at the tip of the spear. That doesn't mean the rest of the spear isn't there, or isn't important.

If anyone knows where I can formally offer to buy every last one of them a beer - yes, even the underage ones though they can have bubble tea if they'd prefer - I'd love to hear it. And I'm not sure I'm joking.