Showing posts with label republicans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label republicans. Show all posts

Friday, November 1, 2019

Armenia, Ilhan Omar's vote, Taiwan and China

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Armenian genocide refugees in what I believe is Athens, Greece (probably, though not certainly, Kokkinia) before WWII 

You probably don't think Rep. Ilhan Omar's decision not to vote for the official recognition of the Armenian Genocide, which has drawn a media firestorm, could have any relationship to the Taiwan and China issues...and yeah, you'd probably be right. But I'm like that crazy dude with a shed where the inside is covered in newspaper clippings and photos with thumbtacks and red string connecting them in seemingly random ways, so hop aboard, this crazy-string train's about to sail.

But two things before we kick off: first, I'm not writing this to attack Omar as a person or public figure. I'm not even specifically concerned about a donation she received from an Erdogan ally, though obviously I'm not a fan. She as a congressional representative is actually somewhat irrelevant to the point I want to make - it's the flawed logic behind her choice that I want to address. And secondly, I actually do think that a vote on an unrelated issue by a young super-progressive Democrat has a lot to tell us about why the fight for Taiwan is so hard.

My first reaction to Omar's vote was inherently tribalist: Armenians are my people (on one side, anyway) and they've been fighting for international recognition of the genocide perpetrated against them in Turkey for over 100 years now against a Turkish propaganda machine hell-bent on silencing them to save Turkish face. I exist because the genocide happened, so hear that someone I have otherwise supported voted against its recognition for purely political reasons felt like a hard slap. You know, like the way I feel when progressives I would otherwise support make vaguely pro-China sounds.

I had felt - and still feel - that previous attacks on Omar have been disingenuous. "She disrespected 9/11 victims" was fabricated and I see criticism of the Israeli government and lobbyists - including AIPAC - and the massive sums they spend to further their agenda, not anti-Semitism. Media reporting of her comments makes it difficult to separate what she actually said and how it might be interpreted from the truthiness machine that certainly has aimed in the past to smear her, and for this reason I'm generally more likely than not to lean sympathetic to her.

This time, however, her own office's press release disappointed me. Although I believe she attempted to take an ethical stance (and failed), I wonder what the logic of such so-called 'ethical' stands would result in, if used to justify certain positions or votes on issues related to Taiwan and the region where I live. In fact, a lot of them are already being employed this way.

How so? Well...



"This is just a political move designed to embarrass Turkey at the worst possible time"

"Erdogan's not great, but if we anger him and embarrass Turkey with this political move, he might not hold back on the Syrian border" types were the first I encountered after the news broke. I want to be very clear: it's the sort of thing I heard online. Omar's press release indicates that she doesn't believe this, though none of her actual votes seem to back that up.

In any case, Turkey deserves to be embarrassed over its blatant historical revisionism. More importantly, it's just not a great idea to avoid acknowledging certain facts because it could hurt a dictator's feelings, or to play the game beloved by authoritarians of "you back down on this and maybe I won't commit genocide (again)". That's a game we just can't win. The game was designed to be lost and the only way to end it once and for all is to refuse to play.

You don't have to imagine the same logic being applied against Taiwan now, because it's already happening. I feel like "if we recognize the obvious truth that Taiwan isn't and doesn't want to be a part of China, that could anger China, so we'd better not" has been a decades-long game of political make-believe.

In any case, just as Turkey deserves to lose face re: their ret-con of history, China deserves to lose face over its treatment of its neighbor, Taiwan. 



"She agrees with the content of the bill, but not how it's being used as 'a political cudgel'"


A lot of defenders of Omar's choice made this case, I suppose choosing to interpret her statement that "I also believe accountability for human rights violations—especially ethnic cleansing and genocide—is paramount" meant that she did personally recognize the fact of the Armenian genocide, but did not like it being used as "a cudgel in a political fight".

This is a generous interpretation and plausible, but that's not what I see. Nowhere in her statement does Omar actively recognize that the Armenian genocide happened - no words of sympathy for the descendants of refugees, despite being a refugee herself. Her statement goes no further than to say "genocides everywhere are bad". It does not say "I understand that this genocide happened".

Later she clarified that she does understand that the Armenian Genocide happened and it should be recognized:

"My issue was not with the substance of this resolution. Of course we should acknowledge the Genocide,” she tweeted in response to MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “My issue was with the timing and context."


This is super personal for me, and it does matter that she avoided doing so in her press release. And, as a descendant of the diaspora, "gee golly I'd like to recognize your history but it's just not the right timing and context" is just not good enough. Sorry - it's not.

"I'm concerned about the timing and context" is also political, especially when you're using those as reasons not to do the right thing, which you say you actually believe in.

How about this - this is my history regardless of whether it's convenient for you, so screw your "timing" and "context". Okay?

The same thing is done to Taiwan, by the way. It exists whether people like it or not. Yet how often is Taiwan told "we know you're doing great, it's just bad timing. We can't help you right now, because Big Scary China is there"?

Since I joined this fight (by "joined" I mean "started a blog and helped a few people out behind the scenes", but hey), it sure feels as though Taiwanese and Taiwan allies are asked, over and over again, to sympathetically interpret the words and actions of politicians abroad as wanting to support Taiwan or understanding Taiwan is a sovereign state, when their actual words/actions perhaps don't merit such generosity - and to accept and satisfied that they "believe" in our cause without expecting any real action. Why should we, though? It's been decades. Come on.

I remember when Obama was known to personally understand the truth of the Armenian genocide, but what exactly did he do to concretely further the cause of its recognition? Nothing. Personal belief doesn't mean much in the political sphere, as I see it. Stand up to dictators, damn it - don't just talk about how you'd like to.

This "political cudgel" line of thinking is also applied to Taiwan in other ways: have you heard sentiments along the lines of "we shouldn't support this pro-Taiwan initiative because Taiwan is just a political tool to the people sponsoring it"? I have - often. "I care about Taiwan but not in this call to normalize relations because it's just being proposed to anger China, so I won't actually do anything to further the cause of Taiwanese independence" is another common one. I mean, these guys are probably correct - it's not as though any US administration actually cares about Taiwan - but "the guys who take action that helps us are just using us so we can't trust them, and the guys who aren't doing a damn thing for us actually believe in our cause but we can't expect any action" is simply not a great strategy.

Besides, using a genocide recognition bill as a political cudgel to make a point about not using the recognition of genocide as a political cudgel...doesn't make a whole lot of sense. And I wonder which grandstanding leftie is going to take that stance when it's a bill to normalize relations with Taiwan on the table. 

I don't want Taiwan being used as a political cudgel but I'll take a bill to normalize relations over "we shouldn't use this as a political cudgel" any day.


"Academic consensus, not geopolitics"

If anything, "...accountability and recognition of genocide....should be done based on academic consensus outside the push and pull of geopolitics" reads as a questioning the existence of an academic consensus on the Armenian Genocide, and implying the possibility that it's a manufactured geopolitical narrative rather than a real thing that actually happened. Of course, there is an academic consensus, and it is that the genocide occurred

Omar does clearly know that from her comments linked above, but it matters - it really does matter - that her own press release calls it into question.

And how many people have used "this is a geopolitical game, recognizing Taiwan should be based on consensus [implying there's no consensus]" as an excuse not to support Taiwan, resulting in their doing exactly what the CCP wants? More than a few.


"We can't cherry-pick which genocides to recognize for political reasons"

I agree with this. All genocides do in fact matter. We shouldn't choose which ones to recognize and when for political reasons. We should swiftly condemn perpetrators and take action to stop them as well as help victims. For this reason, we should have recognized the Armenian Genocide long ago.

But "we can't recognize this genocide until we recognize all genocides" just doesn't logically work. I'd rather more genocides be recognized, not fewer. I don't want to believe that "politics is the art of the possible" - I understand that while we "patiently" wait for our fellow people to do the right thing and accept half-assed compromises, entire lives are lived and lost in the breach. At the same time, "if we can't have everything right now, we don't want anything" gets us...nothing. Or, as I've written before, the far left wants the world to embrace its "radical" (not so radical) idea of a better world immediately, without compromise with 'the establishment'. I sympathize with that sentiment. But, in the words of a friend, without establishment allies, nothing actually gets done. No, I don't like it either.

Imagine saying that we can't cherry-pick support for Taiwan when we're not also supporting, say, Xinjiang or Hong Kong independence. I agree we need to support all of these, though their political situations are different, but wouldn't support throwing Taiwan under the bus until the entire CCP empire crumbles (which I hope happens, and I hope they're reading this). 


"Democrats are hypocrites"

Yeah, that's true.

I mean, it does smell a bit fishy for Democrats, who have pressured Congress to kill previous resolutions to recognize the genocide under both Clinton -  and Obama (but also George W. Bush, and Hillary Clinton's been no paragon of virtue on the subject, so this goes both ways), to suddenly up and vote for it like so:



Most recently, Newsweek reported that the Trump administration considered threatening Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with U.S. recognition of the Armenian genocide if the Turkish army invaded northern Syria following the U.S. military withdrawal. After Turkish forces swept into northern Syria, congressional leaders — incensed by Ankara’s belligerence — announced that a vote on the most recent iteration of the Armenian genocide resolution will be considered this week.

I don't support Omar's choice, but can we all just agree that sucks?

But ultimately, as I noted above, Erdogan deserves to be threatened with something, and we're talking about historical facts here. Even those Armenians who understand that this is all a political game and everything's a tool - including the tool that Omar herself used - seemed to want it to pass. After all, recognition even in this way is better than yet another failed bill. From the same op-ed:



The bipartisan sport of killing Armenian genocide bills and weaponizing the suffering of its victims must end. By passing this resolution, the House can help ensure that the Armenian genocide is acknowledged and commemorated, but no longer exploited.

Think about it this way: once the thing is passed, it can't be used this way in the future, and we'll have done the right thing!

Even Omar probably wanted it, or something like it, to pass, as she chose to grandstand when she knew it would (that's why this is not really about her).



In the context of Taiwan, I don't know anyone who welcomes support from the US who doesn't realize that Taiwan is a poker chip for them, and that few in the US government actually care about Taiwan, or Hong Kong, or any of it. But they - we - welcome US support nonetheless because what other choice have we got, really? And what other choice have the Armenian diaspora got after so many failed attempts?

As I see it, the Democrats might be hypocritical from the perspective of a few decades, but it's better that they are doing the right thing now than keeping up their old anti-recognition bullshit to be more consistent.


Principles should make sense


So, it's unclear to me exactly what Omar was trying to take a principled stand on. The use of good bills as political weapons? Okay, but she also used the same bill as a political weapon. That we shouldn't use this otherwise good bill to threaten an evil strongman? That doesn't make sense, and her own press release said Turkey deserved a rebuking and that Syrians and Kurds were in trouble. That we should refuse to discuss anything until we are ready to discuss everything? Not useful. Hypocritical Democrats? Sure, but so what? How does that actually help the Armenians?

The same question can be raised about Taiwan - if you oppose using Taiwan as a political tool, well, I agree. But how would it help Taiwan to oppose US support for Taiwan, realistically? 


Who wins from these games?

Dictators around the world, in that they get to watch liberals, including US Democrats, tear each other apart. 

But also Republicans. Democrats get to talk big about universal liberal values but when the weakling fancy lad centrists among them waffle on actually promoting those ideas abroad (but are fine with exporting the worst parts of American crony capitalism), and the most progressive among them want to call them out for it by not voting for resolutions that actually espouse their values, what use are they really? Though far from perfect, domestically they at least sort of nod in the right direction, usually. Abroad, they look like a bunch of neoliberal pseudo-realpolitik (yet also spineless) jerks and, to be frank...they are.

And then Republicans get to swoop in with their "we support Taiwan! We support Hong Kong! Look at what China is doing!" and seem like they're the big champions of freedom and human rights, and that looks great.

Except domestically, their party is actively trying, once again, to disenfranchise voters they deem undesirable. They are trying to take bodily autonomy away from women to a degree that not even corpses are subjected to. They consistently fought marriage equality until they couldn't anymore and turned their attention to attacking trans people's rights. They are not the standard-bearers of freedom and human rights in the US, period. 



It's really not about Ilhan Omar

My main point here is this: when we apply the "but you can't do the right thing now, it'd make you a hypocrite!", "I won't vote for this thing I agree with until conditions are absolutely perfect and also I get a unicorn!", "I'm going to use this as a political tool to demonstrate how it's wrong of you to use it as a political tool" and "let's not do the right thing if we're (only) doing it to anger dictators" logic that Omar used in her absolutely stupid decision, it starts to look really scary for Taiwan.

It makes it harder for previously weak-spined liberals to finally do the right thing. It makes it impossible to get anything done. Everything is a political tool whether we like it or not, including Taiwan, and no, we don't get better choices just because we really, really want them. I don't want people like Omar using Taiwan as a cudgel any more than I want anyone else doing it. We should do the right thing to anger dictators, always.

If we want the Armenian genocide recognized, regardless of the extenuating circumstances, we should recognize the Armenian genocide, not...not do that because we don't like the timing. If we want Taiwan to be truly free and independent with the support of the democratic world, we should support a truly free and democratic Taiwan, not do what Democrats seem to love, talking like, aw jeez, y'know, I hear ya, but it's just not a good time, I mean...trade...you know.  iPhones and such. So we'd like to but, oh golly, we can't. So sorry and being absolutely no use whatsoever.

And then when we finally get a real shot, a few defectors weaken us all with "oh but we can't, that's just politicking and we're above that".

No - if you want a thing recognized, whether it's Taiwan or the Armenian Genocide or whatever, recognize it

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.

Friday, July 6, 2018

It is really hard to support Taiwan (Part 2)

So, I've tried to write before about certain issues I see in who Taiwan's 'friends' are in the US government, and why that's a problem. I didn't do a very good job, and I won't bother to link it. I do still think it's an issue though, so consider this my attempt at refining and re-articulating what I want to express.

Overall, it does seem clear that Taiwan has more bipartisan support in the US than you'd think at first glance. I've written about this before; more recently, you can see evidence of this in the fact that the Taiwan Travel Act was passed unanimously by the Foreign Affairs Committee and both houses. The situation is not as dire as it seems.

But, despite this, we do still seem to get the most vocal support predominantly (though not entirely) from conservatives, some of whom are otherwise just...dire people. The Taiwan Travel Act was Marco Rubio's bill. Ted Cruz likes us...so, uh, okay. Dana Rohrabacher has submitted a resolution for formal US-Taiwan ties, which of course I heartily support.

Note above that I said "conservatives", not "Republicans" (though they are that too) - that's intentional. I'm sure what I'll say below will be dismissed as "tribalist" or "partisan", so I want to make it very clear that this isn't about parties or tribes: it's about values. If a dodgy Democrat (and they do exist - I'm not a huge fan of Andrew Cuomo for example) or an upstanding Republican (I don't have many problems with, say, Susan Collins although we don't agree on everything) were to show support for Taiwan, I'd judge them on their values and history of elected service, not their party.

I also understand the importance of taking help where we can get it: I may not like it, but in Taiwan's position I can't get behind abandoning the few people who have actually spoken up for us, while those I'd like to see in our court have, frankly, failed to live up to the universal values they claim to support.

With that in mind, I don't think I have to list the many ways in which people like Rubio, Cruz and Rohrabacher are, in almost every other respect, horrible. (I say "almost" very intentionally. Cruz occasionally stands up for what he thinks is right, Rubio is a big supporter of Hong Kong's political freedom, and Rohrabacher is pro-weed, which has all sorts of race implications that people don't always think about: people of color are far more likely to be incarcerated over a marijuana-related drug violation than white people, with the discrepancy not explained by rates of use).

From being anti-choice (and comfortable, therefore, with condemning more women to death as anti-choice policies only lead to fewer safe abortions) to climate change skeptics, to not supporting marriage equality, our allies on Taiwan are not good people. Period. The sort of world they want to build is one in which a huge swath of Taiwan ends up underwater, and on other issues such as marriage equality, a woman's right to bodily autonomy and health care access (and more - this is just a shortlist), I worry that the sort of Taiwan they would like to see would not be the one that other independence advocates like myself (and many others, including most young Taiwanese) hope to build.

That shouldn't matter - after all, they don't have any say over Taiwan's internal governance, but it still makes it difficult to support Taiwan for a few reasons. I find it unfair, then, to dismiss these concerns as mere partisanism or tribalism.

The biggest one is that liberal pro-Taiwan American citizens don't have many choices in terms of voting for pro-Taiwan candidates (this is why I haven't mentioned people like John Bolton, and am sticking to people one might actually see on a ballot). It's not a huge problem for me as a New Yorker (Chuck Schumer signed the letter summarized in the first link in this post; Kirsten Gillibrand studied in China and Taiwan so while I worry that she might be too forgiving of China, at least she doesn't lack basic knowledge of the issue, and nobody who runs for Congress in my district seems to have anything to do with Taiwan regardless of party), but it is a problem for many others. What do you do if you're a pro-Taiwan liberal, for example, and your choices are pro-Taiwan Ted Cruz or a not-so-pro-Taiwan challenger who is better than Cruz in every other way? Or your choice is between pro-Taiwan Dana Rohrabacher and his not-as-pro-Taiwan challenger, who again is better than Rohrabacher on every other platform?

Another problem is that it is starting to feel as though any critique of this issue among pro-Taiwan advocates initiates an immediate, reflexive and frankly unfair pushback of "that's PARTISAN!", which - while I know this isn't the case for many (most!) people on our side, kind of lends the whole endeavor of fighting for Taiwan a veneer of being far too closely tied with the conservative agenda in the US.

I know, for example, that FAPA is not "overly" focused on Republican lawmakers; they'll talk to whoever is in power. I have no issue with them. However, they are widely seen* as being in bed with the American Right, and have done little to dispel that notion. I would imagine that Taiwan independence advocates do - and are willing, even happy - to talk to the left, but the public perception seems to be that they don't make an effort (rather than that the left has failed Taiwan), and that is a problem. Of optics, but a problem nonetheless. That concerns me.

And, of course, the issue I so inarticulately brought up in the past: that it's easier to compartmentalize when talking to odious people in government as a man. The people you are discussing Taiwan with aren't trying to take away your ability to access important health care (forget even the abortion issue: they want to shut down Planned Parenthood which does a lot more than perform abortions. For some women it's the only way they have access to regular pap smears, STD tests and birth control.) They aren't trying to oppress you. You have the privilege of compartmentalization. I don't. I can't talk to them, and therefore I cannot be more deeply involved in the Taiwan independence movement in that way.

In fact, it is a privilege to be able to do so. It is a privilege to have the ability to treat every cog in the American power machine as a neutral actor who might help your cause, because your bodily autonomy is not on the line. For me, it's like knowing there are some men in power who would very much like to be Commanders and turn women like me into Handmaids, and being told to be nice to them, to approach them (or their office - same difference), to engage with them, maybe to even hope they are re-elected, because they might help you on another issue. To be told that if you support Taiwan, you can vote for people like them who will fight for recognition of Taiwan in the US government (something I have been told) - oh, but they want to turn you into a Handmaid.

And the answer there is a strong non-negotiable no to all of that. In fact, it is a privilege to be able to say yes, or even maybe.

This worries me, because it is not a great leap from "but that's PARTISAN!" to "if you can't be involved, that's your fault", when, frankly, it isn't. There is not a moral equivalency between their wish to oppress me and my insistence that I will not hold my tongue against people who both wield power and wish to oppress women. It's the fault of the men who hold these views.

Nobody has said this as of yet, and I know most wouldn't, but to be honest, some days I feel like it's inevitable that someone will. I suspect that if it comes down to just a few votes between turning American women into Handmaids (or not), and the deciding votes are held by conservative pro-Taiwan candidates, that some (many?) who lobby for Taiwan will stay silent for the sake of Taiwan, because Taiwan allies winning seats is more important to them than women's rights.

And as a woman, I just can't support that. I love Taiwan, but I also have a vagina, and I cannot work with the same people who want to oppress me. I can't stay silent, and I do hope many friends of Taiwan lose their seats.

In other words, it's not "tribalist" or "partisan" when my actual bodily autonomy is at stake. It's about my bodily fucking autonomy, not a tribe or party.

This leads me to a final issue: with this tug-of-war between liberal values (which often leave women in the cold regardless) and fighting for Taiwan, and calls of "partisan!" and "tribal!" on one side and calls of "you're all sellout imperialists!" (or whatever) on the other, it is very hard to support Taiwan when everybody else who supports Taiwan seems to hate each other, the whole thing is a fishbowl, and when you bring up concerns about our 'friends' who are manifestly anti-woman as a woman, it's your turn to be the center of that fishbowl and everyone hating each other and whatever.

(For the record, I don't hate anybody, and those in Taiwan whom I dislike are not Taiwan advocates although some are pro-independence.)

I'm not suggesting we change anything per se - I don't see how we could reasonably and realistically keep up this fight if we ditch our allies, odious as they are (I've heard a few proposals and am sympathetic to some, but none that are actually workable). But, I am concerned that the privilege of treating everyone as a neutral potential ally is not fully understood, and that attempts to point this out are met with reflexive and unfair critiques of "partisanship" rather than a true attempt to understand that one only has the privilege of advocating in this way if one does not stand to lose as much from some of these people staying in power (and if you are a woman who stands to lose, that it can be extremely stressful to join the fight anyway, or to decide not to do so because you simply can't abide your would-be oppressors.)

OOH! OOH! BONUS PROBLEMS
That Taiwan advocates don't seem to make much of an attempt to reach out to the general electorate at all is another problem - publishing only in outlets that people who are already knowledgeable about Taiwan read (like the Taipei Times), or niche publications that the average Western liberal wouldn't read regularly. I know it's difficult to get published more widely - I'll admit that I've tried and failed - but we have to. We're not reaching the voters. One can find non-Palestinians who care about Palestine, and non-Tibetans who care about Tibet among the electorate of any Western democracy, but it is rare indeed to meet a pro-Taiwan person who has no personal connection to Taiwan.

We need to change that, and we aren't trying.

Finally, I worry. What happens if a "friend of Taiwan" then slips into his speeches some sort of appeal to ensure marriage equality never becomes a reality, or supports people like Katy Faust returning and meddling in our business? What happens if links between some pro-Taiwan conservatives and the  American Christian right groups that are trying to influence the future of marriage equality in Taiwan are found to exist? (Sounds crazy, but they are on the same side in the anti-equality fight.)

This whole constellation of issues which are interrelated (although their relationships might not seem initially clear) are why, yet again, it is really, really, very hard to support Taiwan.


*I'm using past tense here because it's important to me to protect the identities of the people I know who have said exactly this. I won't name them and as this is a blog, not a journalistic endeavor, I don't have to. 

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.

Monday, August 7, 2017

(Updated) Stephen Yates said a stupid thing

Update: please read this post. The article this is based on was a gross mistranslation, and did not accurately reflect what Yates said. I hadn't realized a video was available: now that I do know that, the content below is not relevant.

I'll let this post stand as a monument to remind myself and others not to believe things too quickly, and also because - the comments that precipitated the post notwithstanding, I actually would like to make the dual points that 1.) every person who continues to live their life and build their country with Chinese missiles pointed at them is, in fact, risking their life and we'd best not forget that, and 2.) Taiwan is already independent, so discussions on whether it "should be" that way are irrelevant.

These things are true regardless of what Yates or anyone else says, but you deserve to know the truth about the interview. 

I can't say I'm particularly shocked. Not because I think he's a moron, and although I appreciate his support of Taiwan, he is a conservative and he did give a deeply unimpressive speech once that started out as one long nyah-nyah our guy won, when "their guy" is one of the worst people in the world. While it is, or at least once was, possible to vote Republican and still be a reasonable person, I genuinely do think typical American conservative arguments tend to be deficient in both morality and reason. I would say this is a new phenomenon, but it's been going on since Goldwater, so perhaps not.

You may wonder why I care enough about some random thing he said while being quickly interviewed, which is not likely to make it past the Taipei Times. In part it's because this is a sadly common belief, especially in the West (where it is really easy to say because we're done with all the dying and are not the ones risking our lives unless we choose to enter mostly unnecessary wars). I want to puncture it right now. It's also because if this is the garbled muck coming out of the mouth of a friend of Taiwan, we have a problem - a big one. It must be addressed.

Anyway, let's look at the stupid thing he said. (I'm assuming Tom Lee wouldn't just make this up whole-cloth).

"When I asked why the US would not support Taiwanese independence to keep it from being annexed by China, Yates said Taiwan is not ready for independence like the US’ founders, who vowed to defend the US Declaration of Independence with their lives, their assets and their sacred honor.
If Taiwanese were willing to trade their lives, assets and sacred honor for Taiwanese independence, they would win the support of the international community, but the nation is not ready for that."

Yo...no.

First of all, what makes him think the Taiwanese are not willing to trade their lives, should it come to it. This is a country about which it was once said "every three years a rebellion, every five years ar revolt" (or something like that). Do you really think Taiwan has no fighting spirit? They've been fighting a long cold war for over a generation. As a "friend", he should know this.

I would like him to understand as well that the Taiwanese are risking their lives. Simply by existing, building their country, electing a president China doesn't like, and refusing to give up despite being so obviously outgunned, with over a thousand missiles pointed straight at them, every single Taiwanese person who does not flee the shores of their country is showing, on some level, a willingness to risk everything for the freedom of their country.

Please, Mr. Yates, do not underestimate that. It is one of the things I love most about Taiwan.

Secondly, Taiwan is already independent and Stephen Yates of all non-Taiwanese people should know that. What it lacks is recognition of that independence. 

Why would the Taiwanese "trade their lives" for something they already have

It's one thing to fight for freedom and be willing to die when you don't have it, and want it. It's another to do that when you already have freedom, and all you are asking for is recognition of same. Nobody should have to trade their life to get other countries to recognize what is already true about their own.
Frankly, it would be a dumb move to do so. This is where I think his conservatism is showing: everything is a battle, and you have to be willing to die for your cause - or at least, it's OK for people who won't suffer to tell those who will that they should. No thought given to the complexities of why that's a bad idea.

There seems to be an assumption here that, were the Taiwanese to plunge headlong into a war simply to be recognized for what it already is, the rest of the world would rally behind them because they are standing up ~*~For Freedom!!!~*~ This is another attitude I would link to conservatism - lots of rah-rah patriotism and 'standing up for your country and the world will stand with you' talk, and it's simply wrong. "Coalition of the Willing" wrong. The only way Taiwan is going to rack up friends is by doing literally the exact opposite of that.

The US has said time and time again that their "position" is a peaceful resolution. A situation in which the Taiwanese would have to "trade their lives" is by definition not a peaceful one.

If what he means instead is that Taiwan should be willing to show that its people are willing to die for their cause, well, that would cause the international media, who already think that problems with China either appear from thin air (they don't - they appear from China) or that they are caused by Taiwan (they aren't - they are caused by China), to pitch a fit about how Taiwan is causing "tensions". It would cause clucks of disapproval from around the world, and you know that. 

He contradicts himself, and then says as much, later on in the same article:
“In my opinion, whether Taiwan becomes independent will not depend on a referendum or an official declaration announcing the founding of a Republic of Taiwan.
Taiwan is independent because the Taiwanese are their own masters. Taiwanese should not be too pessimistic about their diplomatic situation, because, in addition to diplomatic space, there is also political space, economic space and other kinds of space where it can put its advantages to good use.”
Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he just garbled his words a bit, it's still dumb to say "Taiwan is not ready for independence" when Taiwan is already independent. Of course Taiwan is "ready" for independence, because - repeating myself because it cannot be emphasized enough - it already has it and the country is run, if not perfectly, at least well enough to keep itself going as a first world nation, especially considering its circumstances. 
One can be ready to risk one's life for something without being stupid enough to run into near-certain death. Right now, a war against China is not winnable for Taiwan. If you enter that war, especially as a fighter, you will most likely die or suffer a worse fate. That's not "being ready" because you "are willing to trade your life", that's just stupid.

To put it in television terms, Taiwan is not Robb Stark. It is Sansa Stark, and that's exactly what it needs to be if it has any hope of eventually coming out on top. 
Taiwan, fortunately, is much smarter than that and is playing a longer game in which millions of its citizens don't die in a costly and devastating war, for the best possible chance at a good outcome for an independent Taiwan. Whether or not they will succeed is for the future to answer, but honestly, while I can think of improvements to their strategy, I can't think of a better overall strategy for the country. 

Does he really think that the saber-rattling he seems to be calling for, which would be more likely to lead to a war that Taiwan would lose, is a better idea? Isn't he a diplomat?

Thirdly, he puts the "founders" (the founding fathers - slaveowners and at least one rapist, none of whom thought women deserved a voice in politics) up on a pedestal that most people well-read in history know they don't entirely deserve. A very bright young Armenian woman I met in Alaverdi who asked me what I thought of Thomas Jefferson ("He's a complicated figure. He did some important things but I do not worship him, or anyone") knew that. Yates should too.

Does he also think that, "founding fathers" aside, that all Americans would be willing to risk their lives for their country? Does he think we'd do so even if the war were unwinnable? Are we supposed to go all Les Miserables and die on barricades we have no real hope of defending, were it to come to that? Does he really have such an inflated sense of how "great" America is, or was, compared to the rest of the world? Is he so secure in his own comfortably independent nation that he feels fine telling people halfway around the world whose country faces an overwhelming international threat that he, a person from a country that does not face any such international threat, is OK but they should be willing to die?

Most people wouldn't do that, and I can't blame them. But all people deserve freedom. Yes, all people. Even the ones who play a long game rather than get into unwinnable fights.

So, yes, I am deeply disappointed in this pile of nonsense from a "friend of Taiwan."

Do better, Stephen Yates. I don't like your ideology very much (I mean, I'm a liberal), I could never vote for your party (I guess I'm crazy to like affordable access to health care, including reproductive health care - your party's platforms are a part of why I left the US in the first place and they actively harm my friends). I do not think that your ideology, nor that of any other pro-Taiwan Republican, is compatible with the mostly - but not entirely - liberal and progressive outlook of the new face of pro-Taiwan local activism, and I do think this is going to cause problems. I suspect the lot of you support Taiwan without really understanding what Taiwan is about. Your former boss is quite literally a war criminal and one of the worst people in the world and you seem weirdly okay with that, and your current president is a magnificent douchelord and you seem OK-enough with that too - and I am not OK with your being OK with either of those - but you are, for better or worse, one of the best friends Taiwan has.

I expect better than this from someone Taiwan should be able to call a "friend".

Friday, April 7, 2017

Pass the sausage: a crazy theory about why there aren't many female Taiwan experts



First, let's take a moment to acknowledge Freedom of Speech day in Taiwan, although it is not an official holiday (but should be). Today was the day 28 years ago when activist and writer Nylon Deng self-immolated before his imminent arrest by police after a period of barricading himself in his office.  Nylon s best remembered by the activist community in Taiwan for insisting on "100% freedom of speech", and for openly supporting Taiwan independence when it was not quite safe to do so. Today also happens to be the day that Reporters Without Borders announced that they'd open their Asia bureau in Taipei rather than Hong Kong, and I am choosing to believe that this is not a coincidence, even though it probably is.

As it is around the world, activism and feminism tend to go hand-in-hand, although through history many liberals have been supportive of liberal causes yet dismissive of feminist ones, or of women's equality. I remember, when watching the tear-jerking documentary on Nylon in the museum dedicated to him on the site of his self-immolation, an offhand comment that he was "cruel" to his wife and daughter. The moment went by quickly and I haven't re-watched the film, though I will soon as I do own it, but it caused me to reflect on that point.

But that was the 1980s and this is 2017, a time when being a liberal, progressive or activist but not being feminist will cause one serious problems. I do think, then, it is worthwhile to reflect on the presence of women in Taiwan Studies and advocacy around the world, as tenuous as that link may be.

This generally excellent piece came out recently on the Trump-Xi meeting (which I am not commenting on much because I don't have much to say), and it was pointed out that nine Taiwan experts were included, and not one of them was female. "Yup, bit of a sausage fest", it was acknowledged (and I do appreciate the acknowledgement). Of course, that's not to say there aren't any Taiwan experts. Some of my favorite books on Taiwan were written by women (reading this now and loving it), and of course there's the well-known Shelley Rigger (though I have to say I'm not a huge fan of her work for the reasons Michael Turton outlined here). Edit: a few more names I have in fact come across have been pointed out: Bonnie Glaser and Gwyneth Wang, to name a few. In any case, pickings sure do seem to remain slim. 

But if you could ask me to name other prominent female Taiwan experts or advocates, I don't think I could. I know the community, so I'm not shooting in the dark here, yet, it really does seem to be something of a sausage fest.

Why is that?

Of course I have a theory.

Keep in mind it's just a theory, concocted within the confines of my own weird brain, as far as I know really only explains the dearth of notable female Taiwan supporters in the US, and is quite open to constructive feedback. It's not meant to be a definitive statement on the matter.

Yet, as far as the US is concerned, I can't help but notice that most Taiwan experts also happen to be Taiwan advocates. It's quite common, even the norm, to be both an expert and a part of the Taiwan independence movement. In the US, who are the 'friends of Taiwan' in the government that Taiwan independence supporters tend to turn to, or at least receive the greatest support from?

Republicans. And in some cases, some of the worst Republicans in office. In every other sense, beyond their support of Taiwan (which usually seems to stem from a hatred of China rather than a genuine caring for Taiwan), just really terrible people. People like Marco Rubio, who supports both Hong Kong's localist movement and Taiwan, but who is a total shitlord when it comes to women's issues. People like Tom Cotton, who also supports both Taiwan and Hong Kong, who is also a total douchestick on women's issues. Even Bob Dole, that ol' 90s throwback who honestly was more moderate than these other losers on women's issues for his day (emphasis: for his day), isn't great.

No, I'm not going to be nicer about that because they're friends of Taiwan. They're also turdburglars and they deserve the criticism.

And to be fair, not every friend of Taiwan is like this. I don't have any particular criticisms of unelected supporters of Taiwan in government (think Bolton, Yates), but they tend to be Republicans, and Republicans are at this moment in history actively working against women's rights.

I'm not even going to talk about Trump because he doesn't have a clear Taiwan policy (the one thing that is clear is that he cares about nobody but himself, his family and sweet sweet money, and possibly power as well, and he'll sacrifice anything and everything for those things). But Taiwan's association with Trump, I can tell you honestly, has hurt Taiwan's standing among liberal voters, if they cared about Taiwan to begin with, which most don't. I'll stop there, because "liberal voters" are not the same as "Taiwan experts" or "Taiwan advocates", and I'm talking about the latter. The former is a different issue that I may or may not tackle at a later time.

It is also important to differentiate between advocates for Taiwan, and the people they lobby and talk to. Advocates for Taiwan outside of government tend to be very good people. I am friends with many of them (and yes, they are almost entirely male). The people they talk to are the problem. There are also some powerful female voices for Taiwan in other areas, such as Linda Arrigo and Shawna Yang Ryan, but I'm trying to be specific in terms of Taiwan experts who also advocate (and in many cases actively lobby) for Taiwan in Washington.

Of the women who are a part of this community, it is notable that of the 9 (9? Someone mentioned 9, I counted 8) people asked to comment for the article above, not one of them was female. How is it that they found 9 experts, all male, and ignored all of the women who do good work or are strong voices in this field? Is there perhaps a connection between being asked to comment on a piece like this and how often one is seen around government folks? Is there a connection between not doing that, and being female? If so, could that connection be in part because most of the people you would be talking to not only are not known generally for having much respect for women, but are actively working against women's rights?

I happen to think so, yes.

Or, perhaps they are overlooked because women simply tend to be overlooked in many fields.

I mean, to be a Taiwan expert - at least an American one - means making peace with the fact that the country you are most interested in and are likely to advocate for finds its greatest support among some of the worst people in Washington. On some level this is praiseworthy: it means setting aside differences to work on a common goal. I can see the value in that. I can see the value in not always giving in to identity politics, as well.

However, this is really easy to do if the people you are talking to and working with aren't actively trying to take away your rights, or subjugate your gender. It's much easier to "set differences aside" when the other side's differences aren't actual, literal and active attempts to make your life worse. It's easy when it's not aimed at you.

It is far more difficult to do when you can't even fathom being in the same room with some of them. I cannot imagine I would do anything to Marco Rubio other than spit in his stupid asshat face if I had to look at him, let alone talk to him. Perhaps I am more tempestuous, temperamental or I just care more about these things than others, but I know I'm not the only woman who would rather punch some of these Republican twatwads in the mouth than talk to them.

So how could someone like me - a woman, a lover of Taiwan, a supporter of Taiwan, someone who makes it her business and passion to keep up with Taiwan affairs despite not officially being any sort of expert - actually be an expert? When expertise tends to overlap so much with advocacy, and advocacy overlaps so much with talking to people I cannot bear to dignify with even basic manners, because they cannot bear to dignify my gender with basic rights, how is this even a possibility?

In fact, this is one of the direct causes behind why I went into education as a professional rather than Taiwan Studies. Perhaps 5 years ago - I don't remember exactly - I was in Hong Kong, sitting on the upstairs deck at the Fringe Club talking to friends there. We were discussing my next move, and I said I had three key interests: TEFL, the Chinese language and Taiwan Studies. I didn't know which I'd pursue, I said, but it would be one of those three, I would be going back to school at some point, and soon enough it would be come clear which I'd choose.

I chose education, because I actually kind of hated Chinese class though I love learning Chinese, and because Taiwan Studies to me is inextricably bound up in Taiwan advocacy, and that would mean lobbying or talking to all sorts of odious socially conservative Republican types, the sort who are actively trying to roll back my basic human rights. Even then, I knew I couldn't do it.

This is, as a side note, why I am eager to jump on any alternative at all. It sucks to love Taiwan but hate the friends of Taiwan in the US government. It sucks to know you might be able to go to school for Taiwan Studies, but you wouldn't be able to advocate with a straight face, nor would you be able to work with Taiwan supporters in the US government, because when their rollback of basic rights and dignity is aimed at your gender, it is impossible to "set differences aside" or look the other way. If someone presents even the most unlikely alternative model for advocating for Taiwan, it's like a flame for my inner moth.

I know I can't do it, and I don't think it's fair to ask any woman to do it. That's absolutely not to say that I think the men who do do it - who bite their lips and talk to assholes for Taiwan's sake - don't care about women's issues. I'm sure it's not easy talking to someone you disagree with on nearly every other thing (and most of the ones I know are good people, solid liberals, and women's rights supporters). Yet they do it - they do what I can't, and I won't pretend that gender is not one of the reasons why. It's simply easier when it's not your basic human rights on the chopping block, even if you have the best of intentions.

So that's my crazy theory. At least as far as Americans are concerned, there are not many female Taiwan experts because, while they might have common cause with some of the worst people in government over Taiwan, these same people are enemies of their gender. That's just too much to ask - and frankly, shouldn't have to be asked. It is 100% stone cold not okay, especially as Taiwan independence is, fundamentally, a liberal cause. 

There are surely other reasons - Taiwan is a harder place to live long-term for foreign women being one of them and many foreign experts on Taiwan have spent significant time here. (As a side note, this is why most foreign commentators on Taiwan skew male - there are simply more male expats, and I do explore the reasons for that in the link above. Another reason might be that a lot of currently known Taiwan experts got into the field decades ago, when this sort of field was male dominated. When I was in school my International Affairs cohort was not particularly male, but several decades before that it likely would have been. Yet another may be "because the women are choosing China where the action is". Perhaps. I may explore these other possibilities in future posts.

I do hope for change going forward, and it would be interesting to see what the younger, perhaps less recognized cohort of Taiwan experts looks like gender-wise. However, I can say that when I was younger and looking at that path, the sorts of horrible people I'd have to talk to were a clear reason why I steered away from it, and made Taiwan affairs a hobby rather than a profession. I cannot imagine I am the only woman to have been put off. It does cause women to turn away, and I know that because it turned me away.

Constructive feedback is welcome. Hateful or misogynist comments will be deleted without being fully read.