Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Monday, December 30, 2002

For some reason I’ve felt much more burdened by the current events and political situation of Taiwan in the latter part of 2002. Much of the news in Taiwan and the world seemed bleak after August- there was D.C. sniper, and repeated terrorist attacks. There seemed to be growing incidences of sensitive information being passed from Taiwan to China. The information being “shared” ranged from national security and military matters to industrial trade secrets. Why are people so willing to trade off Taiwan? How can this be stopped?

Many of the people of Taiwan are very confused about their national identity. Some view unification as inevitable or necessary. Others view themselves as both Chinese and Taiwanese because of confusion between national, ethnic, racial and cultural identity, or because they are in fact the product of a marriage between a parent from China and a parent from Taiwan. Perhaps they see Taiwan’s future as bleak since it is in an economic downturn and are optimistic about China’s promise. My question is: why isn’t Taiwan good enough in its present state? Taiwan has a history of being ruled by many authoritarian regimes throughout its history and the people of Taiwan have been told and taught that they were part of the Japanese Empire, a stepping stone or stopping point in the fight against Communist China.

Only recently has Taiwan gained its democracy and therefore freedom from the shackles of these mirages. Taiwan is not part any great empire, nor is it likely that Taiwan can build an empire. Now the people of Taiwan are lost without any reference point. They do not know who they are. For so long they have been told by invading powers- the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Japanese who they are. There are so many relics left behind from each of these regimes, especially the Kuomingtang Nationalists. The mere presence of these relics lend a misguided sense of legitimacy/acceptance to the regime. But as times passes, memory fades, even now many who were not even old enough to remember martial law or the black list or those who did not directly experience the white terror of these devices either doubt or question the reality of these terms.

Reading about all of these conflicts of interest and the confusion over historical injustices inflicted on Taiwanese people has really given me cause to worry about the future of Taiwan. A nation can’t exist if its people don’t have enough resolve to protect their nation’s assets or assert their own identity, especially if they don’t know or understand their history. There’s so much negative and biased reporting. And the opposition groups (KMT and PFP)seem to oppose the President's party(DPP)just for the sake of opposing them.

Recently there’s been a lot of corruption i.e. vote buying and bribery unearthed and the ruling DPP party’s image has been called into question. The DPP has shown the public that it is not immune to the lure of corrupt money. No politician is “clean” and it seems that with each new scandal all to often the public and media assume guilty until proven innocent. It’s very unsettling to see Taiwan struggling with such fundamental problems.

So I’ve purposely chosen not to write about such matters. It’s been a great educational experience reading and learning about Taiwan’s various social and political problems. Strangely, I’ve always had much more of an affinity for Taiwan’s politics than the U.S. The problems that Taiwan faces are a complicated maze, a tapestry, layer upon layer caused by oppression, confusion, history, misinformation... My concerns about the future of Taiwan would require an exhaustive explanation and a minimum understanding of Taiwan’s current social political situation, history and the deeply rooted social psychological factors which I don’t wish to elaborate on here, right now.

On a happier note, I made a trip up to Taipei during the last weekend in December to attend J & M’s wedding banquet, which of course was lovely. Ironically, such events are never really about spending time with the bride and groom- who are in a blurry, flurry of what is supposed to be (yet another irony) their most memorable day. It’s much more about the people that you attend the banquet with and the different cross sections of the couples’ friends- from whom you may just learn new things about the bride or groom.

I shared a 30-40 minute car ride to the reception with some friends who are also fellow Taiwanese Americans who now are living and working in Taiwan. It was a very affirming experience to be around other Taiwanese Americans like myself who are now living and working in Taiwan. Hearing them talk about their thoughts on Taiwan was heartening. We share similar levels of understanding regarding the problems facing Taiwan and each had unique, individual reasons for staying in Taiwan. All of us seemed to have some sort of indescribable devotion to Taiwan. It seemed to me that for all of us Taiwan has a special place in our heart. I most definitely feel that I was among a very well informed group of individuals- well informed with respect to Taiwan’s local political situation (due to a fuller perspective and understanding of Taiwan’s history)- which is better gained outside of Taiwan because of the censorship and propaganda education machine of the KMT. Many Taiwanese people were able to get a clearer picture of Taiwan’s history and political situation when they studied or lived abroad. This often happens when people leave their country and read varying opinions, seeing things from the outside.

I was also heartened by all of these Taiwanese Americans who have chosen to stay in Taiwan in a time of such uncertainty- economically (unemployment, concerns over the outflow of capital into China), politically (instability of DPP and Taiwan’s democracy).

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