Saturday, November 08, 2008

Making History in Muddle

This hasn't been a peaceful week.

If anything, this may be one of the most memorable moments of history.

For the world, the 44th president of the United States was elected, a testimony to the so-called American creed rooted in the unwavering faith in one's power to shape dreams, uphold dreams, and to make such dreams come true.

For my hometown Taiwan, the most senior-level Communist leader since the conclusion of Chinese civil war and the division of mainland and Taiwan in 1949 paid a visit to the island, triggering a series of protests and violent encounters between the authority and the protesting public.

For myself, I entered the last year of the golden 20's and spent it with a very minor celebratory mood, 2 big loads of laundry, and a ton of self-reflection.

Oh, and I started reading 酒井順子's infamous 「負け犬の遠吠え」(ha!)

For the first two giant events that marked some undebatable historical significance to those who are concerned, I could only access and picture the real heat and fervor and emotional intensity through or youtube. Obama's acceptance speech, as anyone would've easily expected, was well-made and moving. But McCain's speech moved me even further, bringing me several times to the brink of tearing.

Despite whatever failures or mistakes that he's made throughout the campaign trail, and despite my various political perspectives that differ from his, McCain's speech demonstrates that he is a man of great and sincere love for his country. Not only that, he is a gentleman of true sportsmanship who could not only admit the undesired outcome of a very hard-fought battle but also accept it fully in peace.

"And though we fell short, the failure is mine, not yours," said McCain.

That's what leadership is about, by being willing to take full responsibility for the failure made while taking the heart to offer gratitude for all whose hard work and sweat themselves made it an honorable race to undergo.

"Today, I was a candidate for the highest office in the country I love so much. And tonight, I remain her servant."

And that's what true calling and dedication is about, irrespective of the title, fame, glory, or monetary rewards that may or may not momentarily accompany along a potential success of such a calling.

In some ways, Obama's speech does no more than once again demonstrating the power of his faith, its affirmation from the people, and a victory well deserved. McCain's speech, however, is one of much more difficulty to make yet one made out of such grace, honor and, above all, integrity. Obama's speech deserves a lot of cheering, but McCain's speech, I believe, deserves greater learning and remembrance from us all.

If I were ever thrown into a position like McCain's - a situation of significant failure - would I ever be able to walk away in peace, acknowledging, accepting, and exiting with an integrity uncompromised and a faith intact because I still recognize and believe in the purity of the great cause once fought?

Across the Pacific Ocean, however, it seems like Obama's celebrated victory or McCain's gracious acceptance of defeat was of minimal concern to the hearts and minds of the Taiwanese people. Certainly, there is no absolute need for them to be as shaken by it as the fellow citizens of America, for the victory or defeat of either candidate poses no immediate impact or apparent effect upon the lives of the Taiwanese people on the very next day.

Yet, given that Taiwanese people too have come to regard themselves - especially when with much pride - as the champions of freedom and democracy and the guardians of human rights, it brings me much sadness and greater worry that the Taiwanese people have easily overlooked a precious historical moment from which the true essence of freedom and democracy may be observed and learned. Qualities such as a good faith in justice, an unwavering hope for a better future, and a leadership perspective that could rise above partisan interests and commits itself to a larger message of unity over division - namely all the essentials upon which democracy/freedom/human rights are founded - are qualities that BOTH Obama and McCain repeatedly utter and demonstration in both of their speeches.

Of course, asking the Taiwanese people to follow up on a foreign country's election result/process thousands of miles away when a historical moment itself was made at home may be too much. But sooner or later, if such qualities or perspectives are not learned, whatever historical moments that continue to roll along would still not be recorded into the book of mature democracy built and maintained by citizens of law, order, and civility.

I found most of the Taiwanese news media coverage on the uproar of Chen's visit to Taiwan so heavily tainted in either a blue or green perspective that I logged onto the New York Times and wanted to see how a "third-party, bystander" would comment or report on this significant event.

As I read on, my head suddenly became much "cooler" after being pretty clouded from hours of reading all sorts of online news reports, comments, editorials, blog entries, or even youtube clips sponsored by the Taiwanese media or contributed by the locals.

"Cooler" because once again, I was reminded of the ultimate GOAL of the visit made by this Communist "bandit/匪" (as some protesters may outrightly put forth) and the concrete, legal RESULTS out of all the sound and fury.

Titled "China and Taiwan Expand Accords," the NYT articles goes as follows:


"The agreements reached on Tuesday were a result of the attempts made by Mr. Ma’s government at engagement with the mainland. In June, just after he was inaugurated, Mr. Ma sent a delegation to Beijing to sign an agreement establishing a regular weekend schedule of charter flights between China and Taiwan.

Mr. Ma’s popularity has plummeted in recent months, partly based on criticism that he is giving away too much to China, but he pushed forward with a second round of talks.

The new transportation agreement raises to 108 from 36 the number of weekly round-trip charter flights, according to a summary of the agreement posted on a Web site run by the Taiwanese government. The flights are expected to run daily, with 21 cities on the mainland and eight in Taiwan receiving service.

The planes will also fly in a direct line between cities over a route north of Taiwan. Charter flights between China and Taiwan currently take a longer route through Hong Kong airspace because of security concerns.

Under the new routing, direct flights between Taipei and Beijing will take two hours, and flights between Taipei and Shanghai will take 80 minutes.

China and Taiwan will add direct cargo charter flights as well, with 60 scheduled per month.

The two governments will also open direct shipping channels for passengers and cargo. China will open a total of 63 ports and Taiwan will open 11. To avoid political sensitivities, ships will not fly national flags.

The two governments also agreed to expand free exchange of information regarding food-safety issues. If any product is considered faulty or dangerous, a government will recall it and halt its shipment, according to the agreement.

Discussion of the issue arose because mainland China has been grappling with its biggest food safety crisis in years. In September, Chinese dairy products were discovered to have been contaminated with melamine, a toxic chemical used in plastics that has been regularly and illegally added to dairy products and animal feed to falsify a high protein count. At least four infants have died and 53,000 children have fallen ill from kidney complications resulting from melamine. Suspect Chinese foods have been recalled around the world, including in Taiwan.

China and Taiwan also agreed to start direct mail service."


So, if I could just do a quick mental registration of the information given ...

- Direct flights between Taipei and Beijing will take two hours, and flights between Taipei and Shanghai will take 80 minutes.
- 108 (from the number of 36 previously) weekly round-trip charter flights ... expected to run daily, with 21 cities on the mainland and eight in Taiwan receiving service.
- Direct shipping channels for passengers and cargo.
- Expand free exchange of information regarding food-safety issues. If any product is considered faulty or dangerous, a government will recall it and halt its shipment, according to the agreement.

In other words, all such agreements mean (esp. on a personal level) ...

- 2 HR vs. 8 HR or 80 min vs. 360 min of flying? And not just from Taoyuan and also going to 21 cities in China within a more or less 2 to 3-hour time span?
- No more getting stuck in a cramped corner of the post office that uses a "special" shipment "company" (which can NOT possibly be run by the Taiwan's postal service but, umm, somehow has been graciously given a one-widow counter in the post offices in Taiwan ...) when shipping stuff to China?
- More legal security and government intervention on food safety issues?

The answer is clear.

Honestly, even just for the very first item on the list above, it's enough for me to say that I really don't care too much if President Ma is literally called "馬總統" or "小馬哥" or whatever funny names that he's recently acquired since the winning of the election. And I really don't care if someone purposely put the ROC flag away in front of "bandit" Chen's eyes. With or without that flag, and bestowing him with an honorary title of "President" or just a regular "Mr." it doesn't change the fact that ROC is still the official title of my country, that "~ Ma" is still the de facto President of ROC, and that Taiwanese is part of my identity.

Ultimately, if one does have full confidence in the identity that he/she beholds, an identity that he/she works hard for to earn and represents something of true substance, could a simple name change or alternation of that name - regardless of in good or bad will - really shake or challenge the core of such identity or its very existence? At the end of the day, are we living for the name's sake or the inner core that needs much more than just a title on the outside for its strength and life?

And having acquired quite some teaching experiences throughout the years, whether it's in the area of language, culture or actual disciplinary studies in a university, private, or small, informal setting, I DO NOT condone those members of university faculty who lead young students of early 20's onto the streets of protest WITHOUT first giving them a serious chance of reviewing and discussing both sides of the argument in full. And to throw upon one's own perspective onto young university students who still in need of more guidance in making their own decision and forming their own opinion - a gesture exacerbated esp. when the faculty members are shouting through a loud speakerphone or reducing a complicated and serious issue into simple, ill-thought-out slogans that do not well articulate the complexity of the issue at hand - is intolerable to me.

An education with an single-sided opinion presented is never education at all. Nor shall one ever teach students how to shout out simple slogans before he/she teaches them how to argue with logic, reason, persuasiveness, and - hopefully - composure and calm. Precisely because they are educators, their act is one that I have no choice but to question and dispute.

There is a saying in Chinese that says, 「真理越辯越明」(= truth becomes clearer as one discusses and argues). The U.S. presidential election seems to have affirmed this statement yet the recent uproar in Taiwan puts me in doubts. If there lacks a basic common ground or premise upon which the parties in contention both agree, I wonder if the truth would really surface. And depending on the particular culture, religion, and history that one comes from, it seems like there could be more than just one premise in the world to start with.

So will all discussions starting upon different premises eventually lead back to the same conclusion, same truth?

I'm sure the Americans will say yes.

The Taiwanese ...? Well, they need to first figure out what that "premise" is and means to them.

As for myself - I simply don't know. As the world continues to unfold in front of me and surprise me with the multitude of its facets each and everyday, sometimes my answer seems clearer and clearer, yet other times growingly muddled.

Although, the very nature of such muddle itself speaks loudly of one "truth" concerning the nature of this world, does it not?

梅ちゃん at 9:42:00 PM



at 11/22/08, 5:08 AM Blogger ifan said...

Hi May-yi,

I like the suicide article more (especially about the flower marker, which is very touching), but please forgive me to leave a message here.

I agree your opinions on how people call the ROC president or the ROC flag. These do not matter so much to me, although I believe to some Americans (especially to some Republicans) and Taiwanese, their national flags cannot be disrespected like this.

On the other hand, I am worried about how far our police force can do in these events. I remember when the Olympic torch went to many democratic countries this year, there were lots of blame toward the local government if the local government cooperated with Chinese government and endangered human rights in those countries.


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