Friday, December 23, 2016

Race Card vs. Trump Card

"So stop me if you've heard this before. A group of political and religious refugees flee an oppressive regime and found a new nation overseas. After some initial conflict with the indigenous peoples, they establish themselves for several generations and soon regard themselves as independent. Despite an increasing tendency towards democracy, the citizens of this nation are still regarded as citizens of the regime they've fled. A seemingly inevitable conflict is delayed by those who urge reconciliation on both sides.

Now, here's the ten thousand dollar question -- am I talking about America in 1776, or Taiwan nearly 230 years later?"

- Libertarian Rage, Friday, December 1st, 2006

When I was a kid, as part of an ongoing (and frankly futile) effort to instill me with some sense of discipline, my parents enrolled me in Tae Kwon Do -- a martial art that I pursued for long enough to achieve a red belt. Unlike most martial arts, it's a uniquely nationalistic sport, being carefully controlled and defined by its government. (In other words, it lacks the fluidity and adaptability of many others, but was perfectly suited to a kid struggling with some compulsive tendencies.) We would begin and end every training session by solemnly bowing to the Korean flag, and even as a kid I remember thinking that that was kind of fucked up.

After all, I'm a dual citizen. And biracial. And the son of an immigrant family. Conflicted loyalties are something I would say that I was uniquely sensitive to. I would even attribute to it some of my early experimentation with polyamory. I mean, the notion of love as a divisible concept is something that I knew to be absurd. (If a mother has a second child, does she then somehow love her first child less?) I eventually became a devoted monogamist once I realized that, yeah, while love was indivisible, things like my time, money, energy, and devotion all very much were. (Also, I'm sufficiently immature that my ability to sustain even one romantic relationship is frankly miraculous.)

Likewise, I eventually came to realize the distinction between love and loyalty. In terms of patriotism, my first loyalty is to these United States. That loyalty in no way diminishes my love for any of the many other countries to which I've traveled over the course of my life, or in which I have family that I care for.

So, President-Elect Donald Trump received a congratulatory phone call from the sovereign nation of Taiwan. This by itself would not be anything resembling a big deal, except for the fact that these United States have planting their fingers in their collective ears and pretending that that nation does not exist since 1979. To be clear, that means that Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama, all agreed to deny it any diplomatic recognition. All six administrations agreed to bow to the People's Republic, because of the economic power that it wielded. And the United Nations agrees to bow to it, because they have a fucking seat on the fucking security council.

And I find myself, once again, torn. On the one hand, like most of my colleagues, I reject the Trump administration, and all its works, and all its empty promises. And on the other hand, I've been a proponent of Taiwanese independence for most of my adult life. So, surprise! I'm conflicted. I'm also struggling with how incredibly non-conflicted most of my colleagues seem to be, as I watch my social media blow up with statements from Democrats mocking the leader of a democratic republic (who, by the way, is one of the first female leaders of an Asian nation, elected on an LGBT platform), and insisting that we mollify a communist dictatorship whose human rights abuses outnumber the spermatozoa that I've murdered in my devotion to Onan.

I mean, I am opposed to the Trump administration. Surely that cannot mean that literally every decision that that administration makes is somehow evil? I look at Trump's tweet regarding the incident:

...and while others are pointing out (I mean, rightly) how bizarre it is to see a President-Elect using new media to influence foreign policy, I find myself wanting to point out that this is actually a really fucking good observation. Last year alone, Barack Obama sold Taiwan $1.83 billion in weaponry. And me? I'm about as non-interventionist as they come, but I find myself thinking, hey. If China wants to attack us for acknowledging the existence of another democratic republic? In the immortal words of Doctor Gregory House: bring. It. ON.

...but that's just another bloodthirsty fantasy, one that I'm ashamed to see that I can still respond to. After all, the People's Republic won't attack us: they'll invade Taiwan. And I am, again, torn! As far as I'm concerned, Taiwan is China -- the best of China at its best. And the People's Republic is the worst -- not of China, but I mean, like, of our species. As a Chinese man, I am horrified at the prospect of having to passively watch the various UN nations passively watch the People's Republic launch missiles at the Republic of China. And as an American, I am horrified at the prospect of these United States engaging in entangling alliances that lead to a long and bloody shooting war with no guarantee of victory, or even of national gain.

And, of course, the larger issue here is that I have no faith whatsoever that the Trump administration is the one to navigate this diplomatic minefield. That takes political capital, and its lack of political capital is the very thing that it campaigned on. I mean, no less than six previous administrations refused to help a struggling republic in the face of overwhelming evil. For a split-second, I perceive the appeal of a Washington outsider.

...but then, political reality reasserts itself. I don't believe that receiving that call was simply some kind of gaffe; likewise, I don't believe that it represented some kind of calculated, four-dimensional chess. What I find most likely is the notion that this administration is attempting to use Taiwan as some kind of bargaining chip, and that is, in my view, a terrible mistake. The existence of Taiwan is a red line in the sand that the People's Republic will never acknowledge, because that would call into question the legitimacy of the Chinese government; and, like all illegitimate governments, the one thing they cannot bear is some dumbass saying "OMG! That dude has no clothes!"

I want to emphasize that I believe that I fully understand. I understand the dislike, distrust, and fear of the incoming administration. I understand the reflexive desire to resist everything that it tries to achieve. None of this helps me understand why my Facebook feed is currently full of white liberals beating the drum for the regime that attempted to exterminate my family.

"I find the mainland's insistence of ownership to be deeply troubling, and despite conciliatory voices on both sides, I find it impossible to credit that they will simply leave Taiwan alone indefinitely. If I have learned any fundamental truth about politics, it is that greedy and stupid is always finding new ways to be greedy and stupid. One day -- maybe tomorrow, maybe in twenty years -- they're going to make a move, and the real question then for Taiwan will be -- do they resist? Or do they submit?"