“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” ~ Sir Ken Robinson
SIX NIGHTS AGO, I had a conversation with Neil MacIntosh—a Facebook friend I have thankfully gotten to know through another Joshua Chen living in North Carolina—that first started from a thread of comments about a pristine photograph he took of Niagara Falls but over the course of the following day, eventually somehow diverted to current political issues such as gun control and reviewing the actions of past tyrannical dictators, namely Hitler and Mao Zedong.
Interestingly enough, I believe we have gotten to know each other just a little bit more as he shared with me his love and passion of history (a History major at American University in our nation’s capital Washington, D.C.) and I my love of history, psychology and journalism (I’m a current Psychology major at Ohlone College in California). From the moment we began discussing our family backgrounds and relations, I knew we would hit it right off—and hit it off we sure did!
I have a quick confession to make here to all my readers and friends: I love history and I sure do love my country and my heritage. As I may have once briefly mentioned in a previous column, I am culturally and ethically American Taiwanese—but frankly, I find that label to be a huge misnomer.
Taiwan is not officially a sovereign nation recognized by the international community, even though our government does function independently from Beijing’s government in mainland China.
In fact, on a website I have read several times over the years Matt Rosenberg lists eight main criteria a country is supposed to have before it is accepted as an independent, sovereign country:
1. Has space or territory that has internationally recognized boundaries (boundary disputes are OK).
Somewhat. Due to political pressure from mainland China, the United States and most other significant nations recognize one China and thus include the boundaries of Taiwan as being part of the boundaries of China.
2. Has people who live there on an ongoing basis.
Absolutely! Taiwan is home to almost 23 million people, making it the 48th largest “country” in the world, with a population slightly smaller than North Korea but larger than Romania.
3. Has economic activity and an organized economy. A country regulates foreign and domestic trade and issues money.
Absolutely! Taiwan is an economic powerhouse – it’s one of the four economic tigers of Southeast Asia. Its GDP per capita is among the top 30 of the world. Taiwan has its own currency, the new Taiwan dollar.
4. Has the power of social engineering, such as education.
Absolutely! Education is compulsory and Taiwan has more than 150 institutions of higher learning. Taiwan is home to the Palace Museum, which houses over 650,000 pieces of Chinese bronze, jade, calligraphy, painting, and porcelain.
5. Has a transportation system for moving goods and people.
Absolutely! Taiwan has an extensive internal and external transportation network that consists of roads, highways, pipelines, railroads, airports, and sea ports. Taiwan can ship goods, there’s no question about that!
6. Has a government that provides public services and police power.
Absolutely! Taiwan has multiple branches of military – Army, Navy (including Marine Corps), Air Force, Coast Guard Administration, Armed Forces Reserve Command, Combined Service Forces Command, and Armed Forces Police Command. There are almost 400,000 active duty members of the military and the country spends about 15-16% of its budget on defense.
Taiwan’s main threat is from mainland China, which has approved an anti-secession law that allows a military attack on Taiwan to prevent the island from seeking independence. Additionally, the United States sells Taiwan military equipment and may defend Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act.
7. Has sovereignty. No other State should have power over the country’s territory.
Mostly. While Taiwan has maintained its own control over the island from Taipei since 1949, China still claims to have control over Taiwan.
8. Has external recognition. A country has been “voted into the club” by other countries.
Somewhat. Since China claims Taiwan as its province, the international community does not want to contradict China on this matter. Thus, Taiwan is not a member of the United Nations. Plus, only 25 countries (as of early 2007) recognize Taiwan as an independent country and they recognize it as the “only” China. Due to this political pressure from China, Taiwan does not maintain an embassy in the United States and the United States (among most other countries) has not recognized Taiwan since January 1, 1979.
However, many countries have set up unofficial organizations to carry out commercial and other relations with Taiwan. Taiwan is represented in 122 countries unofficially. Taiwan maintains contact with the United States through two through an unofficial instrumentalities – American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office.
In addition, Taiwan issues globally recognized passports that allow its citizens to travel internationally. Taiwan also is a member of the International Olympic Committee and this sends its own team to the Olympic Games.
Recently, Taiwan has lobbied strongly for admission into international organizations such as the United Nations, which mainland China opposes.
Therefore, Taiwan only meets five of the eight criteria fully. Another three criteria are met in some respects due to mainland China’s stance on the issue.
The Republic of China, which now maintains control over the island of Taiwan and several smaller archipelagos, has officially been considered a de-facto government since the 1970s when most of the world’s nations began recognizing the People’s Republic of China (PRC) government based on the mainland.
Taiwan’s political status has also been miserably reduced to being called “Chinese Taipei” when represented in more recent Olympic Games, evidently pointing to mounting political tensions from mainland China who wishes to unify the island under the PRC banner.
As a prideful and patriotic American Taiwanese, I too am appalled by the Chinese Taipei label—and while I do subscribe to the idea of eventual Chinese reunification, I wholeheartedly believe the Kuomintang government should still represent the “legitimate China” and be welcomed back to the mainland with open arms.
But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself here.
I do not intend to solely document and reflect on the Chinese Civil War in this particular column, although that time period is just one of the many examples in world history where wars have continuously shaped our lifestyles.
Therefore, I have two major points I want to cover for tonight’s column:
- Each of our relations to historical events both past and present
- Humanity’s much-needed time for forgiveness and reconciliation with these events
Going back to my conversation with Neil, we evidently would start baring a part of our family heritages as we dived back into forgotten memories of WWII—I bringing up the Japanese occupation of China and the Nanjing Massacre at several points.
Neil: I don’t know, I guess it’s strange to me to put so much emphasis on historical feuds.
Josh: Cause it’s not just a book my friend. Real people were affected by these events.
Neil: I’m aware; and there were some awful things that were done to my ancestors, as well.
Josh: …Which of course leaves many descendants angry about the past.
Neil: I don’t know, I just don’t feel as strong a connection to it. But I think that’s more of a cultural thing…
Josh: Yes, it is cultural.
Neil: I view it as like something that happened several generations ago and didn’t involve me; and that I shouldn’t blame the descendents of the people who did it, because they’re just as innocent and uninvolved as I am. But I realise that other cultures have a different approach to it. Like I’m always a little surprised that the Germans are still apologising for WWII and the Holocaust.
Josh: My dad has taught me this Neil: If the Germans can apologize for Hitler’s regime, then so can the Japanese.
Neil: Oh, yes, definitely; and I’m not saying the Japanese shouldn’t apologise for the things they did…
Josh: The Japanese should. Their country’s leaders.
Neil: However, I also think that if the French and the Danish and the Polish can get over it and forgive the Germans, then the Chinese and Koreans can forgive the Japanese. Yes, the Japanese need to apologise, but then the people they hurt need to forgive it and move on, in my opinion, anyway.
But also, part of it is pride for the Japanese. The Americans completely humiliated them after the war. So they’re trying to hold onto whatever pride they can salvage.
It is at this point that I realize that I cannot continue rebutting Neil because I have to acknowledge he does have a point. We Chinese have to take that initial step forward and start the process of forgiveness, no matter how heavy our hearts feel or how much pride we devote to our people and our culture. The same goes for the Japanese as well.
Which I follow up with my statement to Neil:
It’s not that I hate HATE the Japanese. I hate what they did.
I don’t hate the country or the people—except those individuals involved in the actual brutality. I only hate what the Japanese have done in the past, but I am also equally hoping they will also be willing to come forward and apologize as much as we would want to.
Leading up to more current events, this WWII-era pain is once again revealed in the recent animosity and dispute of the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands as people on both sides of the Pacific Ocean I believe are preparing for what may appear to be another direct confrontation between our nations and peoples.
Concurrently over here on the American front, we sadly mark the one-month anniversary of the Newtown shooting, which has also sparked controversy over gun usage and politicians in Washington fiercely debating our country’s current gun control laws.
While I can mutually respect people who believe they have a Constitutional right to personally bear firearms, I cannot and will not acknowledge the alleged creed that pro-gun activists swear to abide by—the right to bear arms for self-defense. That is pure NRA propaganda.
– The number of Americans who have been killed by guns since the Sandy Hook shooting. Number of tyrannical governments overthrown by gun-toting Americans in that same time period: zero.
It’s bad enough that the tragedy at Newtown has once again divided the country. This time around, it has reawakened all of us to the grim reality that everyone is affected when there is a shooting—not just the victims themselves or even their families, but also the survivors and everyone from Capitol Hill to Beverly Hills to Telegraph Avenue.
The nation grieves for the dead. And as difficult as the pain may be to overcome, life still goes on:
“Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all, those who live without love. By returning, you may ensure that fewer souls are maimed, fewer families are torn apart. If that seems to you a worthy goal, then we can say good-bye for the present.”
Harry nodded and sighed. Leaving this place would not be nearly as hard as walking into the forest had been, but it was warm and light and peaceful here, and he knew that he was heading back to pain and the fear of more loss. He stood up, and Dumbledore did the same, and they looked for a long moment into each other’s faces.
~ An excerpt from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Chapter 35) by J.K. Rowling
I’ve seen the Deathly Hallows Part II film several times already and I am still moved by Dumbledore’s words in this one scene—when Harry’s soul crosses into Limbo or Heaven and it is here that Harry converses with his beloved headmaster and mentor.
In fact, this scene has inspired me to spiritually communicate with family members and friends who I’ve once known here on Earth who have also passed on, and like Harry, I know the dead are not really gone but are always with me residing in spirit.
And it is here that we are to mend the wounds of the past—hopefully, once and for all.
For if we do not admit that each of us once made mistakes in our own lives and that each of us has experienced our own share of shortcomings in life—luck or no luck, hard work or no hard work, God or no God—then who will?
Forgive me if I am leaving you with some very hard-hitting questions tonight my fellow readers, but let us all pray that the world will get better and that the human spirit will never extinguish, no matter how many atrocities afflict us and no matter how many barriers we have to overcome in order to get there.
Forgiveness towards one’s enemies is hard but doable—reconciliation with one’s past harder but achievable still.
In the words of the Apostle Paul:
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
~ 2nd Timothy 4:7 (NIV)
I salute you my fellow compatriots and friends. Always remember to keep the faith. Never lose hope in humanity, ever.
Thank you and good night.