11.29.2016

Finding My Protest Voice



Earlier this month I joked about launching into a mini-treatise on the past 400+ years of Taiwanese history for the poor sweet girl who made the mistake of  asking the innocent question of whether I was a “China boy.”

But I am proud to be Taiwanese, which is not the same thing as Chinese and in fact is quite an explosive topic if you are familiar with Asian geopolitics.


Taiwan’s strategic location off the mainland has made it a common landing spot for a revolving door of oppressors, from the Dutch to the Ming, Qing, and Han, to the Japanese, and finally the mainlanders from China when they were ejected by the incoming Communist Party.  It’s been a while, but I’ve taken all the stories in many times in my life, through oral history and documentaries and books.

This may not be representative of all Taiwanese folks, but one angle I distinctly picked up from my family members was that over the course of its history and through many generations of overlords, we Taiwanese put our heads down and work.  Over time, that has meant working the land, working the factories, and working the business.  Indeed, along with its fellow “Four Tigers” (Hong Kong, Singapore, and South Korea), Taiwan has become a modern success story as a result of its economic might and political progress. 

For most of my life, that heritage also meant that protest was just something I didn’t do.  You didn’t push back against wrong, you just worked through it, and the heavier the oppression the harder you worked. 

To be sure, there is some good to that.  But obviously there is a time to protest, and events and causes and people worth protesting for or against.  To have no category for protest is not good.

But Taiwanese folks actually have a lot of protest in their blood.  Their modern democracy did not arrive without a fight, and one that was bitter and bloody at that.  Even in my own family, my parents have through the years been very active and very vocal in joining in on demonstrations on behalf of Taiwan.

And in my own way, I am finding my protest voice too.  Sometimes it is through loud and charged words, while other times it is through action that is wordless but that speaks volumes.  It may not look like how others do it, but it is what works for me.  And it is based, in part, on where my people come from.
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