Back in the US, the presidential primaries are upon us. I’m looking forward to being back home for the 2008 election, since casting my ballot from Korea in the crowded US consulate was fun, but left me with no one to sympathize with my despair post-election day. I missed being a New Yorker and hearing a collective sigh or shout for joy the way I would when it was baseball season and my neighbor across the courtyard was having a party.

Any other American expats looking to vote in the primaries should check out The Overseas Vote Foundation, which allows you to register and print out and mail your registration for the absentee ballot back to your local election bureau. This article by the Associated Press offers a few more resources for overseas voters.

Here in Taiwan, the election trucks have taken a break and I can get through class without generating general hilarity by innocently inquiring if the martial music wheeling by outside with an energetic voice calling out “by toh, by toh….” was an advertisement for Lin’s Tofu. Apparently, a local politician’s name is not really “tofu” though it sounded that way to me.

Right before the election which saw the blue party (the KMT) which is very popular around here (I am, after all in Taipei), sweep the legislature, there were trucks going around every fifteen minutes it seemed. When I was in the Bronx, the noise pollution during class involved the ice cream truck (ten minutes before school let out, it was parked on the curb and ready), and the local boom-boxed car that would make the street vibrate with salsa or hip hop (try teaching with a straight face while your kids are shimmy-shaking to the beat outside…)

My students here are certainly more politically involved than the ones I taught in the Bronx, having opinions about the green party (Chen Shuei Bian’s embattled Democratic Progressive Party) and the blue party (the Kuomintang or Nationalist Party brought to the island with Chiang Kai Shek). Many of them joined their parents in the rallies that filled Taipei streets with a sea of red shirts and thumbs down, asking for Chen Shui Bian’s resignation after the scandal last year. One of my colleagues told me she overheard her first-grade students arguing over who got to play Ma Ying Jeou (the KMT presidential candidate and former mayor of Taipei), and Frank Hsieh (the DPP presidential candidate) on the playground.

I don’t remember having political opinions in elementary school myself, though I certainly was more interested by middle school and high school. And I must admit, my only political rallying was against the initiation of war in Iraq, though I’m an e-mail activist, sending out missives to my representatives.

When I came to Taiwan, my father cautioned me against getting involved in politics here. Funnily enough, every time I’d talk to him on the phone, he’d ask me about the word on the street here, and I’d dryly disappoint him by dutifully reminding him that I was leaving myself out of politics here.

Do I have an opinion? Certainly. However, I haven’t been keeping up with the current state of things as much as I ought. I’m afraid post-2000, I started distancing myself from avidly following the news since it tended to result in me throwing things and growling and glaring at innocent screens… Well, that and weeping.

I remember in college talking over politics abroad with my international friends, and bemoaning the state of countries that are in limbo, whose politicians use international conflict in order to distract the electorate from domestic needs the government would rather not figure out. When I first came to Taiwan, it was a single-party country. The KMT ran everything. The industrial revolution had happened to Taiwan, bringing with it rivers choked with pollution, horrible air pollution, and complete traffic chaos. The streets of the cities stank with garbage and were filled with packs of stray cats and dogs. The shadow of China has been with Taiwan ever since the Japanese gave Taiwan up as a colony, and it seemed to me that the KMT was content to just slide by, letting the country be run by business interests, while sitting pretty on their wealth and power, rattling the threat of China at people to distract them from the fact that the KMT was doing very little for Taiwan.

My college friends and I discussed the sadness of India and Pakistan over Kashmir and how those two governments seemed to bristle at each other like puffing competing peacocks to avoid addressing their own domestic problems.

Anyway, now, there are a number of political parties in Taiwan (seriously, the number of colors it is safe to wear when politics gets active here seems to be getting smaller and smaller), and there have been a lot of improvements in the infrastructure– singing garbage trucks pick up the trash twice a day, there is such a thing as animal control (there are still strays, just not in the copious amounts I remember), and one can actually move at a decent clip on the highways without driving illegally in the emergency lane. I think the advantages that have come with Taiwan’s newfound political openness have been many. I believe Taiwan has the right to be independent, and it, and all the countries in Asia deserve to exist without cowering in the shadow of China’s bullying. While the mud-slinging of both parties here (and physical brawls in the legislature which I’ve seen on television, and which seem to indicate that a prowess in martial arts should be a part of one’s political biography here… I’m getting side-tracked, but wouldn’t that be a funny martial arts movie? I’ve been watching too many random martial arts thwacks on cable TV, but I have this sudden vision of Jackie Chan literally fighting for schools or something… Not that I want democracy to devolve into dark ages “might-is-right” philosophy or anything. /end random aside– where was I, oh yes, mud-slinging) gets incredibly juvenile at times, I think it is good for both parties to have an opposition that keeps them accountable.


2 Responses to “Democracy…”

  1. February 7, 2008 at 3:52 am

    “…physical brawls in the legislature which I’ve seen on television, and which seem to indicate that a prowess in martial arts should be a part of one’s political biography here… I’m getting side-tracked, but wouldn’t that be a funny martial arts movie?”

    hilarious. Thanks for this interesting post. But I do have one question. What is your take on the scandal that brought down the previous government?

  2. October 14, 2014 at 1:44 am

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Free Rice

January 2008
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