Taiwan’s diplomatic allies have been much on my mind lately, not so much on a national level like will Honduras be the next to flip but more along the lines of elements within the American government coming out on Twitter to support Taiwan, and, in a few cases are coming to Taiwan personally.
To say that I’m deeply conflicted would be an understatement.
Because while there are some non-right wingers involved (thank you, Senator Edward Markey of the great state of Massachusetts), by and large the people currently speaking out for Taiwan are from America’s deeply right wing, and not the now-comparatively sane right wing of yore that once flocked to the defense of “Free China” because it was an unsinkable battleship with courageous Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek (who they called Cash My Check behind his back), but the bat-shit fanatical foot-soldiers of Trump whose motives are far, far uglier, and with whom it seems nearly unthinkable to make common cause.
Ah, for the halcyon days when you could embody the struggle as one between Yippies and the John Birch society. It was an illusion, I know, but one that was easily encapsulated (as this illustration from the Book of the Subgenius does nicely):
It’s far more complex these days, especially where Taiwan is concerned.
Today’s right wingers aren’t grandpa’s right wingers. Whereas the conservatives of the mid-twentieth century supported “The Republic of China” as a fellow right-wing client state that was a handy bulwark against an ultra-leftist China, today’s Republican party shares far less common ground with the political realities of present day Taiwan. To wit:
Taiwan is a thriving democracy; today’s Republican party subverts democracy at home and abroad.
Taiwan is liberal; today’s Republican party despises liberalism.
Taiwan is a defender of human rights and increasingly considers itself a haven for immigrants. today’s Republicans have turned their back on human rights and are vindictively anti-immigrant.
Taiwan is pro gay rights; today’s Republicans are viciously anti-gay (Which is funny considering the high number of “family values” Republicans that wind up having their pictures splashed across the internet after being caught having gay sex. But I digress.)
Taiwan is pro-universal health care; today’s Republicans are adamantly against universal health care.
I could go on, but you get the point. In nearly every way that matters with the notable exception of cannabis laws (which are about the same in Taiwan as they were in 196o’s Texas), Taiwan is thoroughly progressive and today’s Republican party thoroughly regressive.
Hence, the aforementioned deep conflict at the sudden outcropping of support for Taiwan by people whose politics are so far removed from my own.
(I have more in common with yesterday’s John Birchers than I do with today’s Republicans. We’re both against fluoridation, but for different reasons. But again, I digress.)
A few days ago I watched Metal Politics Taiwan, a film about Freddy Lim. Lim (for readers not familiar with either Taiwanese politics or Heavy Metal) is the lead singer of the band ChthoniC 閃靈. He’s also a member of Taiwan’s parliament. It’s a great film, one which really encapsulates the current zeitgeist in Taiwan. I hope it gets wide distribution.
One scene from the film sticks out in particular: Lim, having been elected to Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan, heads to America for Trump’s inauguration. Clearly not a fan of Trump’s politics, Lim nonetheless had to suit up and show up for the inauguration of a man who’d now become extremely important to Taiwan’s relationship with the USA.
Like Lim clearly did at the inauguration, I, too, feel conflicted with the nature of Taiwan’s new allies. Taiwan clearly needs every friend it can get, and it’s a well-worn maxim that politics makes strange bedfellows. Equally well worn is the saying the enemy of my enemy is my friend. But I can’t help but also be reminded of a lesser known quote by Henry Kissinger, namely
“To be an enemy of America can be dangerous, but to be a friend is fatal.”
At no point in history has that statement seemed more relevant, and I’ve got no answers at the moment.
Perhaps music is the answer? I’ve gone ahead and embedded Chthonic’s Supreme Pain for the Tyrant below, which in addition to presenting a very clear picture of the band’s feelings towards the regime so beloved by the American right wing of old also seems to illustrate a general antipathy towards authoritarianism.
Looking to read more about Taiwan? My latest book, Formosa Moon (co-written with Stephanie Huffman) will be available for pre-order in July. Click here for more details.