We met when I worked as an intelligence officer in Canada, part of an organization that at times risked making racism and hatred for the “other” — in that case, mostly Arabs and Muslims — a normal policy. After nearly three years in that suffocating environment, whose siege mentality I could no longer bear, I resigned, choosing to abide by the values of humanity and inclusiveness that I cherished and believed defined me as a Canadian.
Throughout the long, difficult months that preceded my decision, my partner, a Taiwanese, was always supportive and helped me in uncountable ways, as did other members of her family.
Soon afterwards, we left Canada — her adopted homeland — and moved to Taiwan, where I sought to build a new life and write a book about what I had gone through at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
What immediately struck me in Taiwan was the warmth, friendliness, selflessness and generosity of its people, at a level I had possibly only encountered in Cuba on my two visits there.
A product of a multicultural society myself, I was also greatly pleased to discover that in this young democracy, people of various ethnicities lived alongside each other peacefully, Taiwanese interacting with peoples from Southeast Asia, Chinese, Hakka, Japanese, Aborigines and the growing influx of Westerners like myself with respect and humanity. Even on touchier issues like homosexuality, Taiwanese have at times been far more progressive and open-minded than many Western countries — or even Quebec City, where I was born and where a family member, herself a homosexual, has had to live in hiding.
This is not to say that “interracial” relations in Taiwan are always harmonious, or that there haven’t been instances of abuse. But no society is pristine.
Taiwan’s handling of its ethnic mix is commendable, one of a number of successes it has achieved in its long journey toward nationhood. That success, a clear sign of maturity in a people, is often overlooked when people speak of the Taiwanese miracle.
In the three-and-a-half years that I have lived in Taiwan, its people have opened their hearts on countless occasions, helped me, befriended me and, in the small Songshan community where I live, made me feel part of them, a feat they manage to repeat every single day with smiles, nods, words, neighborly help and in myriad other ways.
Coworkers, neighbors, pure strangers, all, with very, very few exceptions, have reaffirmed, through their words and actions, why it is that I have chosen to make Taiwan my home and why I, like many others who have had a chance to visit, care so much about its future.
So it is with unmitigated horror and disbelief that I read about Kuo Kuan-ying (郭冠英), a senior official at Taiwan’s representative office in Toronto — where I have many Taiwanese friends — writing articles under a pseudonym that for all intents and purposes managed to both deny and commend the 228 Incident, in which between 20,000 and 25,000 Taiwanese were killed, while vaunting the supposed “superiority” of Chinese over Taiwanese “rednecks.”
Kuo also argued that Chinese should occupy Taiwan and keep its “natives” under the kind of authoritarian rule that prevailed during the Martial Law era and exists today in regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang.
As Chinese in this distorted, racist view of the world are “superior,” this implies that my partner, her parents, her family, her best friend’s adorable baby girl Maegan, many of my coworkers and friends, the kind tribal chief I met on a trip to the beautiful Smangus homeland in the mountains of Hsinchu County, and the countless cab drivers, storekeepers, vendors and strangers who have shown me patience and selflessness, are “lesser” human beings — people it would be OK to assimilate, throw in jail, occupy or even exterminate.