Where else but Taiwan Republic would a baseball hero’s nickname be ‘Minister of National Defense’, and where else but Taiwan would the democratically elected vice president now prime minister and Army frogmen heroes echo his salute?
Politicians focus on curriculum and monuments and formal national iconographies when it comes to national identity debates — these categories play a role, but national identity emerges from a complex mixture, of formal and informal, planned and accidental, low and high cultures, action and reaction. The Chinese Taipei refugees imposed a particularly odd set of values and historical memories on postwar Taiwan — meek, notebook in hand, sitting using only one-third of a chair, autocratic filial piety, loyalty to the Chiang crime family, frugality amidst their corruption, self-effacing mixed with Han Chinese imperialism and racism.
This Taiwanese baseball team, on the other hand, is modern and global, they are celebrating loudly — a natural swagger, this Team Taiwan celebrates individuality, and spontaneity — they reflect the real historical experience of peripheral, heterodox, land of refuge from many different quarters of historic Taiwan.
How to purge democratic Taiwan of this poison the Chinese brought democratically, without bloodshed — it may be that constitutional reforms and national day declarations and political summits play less role than something like a World Baseball Classic, where Taiwanese naturally call their team Team Taiwan — where Chinese Taipei is understood as the slur imposed by the Chinese Taipei KMT that it is — where Taiwanese naturally, joyously, return to their historic, authentic national identity — a land of pirates and rebels and migrants, an island nation where beliefs and practices and foodways from different immigrants get hilariously mixed together.
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