Students at a junior high school in Taichung were recently given a written test that included a question on the nationality of NBA star Jeremy Lin. A controversy, however, erupted when the school determined that "American" was the only correct answer. This prompted the city's Education Bureau to step in and instruct the school to accept both "American" and "Taiwanese" as correct.
It seems that nationality, national identity and ancestry are three issues that have never been cleared up in this abnormal country of Taiwan. When even adults do not have a clear idea as to whether "Taiwanese" is a concept regarding nationality, identity or ancestry, how can we expect our younger generations to give a proper answer?
Lin is most accurately described as an American of Taiwanese ancestry. As far as nationality is concerned, he is undoubtedly an American. He may have some knowledge of or affection for Taiwan because of his parents, but ancestry does not surpass nationality or national identity.
How come such a simple matter of common sense can become a bone of contention in Taiwan? It could be related to the lack of civic education that focuses on building national identity, as well as Taiwan's failure to gain international recognition as an independent state. When the president we elected identifies himself as "both Chinese and Taiwanese," do we feel the danger underlying such a move?
Sixteen years have passed since the Taiwanese people first directly elected their president. If our citizens are still trying to search for internationally renowned individuals of Taiwanese ancestry as a way of building self-confidence, this is a step backward and reflects the sense of inferiority our people have.
We should bravely face up to the reality and recognize "Taiwanese" as a nationality and identity that is not necessarily related to ancestry. Only by doing so can children in Taiwan clearly identify Lin's and their own nationalities. (Editorial abstract -- May 24, 2012)
(By Y.F. Low)