Dispatch from Backbone, Asia
I’m fond of talking about my hometown of the heart, Backbone, Colorado. It’s a way of discussing the enduring truths that hold out hope for our country and our world today.
Well, this month we were guests in a place I want to salute as Backbone, Asia. Its political name is the Republic of China. Geographically it is known as the island of Taiwan, offshore from the Chinese Communist mainland.
Backbone, Asia, has bettered the lives of its people by building one of the world’s most dynamic market economies, surging to almost $15,000 per person this year from a meager $300, just a few decades ago. It did this by leveraging the ultimate resource, human purpose – despite scant natural resources, diplomatic ostracism, and PRC saber-rattling.
Backbone, Asia, has transformed itself in less than a hundred years from feudalism to a vigorous political culture of democracy and freedom. It got there by the bootstraps – without tutelage from a US-written constitution and occupying GI’s, as in Japan – without the perpetual paternalism of dictatorship and repression, as on the Maoist mainland.
Indeed Backbone, Asia, was colonized and brutalized by those same Japanese throughout the first half of the 20th century. After which its indomitable leadership and valiant fighters were damn near driven into the sea by those same Maoists, who then implacably undertook to bully and threaten and isolate the island nation throughout the second half of the century.
Now as a new century begins, the standoff (upheld by US defense guarantees) continues between the elected, humane government in Taipei and the bloody, reptilian regime in Beijing.
The little island has barely 2% of the PRC’s population and an even tinier fraction of its land area. Yet the Taiwanese people’s vitality and openness are an intolerable rebuke to their communist cousins. And their wealth is an even more tempting prize than that of the recently-digested Hong Kong.
Since US goodwill is the equalizer for Taiwan against the mainland’s hostility, they bring over American political leaders to experience Backbone, Asia. Six of us from Colorado were mightily impressed by our week there, July 13-20.
Taiwanese cities, farms, and industry cluster into one of the densest human settlements on earth, crowded seaward by the island’s mountain spine, where Mount Jade and other peaks rise as high as our Rockies.
The density gave us perspective on alarmist notions that our state is “filling up.” The rugged skyline spoke to us of backbone – an imagery that was stronger still in the people’s free and courageous spirit.
There is a world of difference between a free society and an unfree one, between a system that respects individuals and one that treats them like ants. This is a backbone truth, a sacred principle on which West and East can meet after all.
After seeing it evidenced in Cambodia 1999, in Cuba 2000, and now in Taiwan 2001, I am more convinced than ever that America’s global leadership in freedom’s cause has much work still to do – even with the Cold War behind us.
Stem Cell Sophistry
DN - Couples going through infertility treatments have thousands of frozen embryos stored in US clinics that they will never use. But researchers can. Embryonic stem cells may be invaluable in the treatment of several deadly diseases. Should the federal government fund this research or should these discarded embryos be thrown out with the other bio waste? Fund the research.
JA - Every one of those embryos is a human life. With time, each could become a precious, beautiful baby. Many Americans see it that way, and regard the harvesting of human lives for whatever reason as a monstrous evil. Government should not compel them to pay for it with tax dollars.
This exchange and the next one are from the August edition of “Head On,” seen daily on public television in Colorado. The combatants are John Andrews and Dani Newsum. See our website for stations and air times.
JA - Will Bush try to buy off Hispanic voters and Mexico’s President Fox by granting amnesty to 3 million illegal immigrants? I hope not. We tried that 15 years ago and it accomplished nothing. Mexican citizens who break the law by sneaking over the border should not be rewarded by changing the law to make them U.S. citizens overnight.
DN - Young George and the rest of you Republicans will leave no stone unturned in your efforts to woo the growing Latino population. You’ve done so much to offend them over the years, this approach is almost refreshing. But face it: they’re bagging our groceries, slinging our fast food, cleaning our hotel rooms. And paying taxes. They’ve earned their amnesty.
JA - Amnesty for lawbreakers is just an invitation for more of the same. As an attorney, Dani, you ought to know that. Bush seems to prefer a guest worker program for Mexico and other countries, and that makes sense. So does policing the Mexican border. So does increasing economic opportunity south of the border.
MACAVITY, HILL CAT
For Safe Politics, Use a Condit
Another episode of our unillustrated cartoon strip, featuring US Rep. Eliot “Mac” Macavity of Colorado’s imaginary (for now) 7th congressional district. Mac the Cat gained notoriety last year when JA’s election opponent made him a campaign issue, no kidding. Here, aide Mark Jellicle has pulled Macavity aside in the House cloakroom.
Jellicle – Look at this, Mac. A secret memo by Democratic strategists, leaked to the RNC, advises Gary Condit to spurn resignation and do a TV ad blitz asking voters to reelect him in 2002.
Mac – The ad copy is wonderful. “After my predecessor quit over financial corruption, I said you deserved a different kind of congressman. So I am not quitting over sexual corruption.”
Jellicle – His four-point platform could have been authored by Bill Clinton and Jesse Jackson.
Mac – Yeah, those Dems sure have brass. Ol’ Gary promises his constituents, “(1) ethics in government, (2) support for law enforcement, (3) respect for women, and (4) protection of our young people.”
Jellicle – Then he looks into the camera with his babe-fetching jawline and sincere eyes, and says: “Our politics have become dirty, even dangerous. Together we can make them clean and safe again. Next time you vote, take no chances. For safe politics, always use a
Mac – But don’t hold your breath waiting for this memo to show up in the big media. They never even mention the guy is a Democrat.
Book Offer Still Open
“Restoring the American Dream,” the 1979 classic on human liberty by Robert Ringer, is now out of print – but available while supplies last, as a thank-you for anyone who takes a life subscription to our journal ($60).
This stirring book, says the late Bill Simon in his foreword, “asks that we begin to reevaluate government functions on a moral basis; that we begin to reevaluate the problems facing our nation in a new light; that we begin to reevaluate our own behavior to determine if we are contributors to the decay that has beset our country.”
“Restoring the American Dream” is a powerful primer for patriots. Get your copy today.
The Secret: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” – Henry David Thoreau
The Surrender: “I was not born free. I was born to obey and adore.” – C. S. Lewis
The Mission: “To go out is imperative, to return is not.” – Coast Guardsmen’s motto
The Mischief: “Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm – but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it – absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” – T. S. Eliot
The Connection: “As long as there are postmen, life will have zest.” – William James
Spotted in Scripture
Hath a nation changed their gods, which are yet no gods? For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. – Jeremiah 2: 11, 13
LET ME HEAR FROM YOU.