Recent events leading up to the January 6th, 2021 insurrection in our nation’s capital have been appalling, and strike against the very core of TAF’s ethics and values. We unequivocally condemn the violent actions of the rioters — many of them white supremacists fitting the legal definition of domestic terrorists — incited by extremist disinformation campaigns and unproven conspiracy theories put forth by members and supporters of the Trump administration. Our nation must accept the results of our election and support the peaceful transition of power — a hallmark of democracy in both the United States and Taiwan.
TAF’s mission is to develop servant leaders for the benefit of humankind; we historically strive for a non-partisan approach to political activism not only to respect the diversity of our community’s opinions, but to give space for campers to make their own decisions on the issues they are most passionate about.
However, there are moments in history where we’ve felt compelled to take a stand and strongly role model the servant leadership we aspire to foster. Our statement on Black Lives Matter was one such moment, and I’m proud that our staff followed our words up with concrete action at TAF to give our children the tools to navigate racism, privilege, and injustice in their lives.
Now is another such moment, as the bedrock norms undergirding our democracy are under attack. We witnessed a mob sent by the president to invade the Capitol, contravening the will of the people, disrupting the transition of power, and leading to the deaths of at least five people. Symbols and phrases of hatred such as the swastika, the Confederate flag, the gallows, “Camp Auschwitz”, and “6MWNE” (Six Million Were Not Enough, a Holocaust reference), are antithetical to TAF’s values, and have no place in American civil society — a bipartisan truth increasingly shared by left and right alike.
I was also personally disturbed by the presence of the Republic of China flag at these riots, shown on CNN, in close proximity to the symbols of hatred mentioned above. The appearance of this flag and members of other Asian American groups at the riot risks putting our community in real danger, and should in no way be misconstrued as support from TAF. As servant leaders, we strongly condemn this attack on the roots of our democracy, and call upon those responsible for inciting this violence to resign and face justice for their actions. There can be no unity without accountability.
TAF must also reflect inwards on how we can continue leading our community. Our commitment to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion is matched by a commitment towards fostering democratic values.
What stories can we tell from our own people’s movement towards freedom, to reinforce democratic ideals and recognize the threats of authoritarianism?
What lessons from last year can we reflect upon to make sense of law enforcement’s disparity of treatment towards protestors advocating for racial justice versus insurrectionists aiming to overthrow our government?
What are the boundaries of activism and protest, and how do we contextualize different examples of civil disobedience, including the Umbrella and Sunflower Movements?
What can TAF teach about the history of US-Taiwan relations so that campers can understand why a symbol of Taiwan was at these riots?
And, perhaps most important, what does servant leadership look like today, and in future crises to come?
These have been difficult times for all of us, and I do not yet know what the coming year will bring for us. But I do know that I, and the rest of TAF staff, commit ourselves to supporting our community through it all. I leave you with the following words from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“Hatred paralyzes life; love releases it.
Hatred confuses life; love harmonizes it.
Hatred darkens life; love illuminates it.”
Strength to Love, 1963
Giving strength and love,