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June 24, 2017

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Remembering the past, eyes to the future, we celebrate National Day

From our vantage in the newsroom, National Day is overcast with gloomy realities.

Despite Frank Hsieh's groundbreaking trip to mainland China, the Democratic Progressive Party's (DPP) mixed appraisal back home signals that the party is yet to achieve its goal of forging one out of many. Without unity, the DPP cannot be a viable option in the next presidential election.

In addition, the wildly divergent voices over Hsieh's trip are a troubling reminder that Taiwan's two major parties are still unable to agree on a single solitary thing. Not even — and possibly least of all — on the sanctity of the Constitution, which in any nation should be the most fundamental of fundamental premises.

Meanwhile, basic problems like the talent drain, lack of international status and the graying workforce show no signs of abating, while Taiwan's economic livelihood remains barely balanced on a tightrope held up on one end by the U.S. and on the other by China.

So this National Day, there's a sincere twinge of fear that the nation we know is on track to fade out slowly from the international community, soundlessly and without bloodshed.

An observer of our erosion from the world could say, well, why not. He would be right, for there isn't much that makes Taiwan entitled to stay. There's no Manifest Destiny in our annals, and we aren't the chosen people or the most powerful tribe. Neither are we that truly remarkable on the basis of our fledgling — and sometimes blundering and overbearing — democratic government.

But for better and for worse, we are still here. The Taiwanese who were children in the 1960s know what poverty looks like, how soap could be so dear that you didn't buy a bar when you were low, but instead dug in the drain for leftover slivers to mold together. That generation is still here, trying to raise children who are sufficiently free to read any book they want and wealthy enough to buy a fresh bar of soap any time they feel like it. Sometime between the hardscrabble early years and today, Taiwan's motley diasporas have come together enough to perceive this island as a nation, even if political parties are split over its name, and no matter what anyone in the United Nations says. Moreover, the people have come to see this island as home, and the natural human impulse says that home must endure.

That is what impels us to go back to the newsroom every day. To you, we suggest the same: Keep working.

Keep thinking and fortifying your thoughts. Bolstered by work, your blue-sky ideas can alter the course of the nation.

Never be reckless with your democratic rights. Vote in every election and always carefully. Then believe in your politicians: Choose not to start off cynical when interpreting their actions. Although it won't always appear that way, most men and women in politics put in stupendous amounts of overtime and get up in the morning wanting only good things for Taiwan.

Serve your country; the best way is to be flawlessly kind. To your neighbors who have less, keep every promise and give every opportunity. It is true that the real measure of a country's greatness is how it treats the weakest members.

Finally, on National Day, turn on the TV for the anthem at Ketagalan Boulevard. Though you may be surrounded by bad tidings, salute the flag.

From the newsroom, we wish Taiwan a happy birthday and many more.

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