taiwanflThe two main reasons people around the world leave their country and flock to America: to seek political freedom and to establish a better life. According to US Census Bureau data, America accepted 13.2 million new immigrants between 1990 and 2000. Taiwanese participation in this global diaspora started very early. In the 60s, it was common for college graduates—especially ones from prominent universities—to set their sights on America. A well-known saying at the time was “Come, come, come/ Come to the National University/ Go, go, go/ Go to America!” Most of these graduates, after earning their degrees, chose to stay in the US and become citizens. After World War II, America became a world super power in politics and economy. It was easy to see the attraction. Kids elsewhere were going to school without shoes. They watched American television and grew up with images of American kids riding around in colorful cars and living in nice houses with big gardens.

Political instability was another factor contributing to Taiwanese people’s emigration. In the early 1970’s, the Chiang Kai-Shek regime, an important ally of the Asian anti-communist countries, was severely threatened. America was heading to end the cold war after failing in the prolonged and painful Vietnam War. In 1972, to the world’s surprise, President Nixon paid an official visit to communist China. Worse still for Taiwan, the United Nations forcefully ousted Taiwan from its position as one of the five founders of the UN Security Council and gave its seat to China. To add insult to injury, it mercilessly expelled Taiwan from the UN immediately following a big strike. Since then, the world has labeled Taiwan not an independent country, but a rebel of China.

Taiwanese people (and I was one of them) were shocked, angry, confused; we felt deeply betrayed. Many people believed that China would soon take over the island and demolish its democracy. Consequentially, the act of emigration occurred; we used the word “flee” to describe it. My childhood neighbor settled in South America’s Uruguay. Their arrangement was to have the father quit his job and relocate with their 10-year-old son, while the mother stayed to make money to support the family. I remember feeling very sad when I saw them move away. There were many such families that courageously split apart due to the financial uncertainty of the country’s political situation. This was the price people paid to pursue a precious “real democracy” and “better life.”

Henry’s second sister and her husband followed the trend and came to America in 1970. Both of them were offered graduate degree scholarships by American universities. “Only by enduring the toughest hardship can one become the best of all.” This popular Chinese saying rang true for many Taiwanese immigrants who were high achievers like them. They made their home and established their careers in Louisiana while raising two outstanding children. In 1985, with their encouragement, the migration of Henry’s siblings began. Henry and I didn’t plan to move abroad until his sister urged us to. As two of Henry’s other siblings chose not to move, we were weighing our options.

For better or worse—we were not sure—we finally decided to take the risk and headed off to the new world. The wait was long. We felt restless and frustrated because we couldn’t make any long-term plans on our homeland. Henry rejected promotions while I rejected job offers. What we could not reject was the calling from this new country, which echoed some sort of promise. Our minds were fixed on the other side of the ocean although there was no target.

Were we frightened that we might not be able to survive? Yes, we were. But with the encouragement of family members, our spirit for adventure triumphed.

The move was heartbreaking for my side of family. For my parents, they lost a daughter. My mother wouldn’t say anything to dissuade me, even though she hoped it would not happen. My father, on the other hand, asked (and would continue to ask many years after I left), “Why do you need to go? You can live well here!” I could only answer him with a weak voice, “I know, but it is always good to discover new things!” For them, my absence in their lives was impossible to justify no matter how good the reason.

Now we were here, starting our new lives as we’d wished. Everything seemed satisfactory up to this point. We should have felt grateful, but situated in our nice apartment furnished with new things and two cars to go around, Henry and I carried a sense of guilt. We called our parents once a week. From my parents, we’d receive words like “We are fine, don’t worry!” From Henry’s parents, we’d hear descriptions of troubles: “We are very lonely and scared!” or “I wish you were here to help us; your father doesn’t feel well.” We could do no more to comfort them than saying, “Sorry we can’t be there, please take care of yourself!” We would take care of you if we could—in our hearts, there was a place we kept this burden.

為了追求自由,或尋求高水準的物質生活,全世界的人都喜愛往美國移民。在1990到2000年這十年中間,全球有一千三百二十萬的人口離鄉背景到美國來。台灣人很早就開始加入這股世界性的移民潮流,在六十年代,台灣的大學畢業生,尤其是出自頂尖大學的人,總是把美國當做學業深造的最高目標。那時很流行的一句俗話是,「來來來,來台大;去去去,去美國!」台大就是台灣大學,在台灣的地位相當於美國的哈佛大學。這些台灣的知識精英分子,拿到美國大學的學位後,大部份都留下就業,進而取得公民權。第二次世界大戰後,美國成為世界政治和經濟上的最強權。當時的台灣,很多孩子上學是沒鞋子穿的。當這些孩子在電視上看到美國孩子出門坐汽車,住在有花園的大洋房時,怎能不羨慕他們呢?

政治的不穩定又給台灣人民加上另一個出走的理由。蔣介石政權在二次大戰後成為反共產黨國家在太平洋的重要防衛點,但在70 年代, 這個反共產黨的地位受到嚴重的威脅。美國經歷了越南戰爭的慘痛經驗後,政治發展是往結束冷戰的方向進行,尼克森總統於1972年往中國大陸訪問,此舉震驚了全界。更糟的是,原來是聯合國五個安全理事會員國之一的台灣,被會員國投票決定,把這個席位讓出給中國大陸,連並喪失了聯合國會員的資格。從此以後,台灣不再被世界認定是一個國家,而是中國的叛黨。

台灣人民,連我在內,無不震驚,生氣,深覺被美國和全世界背叛了。很多人都說共產黨很快會把台灣拿下,進而摧毀台灣的民主政治。於是很多人開始往外國移民,當時,我們用「逃離」這個字眼,來形容這股潮流。我的隔壁鄰居移民去南美洲的烏拉圭,他們的計劃是:他爸爸辭職帶著十歲的兒子移居到那裏,讓媽媽留下來賺錢,供給他們的生活。我記得,當我看著他們離開的時侯,覺得很傷心。很多家庭像他們一樣,很勇敢地把一個完整的家拆散了。這是當初人們為了追求「真正的自由」,和「更好的生活」的代價。

Henry的二姐和姐夫就是隨著這股潮流,在台灣大學畢業後,於1970年以大學獎學金來美國深造,之後他們留下來, 在路易斯安那州事業有成,並扶養造就成兩位非常傑出的兒女。他們是實行中國傳統好教養:「吃得苦中苦,方為人上人」 而成功的典型書香之家。 在他們的鼓勵下,Henry 的家人於1985年開始往美國移民。 那時,我們並沒有積極想來此的計劃, 但是Henry 的姐姐一直鼓勵著。在來與不來之間,我們要做個抉擇。

後來我們決定,不管是好是壞,就冒個險吧!這個等待好長久,又不能確定何時才排到期,我們也不能在家鄉做什麼長遠的計劃。Henry拒絕接升遷,我也拒絕新職位。唯一我們不能拒絕的,是美國對我們的呼喚,在那呼喚裏,似乎迴蕩著一些我們也不知道是什麼的承諾。我們怕不怕在那裏無法生存呢?怕呀!但是在Henry家人的支持下,我們冒險的精神,戰勝了對失敗的恐懼。

這個移民的行動,對我的家人來說,當然是很大的傷痛。我的父母好像從此丟了一個女兒。我的母親從來不會反對我的選擇,就算她不願意我離開,她也是忍者,不說一句不贊同的話。我的父親卻不一樣,就算我來美國很多年了,他還是問我:「妳為什麼要去美國呢?工作這麼辛苦!妳在台灣可以過得很好啊!」我只能回答:「我知道,可是,有機會學習新的事物,也很好啊!」但是,我很了解,不管我的理由再怎麼好,對他們來說,也不能圓滿解釋這個「女兒好像消失了一樣」的事實啊!

現在,我們已經住在這塊新的國土上,我們的願望已成真,到此時,諸事皆順利。住在這個寬敞的公寓,家有新家俱,出門有兩輛車代步,我們應該感到很高興,可是我們卻常懷著罪惡感。我們每個週末打電話回去問候家人,我的父母總說:「我們很好,不用擔心!」Henry的父母總說:「我們好寂寞,好害怕呀!」或者說:「真希望你們在這裏,你爸爸最近胃很不舒服啊!」這就是罪惡感的來源,但我們什麼也做不了,只能安慰他們:「對不起,我們不能照顧你們,請多保重啊!」如果可以,我們一定會照顧你們的—在我們的心裡,我們已經留下一塊角落,來安置這份負擔。

    Share →

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *