France, Lyon, Travels

Another Day in the World

After Lumiere, we saw Emily off, who had to get to class. Yiling and I had a cool lunch in a little working-class place which served copious quantities of frites with the food. We ate at a liesurely pace, as I answered Yiling’s questions about how Americans felt about George Bush and the environment and Yiling answered my questions about how Taiwan feels about itself and China.

I explained that most Americans, even if they didn’t vote for him, were inclined to suffer through his presidency without too much complaint, because there was only so much damage he could achieve in four years, compared to the trouble it takes to change a government that one is less than happy with. The environment? Many Americans aren’t inclined to worry about it, and those of us who are, generally don’t see it as worth beating our heads against the wall while our little oil prince is in power. The environment takes time to affect, and the few years that George has left at the realm aren’t going to make a really big difference.

Yiling explained that the Taiwanese people, especially the youngest generation, see themselves as a people distinct from China. She explained that, for example, when traveling abroad, the whole “Taiwan is neither China nor is it actually a nation thing” is at best, an irritating nuisance. In Taiwan, she said, Identity is very important, how Taiwanese see themselves, to such a degree that Nationalist fervor has become something of an annoying litmus test at all levels of politics. The ultimate question was whether it was worth risking War … blood … would you die for the idea of Taiwan?

Yes. And I hope that if it comes to that, you will help us.

I offered my opinion that, given our own history, the United States would be morally obligated to support the will of the Taiwanese people, if that were there will. I talked about what great personal risks our own founding statesmen took in staking their lives on Independence, relaying the old “my only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country” and explaining how “John Hancock” had become synonymous with signing your name to a document.

It turns out Yiling is merely a month older than me. Taiwan’s fate will probably be resolved in our lifetime, and it is something we are all likely to remember. In a larger sense, how China manages or fails to care for its billion people in a sustainable manner, along with how we all manage the environment … well, these are some of the really big questions that our generation is going to have to answer.

Sooner or later? For my part, I won’t be back in Cali ’til January …

After lunch, we trekked over to the Tony Garnier, which is actually a set of twenty-four outdoor wall murals, depicting Garnier’s vision of the “Industrial City” around 1900, which featured then-novel things like zoning different areas for different use. His plans were detailed, and utopian: the houses should look like this, the train station here, the hospital, designed in sections, up on the top of the hill, hydro power. Lyon implemented a small part of this in a modified form, along the Boulevard Etats Unis, or “United States Boulevard”. The utopian intentions were a fascinating dessert to our worldly lunch discussion. Along the way we ran into an old Vietnamese lady, and an older Hungarian man, both polyglot ex-patriots who haven’t returned home since the wars that separated them from their childhood homes. I was glad I’d stayed another day.

Read More

Categories: France, Lyon, Travels