#63: Border Disputes

September 21st, 2012

On the east side of Michigan Avenue, the Chinese-American protesters waved PRC and U.S. flags, sang songs of solidarity and held huge signs and banners declaring their outrage at Japan’s claim on the Diaoyu Islands, which they consider a breach of inviolable and sacred international borders.

On the west side of the street, the Free Tibet people held their own signs and just glared.

I only caught the tail end of the… moment? minute? hour? where the Japan-out-of-China and China-out-of-Tibet protesters were lined perfectly across Chicago’s lush shopping street.

On one side, parked en masse in front of the building that apparently holds both the Japanese Consulate and the Walgreens where Shia LaBeouf just went bananas, were scores and scores of flag-waving Chinese people behind a massive banner I believe* said “Greater Chicago Chinese Defend Diaoyu Islands of China.”

On the other side were between 10 and 20 Free Tibet protestors, shuffling south with their well-used placards, some wrapped in the rainbow sun-splosion Free Tibet “snow lion flag.”

I decided I would catch up with the Free Tibet side after I hit the ATM at the LeBeouf Walgreens, but they had gone by the time I got back. Later, even the bus taking me to the Art Institute couldn’t catch up to them. They must have taken a greater vehicle.

As I stood wondering where the Tibetans had gone, looking to the left for the left view and right, of course, for the right view, one of the Chinese protestors came up to me. He was an older man, handsome in that way where you can’t picture him being any other age. With a beatific smile, he handed me a flier titled “Fellow Americans, Would You Fight for Japan In a China-Japan Dispute Over the Diaoyu Islands?”

There were a lot of reminders about the Rape of Nanking in there. In case that didn’t get the message across, it listed the death tallies for Pearl Harbor.

The flier told me the protest where Red China and the Red, White and Blue flags waved side by side was organized by a group called the Committee of Chicago Chinese Americans Against The Japanese Invasion of China’s Diaoyu IslandsĀ  or, as I like to think they call it informally, the COCCATAJIOCDI.

Like the 1990s R&B band I’m convinced that acronym rhymes with, the COCCATAJIOCDI was a group of individuals united in a common goal. But unlike famed new jack swing songsters Jodeci, that goal wasn’t Freek’n You.

The Diaoyu Islands, or as the Japanese call them, the Senkaku, are a group of uninhabited islands controlled by Japan since the 1800s, but claimed by China and Taiwan as well. They’re privately owned (hopefully the site of a yearly martial arts tournament by a man who owns a room full of mirrors), but the Japanese government recently tried to buy them, triggering protests around the world and threats of military action.

To repeat, uninhabited islands currently owned by some dude. War.

Maybe these islands will turn out to be the trigger to a war, sort of an uninhabited Archduke Ferdinand with rocky beaches. But it seems too comical to me, from the COCCATAJIOCDI’s feelings of violation over some rocks and grass to the subtle reminder shuffling southbound across the street of “Oh yeah. Tibet.”

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Read about the Diaoyu/Senkaku dispute

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* I say “I believe” that’s what the banner said because I’m writing from my girlfriend’s house, left my notes at home and had to find a picture of what I think was the Chicago protest banner from a Chinese news website also offering a gallery of “Edison Chen sex scandal girlfriend Xie Zhihui, including the tender mode sexy photos.” The site was obviously using bad translation software, because in a separate photo, a man named Liu Bing appeared as Liu ice half the time. He was portraying People’s Liberation Army Marshall Liu Bocheng in a re-enactment of the Red Army’s alliance with Yi chieftain Yuedan the Junior, or as the translation software kept calling him, “lobular Dan.”

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