Author: James Smyth
Editor: Zhou Chang-zhen
Today my classmate Stephanie said that some people who are “half-planted in their hometown soil” [a Chinese figure of speech] can’t help hating the place. I think this is very true, so first I’d like to expand on her thought. When I was a student, I often used sarcasm to describe my hometown. Even though I knew it was a very safe and prosperous place, I thought the people there were shallow and arrogant. When you’re an adolescent, it’s natural to criticize other people and things, but if you don’t have a good reason for it you’ll simply hurt yourself and others. My love for my hometown has never been stronger than it is now.
Taking it a step further, I’ve now lived in four other places: Duke University, Madrid, my Japanese farming village, and Taipei, each of which has its own great qualities. I’ve thought of each place as “my home” before. Whenever I start to dream of a place, I know I’ve become comfortable there. I supported three teams during last year’s World Cup. I woke up at 4 AM to watch the championship game, and I was celebrating all day after Spain won.
I imagine my attitude conflicts with traditional regionalism and nationalism, but in today’s internationalized society there are more people like me every year. To tell the truth, though, more than a few emigrants to Japan complain that no matter how many years they’ve lived there, and no matter how many local activities they’ve participated in, the natives see them as guests and ask them when they’re planning to return home. This is completely different from the emotional burden carried by, for example, an emigrant to America. Though the Japanese easily distinguish a person looks different, they should at least acknowledge that Japanese ancestry is not a necessary condition for being a Japanese person. You all know I treasured my experience in Japan, but I also felt this kind of distance from people when I lived there.
Though I am also a minority in Taiwan, I’ve never felt left out here, and I find that amazing. ICLP’s international atmosphere obviously plays a big role in that, but my Taiwanese friends also say that because their island already has so many ethnic groups, and it has been governed by many different nations, it has a more open society. As far as I can tell, Taiwanese-style “nationalism” is a rare thing.