Archive for the ‘Published’ category

What Does the Bible Have to Say About Democracy?

February 12, 2012

原文:Original Chinese Language Article
Featured on Front Page of 電子報:ICLP Bulletin 062 (Feb. 1, 2012)

What Does the Bible Have to Say About Democracy?
English Translation of Chinese E-Bulletin Article by James Smyth

Christians have actively participated in American politics since colonial times. Unfortunately, Jesus never mentioned the Republican or Democratic Parties, so the question of what political views Christians should have is a thorny one that can even make believers come to blows. Left and right wing advocates each have their own political interpretations of Bible passages like “The community of believers was of one heart and mind, and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they had everything in common ” and “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God” and “Slaves, obey your human masters in everything.”

But very few Americans have discussed the following Bible story.

After the Israelites returned to Canaan from Egypt, they established a nation that was free and independent for 400 years. They had no kings. Besides times of crisis, when a “Judge” would emerge and temporarily lead the country, the twelve tribes were free to govern themselves.

But when Judge Samuel aged (around 1020 B.C.) the Israelites made an unprecedented request from him: that he choose a king to rule them. Samuel strongly opposed them, but God told him to “listen to whatever the people say. You are not the one they are rejecting. They are rejecting me as their king… Now listen to them; but at the same time, give them a solemn warning and inform them of the rights of the king who will rule them.”(1)

The next time Samuel met with the Israelites, he warned them (abridged): “The governance of the king who will rule you will be as follows: He will take your sons and daughters into his service. He will take your best fields, vineyards, and olive groves and give them to his servants. He will take your male and female slaves, as well as your best oxen and donkeys, and use them to do his work. He will also tithe your flocks. As for you, you will become his slaves. On that day you will cry out because of the king whom you have chosen, but the LORD will not answer you.”

But the Israelites persisted: “No! There must be a king over us. We too must be like all the nations, with a king to rule us, lead us in warfare, and fight our battles.”

Israel had three kings over the next hundred years, two of which were outstanding and devoted themselves to the glory of the kingdom. The fourth king, however, was incompetent, and because of that the nation split in two. What’s worse, most of the kings who ruled both the northern and southern states after that were weak and corrupt, causing Israel’s international standing to decline. Two hundred years after the death of Samuel, the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrian Empire, and one hundred fifty years later, the southern kingdom was swallowed up by the Babylonian Empire. Israel would not win its independence back until 1949(2).

I think that what this story can communicate to Americans is that sometimes a people voluntarily give up their freedom in exchange for something else like glory or security. The younger President Bush, a Christian, deeply believed that freedom was the desire of every human heart, so he thought that after the U.S. liberated Afghanistan and Iraq, their citizens would happily cooperate with America. Instead, the American military sunk into a quagmire.

What this story says to Christians about democracies as a whole is that sooner or later, their citizens will exchange freedom for national power, safety, welfare, or some other good. The same thing will eventually happen in the United States of America, the Land of the Free. Even though many Americans believe that government’s primary responsibility is to protect the freedom of the governed, and many believe that the U.S. is the freest country in the world, the American government’s grasp on its citizens tightens year after year (its airport security measures are just the most visible example) because the demands the citizens make to the government sometimes necessitate the sacrifice of personal liberty. The history of the Kingdom of Israel is a reminder to American Christians that though they may willingly give up precious liberty in exchange for glory or security, they will not be able to preserve that glory or security forever.

(1) Biblical quotations are from the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.
(2) The country declared its Independence in 1948 but had to defeat four invading armies immediately after that.


Using ICLP’s Pre-Election Lectures to Analyze the Taiwanese Election Results

February 11, 2012

Using Last Week’s Lectures to Analyze the Taiwanese Election Results
English Translation of Chinese E-Bulletin Article by James Smyth
原文(Original Article)
Featured on Front Page of ICLP Bulletin 061 (Jan. 18, 2012)

Accomplished political scientists gave lunchtime lectures at ICLP on both January 6 and 8 about the Taiwanese Presidential and Legislative Election on the 14th. Now that the election has passed, we can use these professors’ ideas to analyze the results.

Professor Wang Yeh-li, the Chair of the National Taiwan University Department of Political Science, focused on the 2008 electoral reform’s influence on the makeup of the Legislative Yuan. Before the reform took effect, most legislators were elected from multi-seat constituencies with non-transferable votes, but afterward, most were elected from single-member districts. This changed the foundation of the electoral system from proportional representation to majoritarianism. For example, in the 2004 election, the Kuomintang received 34.90% of the votes and 35.1% of the seats in the legislature, while the Democratic People’s Party won 37.98% of the vote and 34.9% of the seats. In the post-reform 2008 election, however, the KMT took 51.2% of the votes and 71.7% of the seats while the DPP won 36.9% of the votes and 23.9% of the seats. This year, however, the gap between votes received and seats won was much smaller: the KMT received 44.55% of the former and 53.5% of the latter while the DPP took 34.6% of votes and 35.3% of seats in the legislature. It seems, then, that the DPP has adapted to Taiwan’s new style of competition.

Dr. Wang also told us that Taiwanese voters often used midterm legislative elections to check the ruling government: for example, the DPP took over 50% of the vote in the March 2004 presidential election, but the opposition Pan-Blue parties won the December 2004 Legislative Yuan election, and in 2006 a KMT candidate almost won the mayoral election in Kaohsiung, a DPP stronghold. Because the presidential and legislative elections are now on the same day, however, Dr. Wang thought it was possible that less voters would split their tickets. The election results indeed bore this out, as the KMT won control of both branches of government.

Dr. Wang also stressed that while politicians without party affiliations play strong roles in local politics, they have much less standing in national politics. This year was no exception: after the ‘01 and ‘04 legislative elections, unaffiliated candidates belonging to neither the Blue nor the Green Alliance held 4.44% of seats in the legislature, after the ‘08 and ‘12 elections, they had just 2.65%.

Dr. Shelley Rigger, Chair of Political Science at Davidson University, said that large corporations unified in support of President Ma Ying-jeou’s re-election campaign because they believed a Tsai Ing-wen victory would be bad for business. They encouraged employees working abroad to fly home and vote for the incumbent president. American media also reported this phenomenon: Foxconn, for instance, gave 5000 employees vacation time and helped them buy plane tickets to Taiwan so they could exercise their right to vote.

Dr. Rigger also explained that the main difference between the two candidates was in their views about the 1992 Consensus with China. President Ma supported this agreement, which contains the statement “There is only one China.” This doesn’t necessarily mean China and Taiwan must unite, and the agreement doesn’t clarify how this unification would come about, but the People’s Republic of China has firmly maintained that the 1992 Consensus is the sine qua non for relations between the two states. Tsai Ing-wen didn’t agree. She criticized the ‘92 Consensus because it was not approved by Taiwanese citizens themselves, who she argued would first have to come to a “Taiwan Consensus” (but she never clearly explained how such a consensus would be created). After the elections on the 14th, many Taiwanese newspapers, like Dr. Rigger, said that the 1992 Consensus was the focal point of the election : for example, the United Daily News’s post-election headline was “’92 Consensus Wins”; the Want China Times wrote that Ma Ying-jeou’s victory was the Consensus’s victory, and the Commercial Times editorialized that the concept of the Taiwan Consensus was empty and meaningless.

Dr. Rigger also said that the Chinese government supported Ma’s reelection, but it tried not to do so too loudly because it was afraid that would backfire and turn the Taiwanese people against Ma. After the election, however, the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s official newspaper, editorialized that “this result shows that the pursuit of peace, development, and stability is mainstream on the island of Taiwan and that our Taiwanese brothers wish to further develop the cross-strait relationship and create even more mutually beneficial relationships” and that “naturally, a peaceful and stable cross-strait relationship cannot depart from the ’92 Consensus, the foundation of bilateral negotiations.”

It’s easy to see that these two lectures greatly aided ICLP students’ understanding of the election.

ICLP電子報第49期:我捨不得離開ICLP ~ I Can’t Stand to Leave ICLP (featured in 49th ICLP Bulletin)

June 3, 2011

To begin with, this is fictional. I’m going to stay at ICLP another year. My prompt for this assignment was to write from the point of view of a depressed student, and because the end of the school year was coming, it was perfect timing for a piece like this.

我捨不得離開ICLP (original article including photos)

I Can’t Stand to Leave ICLP
English Translation of an Article by James Smyth

I’ve been down in the dumps lately, and it’s all because I have to leave ICLP. I called Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou and used an emotional appeal to try to convince him to help me stay here. He said he felt my pain, but he couldn’t help me because he has to convince Taiwanese skilled workers to stay in the country rather than emigrate first. A fortune teller told me he couldn’t help because studying isn’t in my future. It looks more and more like no one can help me.

I don’t want to go to a restaurant that’s not Sababa.
I don’t want to drink juice if it’s not made by Grandma Amy at the Xinhai Gate.
I don’t want to dance if the music isn’t “Radio Plays” BGM.
I don’t want to eat lunch if I can’t listen to a lecture while doing it.
I don’t want to open my mailbox if it won’t have emails from Ariel inside.
I don’t want to write characters if Ms. Zhou isn’t giving me a dictation test.
I don’t want to go to class if Mr. Chen isn’t there to say hello to me.
All these things are irreplaceable.

I feel worse every day. I often go to the office to chat, but last Friday they told me that although they don’t want to say goodbye to me, either, if I ever enter their office more than ten times in a single day again, they’ll have to call campus security on me. I don’t want to miss a single minute of class, and I’m afraid of oversleeping, so I hide in the computer room at night until Mr. Chen has locked the doors. Then I take a shower in the fourth floor restroom, eat the leftovers in the third floor refrigerator, and sleep in front of the door of my first period class.

I’m really worried about forgetting Chinese when I go back to America. I tried to stuff all my textbooks into my suitcase, but they didn’t fit. I won’t be able to avoid speaking English in the States, but when I do, I’ll feel guilty about breaking ICLP rules. But I’m afraid I’ll be lonely, too, because women only willingly talk to me during class time. I asked Head Teacher Chen for John Smith and David Lee’s contact information so I’d have someone to talk to, but she said I don’t need it because they already live inside my heart. [John and David are fictional exchange students from our textbooks.]

If I can write for the ICLP Bulletin one more time from the States, I’ll get to feel happy one more time, but if I don’t have a life, I won’t be able to write about my life after ICLP. Every day is agony. Please help me before I have a nervous breakdown!

ICLP電子報第48期:臺灣中部旅遊 ~ A Tour of Central Taiwan (featured in 48th ICLP Bulletin)

May 30, 2011

Xitou God Tree

電子報第48期:臺灣中部旅遊 (original article including photos)

A Tour of Central Taiwan
English Translation of an Article by James Smyth

In my last report of ICLP’s trip to Central Taiwan, I described the Mazu Festival in Beigang. This time, I’ll recount the rest of the trip. We had all sorts of activities during an abundant three days of travel. I invite everyone to read the following, and if any of these places interest you, you can go visit them yourself!

On the way to Beigang, we stopped at the Zhongxing Kebao factory; we took a leisurely tour of its new museum and learned more about our favorite staple food: rice. At the museum shop, we tried rice ice cream [rice cream?], malted rice milk tea, and the like.

After that, we went to Tianwei Flower Garden and rode bicycles through Taiwan’s “Genuine Flower Expo,” which is the traditional farms and neighborhoods of the town. You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to ride, as the town bicycle shop rents 2-, 3-, and 4-person bicycles in addition to the single-seaters. Pedaling around with friends is a very social way to sight-see. The town’s restaurant, “Grandma’s Kitchen,” also prepared delicious Taiwanese cuisine.

The second day, we drove from Beigang to Lugang. The Qing Emperors made Lugang an important part, as did Japan, so Lugang was central Taiwan’s biggest city until the early 20th century. First we toured the restored historical temple street market. We made yuzhen cakes [consisting of dry flavored powder packed together] and drank oyster soup. While we were in the heart of Lugang, a group of pilgrims carried an icon of Mazu into the temple accompanied by dancing, costumes, and music.

Local high school students gave us tours, which was a natural cultural exchange method. One could say the city’s most famous site is Longshan Temple (it has the same name as Taipei’s most famous place of worship, but the two have no connection with each other). The Lugang Longshan was built in 1653, during the 7th year of Ming Emperor Yongli’s reign. Though numerous natural disasters have damaged it over the last 350 years, it’s always been quickly rebuilt. Its most recent vintage was finished in 1938, during the 13th year of Japanese Emperor Showa, and it has great artistic value.

That afternoon, we ascended to Xitou Forest by bus. On the morning of the third day, we enjoyed a refreshing hike of the cool and beautiful mountain. There we saw the 2800-year old “God Tree.” Actually, before Japan colonized Taiwan, the entire mountain was virgin forest, but the Japanese army harvested almost all the timber to aid the war effort. They spared the “God Tree” because it looked terrible, so its initial misfortune was most fortunate indeed. There were also archetypal flower bulbs which enlightened “Thought and Society” students who had learned the theory that the Chinese character for “emperor” (帝) is a pictogram representing a drooping flower (蒂), symbolizing that society is supported from the top down by the emperor. The mountain resort in which we stayed had all kinds of Japanese shops, and we could also buy some comparatively rare Taiwanese snacks, for example “black charcoal ice cream” (which had the flower of bamboo charcoal).

Finally, we took a boat across Taiwan’s most famous lake, Sun Moon Lake, and sampled its traditional food stands, famous for wild boar, mushroom baozi, and rice wine. The area isn’t your parents’ Sun Moon Lake anymore: the pace of its development surprises year after year.

We returned to Taipei on Saturday evening so we could take a one-day vacation from our exciting three-day vacation and enjoy Easter Sunday.

ICLP電子報第47期:何寶彰教授演講側記 ~ Notes from Professor He Bao-zhang’s Lecture (featured in 47th ICLP Bulletin)

May 11, 2011

ICLP Student and Teachers with Professor He


Notes from Professor He Bao-zhang’s Lecture
English Translation of an Article by James Smyth

On the afternoon of April 20th, just before our spring vacation, Professor He Bao-zhang, who researches Chinese language education, came to ICLP and gave a lively introduction of his most recent work on grammar instruction. Dr. He taught at Ohio State, Harvard, and Holy Cross Universities in the United States for many years. In his experience, if a professor learns his students’ mother language, he can more easily grasp the difficulties the students will have with Chinese grammar and help them. Because students use syntax from their native languages and other foreign languages they’ve studied, they think they’re speaking very clearly, so they need definitive explanations of the differences between other languages and Mandarin. Grammar books should be bilingual, otherwise the explanations will be harder for students to understand than the examples.

One wedge between Western languages and Chinese is articles. In English, all common nouns are preceded by either “the” or “a.” Roughly speaking, the definite article “the” signifies “that particular thing” while the indefinite article “a” means “an unspecified one of those things.” Chinese doesn’t have articles, but it does put particular emphasis on the construction of a sentence; for example, “How does he sing?” and “How is his singing?” emphasize difference things, and teachers should stress that so that their students can speak more natural Chinese. When introducing grammar, however, a teacher shouldn’t get too caught up in detailing exceptions to rules, otherwise his students could forget the original purpose of the lesson or become frustrated and think Chinese is too difficult.

In the last part of the lecture, Dr. He and ICLP teachers had a spirited discussion of the evolution of conversational Chinese in Taiwan, especially the obvious influence of English: for example, teachers often overhear pidgin like “O bu OK?” (is it OK?) or “under bu understand?” (do you understand?) This exchange reminded me of my classmate Lance Davis’s report at the end of last term; obviously the subject is also of great interest to language instructors. Along these lines, Dr. He encouraged exchange students to make lots of Taiwanese friends, but he said if these friends challenge students with arguments like “I can understand you; you can understand me, so why are you still paying so much money to go to class?” they should calmly remind themselves why they’re studying: formal environments demand much greater proficiency than conversations among friends do.

Dr. He has a warm personality and deep experience, and his research is very meaningful, so the audience all went home happy.

魚與貓咬狗 ~ Fish and Cat Bite Dog

May 9, 2011

中文版: ICLP電子報:魚與貓咬狗

We finished off our Radio Plays class by writing a black comedy chock full of references to our textbook’s plays and the Frank Garrett Online Community. Rated PG-13.

Fish and Cat Bite Dog
English Translation of a Taiwanese Radio Play by Brian Hewson, Casey Hoerth, and James Smyth

The Cast
Frank Garrett: The owner of a pole-barn building firm in Yilan and a frequent target of prank phone calls.
Mr. Fish: A mailman who has recently immigrated from Hong Kong, where his wife and family still live.
Puss in Boots: A talking cat who helps his owner sell real estate. He thinks he is his owner’s biological son.
Retardo: Frank’s dog. Very friendly but not very bright.
Linda: Frank’s daughter.

ICLP電子報第46期:魚與貓咬狗; “ICLP Vets on Taiwanese Graduate Schools” featured in 46th ICLP Bulletin

April 13, 2011

46th ICLP Bulletin – ICLP Vets on Taiwanese Graduate Schools

臺大國際華語研習所 電子報 第46期 : 魚與貓咬狗

I’ll translate my group’s play on another day. It’s a knockout! In the meantime, you can learn about higher higher education [highest education?] in Taiwan.