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Sunday, February 12, 2012

Going down to Hicksville


That what she called them. Hicks. Apparently, if you live south of the Jhuoshuei River 濁水溪 and support the opposition Democratic Progressive Party 民進黨, that makes you "an unsophisticated provincial person", as Merriam-Webster defines the word "hick". "She" is the anonymous commenter who's been peppering a recent post of mine with contradictory messages that appear to reveal a proud Běn​shěng​rén 本省人 (one whose family was living in Taiwan prior to the end of the Chinese Civil War 國共內戰 in 1949) who nonetheless seems to be a supporter of the Kuomintang 國民黨, a political party the roots of which lie in China and not Taiwan. The KMT favors the eventual "reunification" of Taiwan with the "Mainland", and during its long oppressive rule following its defeat at the hands of Mao Zedong's Communists, was responsible for the imprisonment, torture and deaths of tens of thousands of Anon's fellow countrymen (and women). In this respect, she is far from alone. Many residents of this island are proud of their distinct identity, as well as their economic and political achievements, yet continue to support the KMT, thus putting those accomplishments in possible jeopardy. I'd always assumed the KMT's support came from the maxim that all politics are local, and that if your local KMT pol continually brought the bacon home to your constituency, you would keep voting for him or her in every election, regardless of what that might mean to Taiwan's future status. But in Anon's case, she actually seems to believe in the goodness of the KMT's heart, that all on this island are treated as equals under the banner of Chinese Nationalism.

Even Caucasians. Though she still hasn't clarified what role a white boy like myself has to play in the conception that is Greater China.

Her choice of the put-down "hicks" in describing southern voters who support the DPP is a curious one, for I'm under the impression that Běn​shěng​rén such as Anon have been called as much by those who consider themselves to be Superior Mainlanders. It seems there is some kind of identity crisis going on here, but I won't proceed any further. Despite Anon's belief that Taiwan is a peaceful, harmonious society under the KMT, ethnicity issues are a dangerous minefield that a non-citizen such as myself should think twice about stepping in.

But that word "hick" still bothers me. I suppose that's because my wife's family lives south of the Jhuoshuei River, in the town of Siluo 西螺 in Yún​lín County 雲林縣. The area is a strong bastion of support for the DPP, but to best of my knowledge (for I've learned the hard way not to discuss Taiwanese politics with my wife) my in-laws side with the KMT. The reasons have to do with the family's complex background, which I won't go into here, but which I assume isn't at all unusual in Taiwan. Yet I'm probably correct in thinking that most of their friends and neighbors vote Green (meaning for the DPP), which would make them "hicks" in Anon's eyes. I guess we can go further, then, and draw the conclusion that a township such as Siluo must be a "Hicksville".

So tonight I'd like to tell you that we drove down to Hicksville this afternoon to visit my wife's sisters, and to pick up our two cats, Happy and Momo, who had been left in the care of my older sister-in-law while we were in the U.S. last month. We were able to get Momo in the pet carrier for the drive back to Fēng​yuán 豐原, but the semi-feral Happy was a different matter. Try as everyone might, it proved impossible to catch him, and when we left around 5pm he was still hiding under an old cabinet on the first floor. Knowing Happy, he'll probably stay there for a couple of days (if not longer), only venturing out when the coast is clear to eat some food and go to the bathroom.

Downtown Hicksville on a very hazy day. This Sunday was apparently an important one in the local religious calendar, for all day long we could hear the sounds of gongs and drums, as well as firecrackers and fireworks going off, as the "hicks" celebrated. Driving around central Siluo, it seemed as if every corner we turned we would run into a procession of Taoist "hicks". Amber spent much of the time with her fingers plugged into her ears. 

Ghosts are not supernatural beings. They are, in fact, the result of what happens when you attempt to take photographs through the windshield of a moving car.


  1. For a native speaker your reading comprehension sure sux.

    A hick is slang for an ignorant, racist person. In the comments where it was first made, I specifically said a "certain xenophobic segment" and a "vocal minority". Other than your assumptions, no where was it said that all DPP supporters or all people in the south fall into that category.

    In fact, I said "it's nothing to do with everyone south of the Zhoushui River, it's only those that play the Hoklo race card". How you go from that to assuming it's everyone says more about your beliefs than mine.

    Everything else is in your imagination.

  2. Looks like I've touched a nerve... :-)

    1.) "Sux" is spelled "sucks".

    2.) I provided a link to the Merriam-Webster dictionary web site, which provided the definition for "hick". So actually my reading comprehension skills are superb. Your computer skills, on the other hand, need some work. A "link" is that word (or words) that appears to be a different color from the rest of the words in the text. You move your "mouse" to place the "cursor" on the "link", then "click" it. Like magic, you will be taken to the Merriam-Webster page with the definition of the word "hick". Welcome to the Internet.

    As for your interpretation of the term, what would you call someone like Wu Po-hsiung. You know, the ex-chairman of the KMT, from Taoyuan (north of the Zhuoshui River), who called Tsai Ying-wen a "pseudo-Hakka"? No playing of any "race cards" there, huh? :-)

    Some friendly advice: if you're not a native speaker of English, you might want to avoid using terms specific to American English, such as "hick". See Urban Dictionary for clarification.