I just sent the following to the Taipei Times:


On Saturday around 12:45 on Kwangfu Rd. in Hsinchu I saw you. You and your fellow Mormon missionary were accosting Taiwanese on the sidewalk in front of the Post Office, one more annoying impediment to foot traffic in an area already overcrowded with parked motorcycles, people struggling to carry on their postal and banking business, ATM customers, and pedestrians threading their way through the crush. At that point your presence was already obnoxious but at least it wasn’t life-threatening.

I pulled up to the light and a motorcycle pulled into the space in front of me. And then you decided you had to confront that man on the motorcycle. And so you ran out into the street.

I’ve been in Taiwan for over a decade and have met many missionaries. On the whole, they are no more savvy or ignorant than any other group of foreigners, with one exception: Mormons. All newbies to Taiwan are virgins, but Mormon missionaries arrive here in a state that can only be described as pre-pubescent. This is not the place to discuss the Leninist political and social structure of the Mormon Church, but it is appropriate to highlight the fact that the tight controls on the minds and bodies of Mormon victims/believers have serious ramifications for their health and safety, and the health and safety of others whom they interact with. Your behavior that day was a perfect illustration.

You did manage to look both ways on your way out into the road but I doubt you or your partner has really taken the heart to fact that the post office faced a T-intersection, and such intersections are notoriousfor red-light running. You probably didn’t even notice the motorcycle that shot out from behind you, or the one driving onto the sidewalk in the wrong direction. Or the cars inching out into the zebra stripes. It probably never occurred to you that you could get hit by someone driving the wrong way, and die too. You don’t have the right reflexes yet. Obviously.

Once you were out in the street I shouted at you to get out of there and quit hassling the motorists. Ofcourse, in your self-absorbed little universe, it probably never occurred to you that the foreigner in the van behind the motorcycle might actually know a thing or two about Taiwanese streets. How, for example, four-lane roads are apt to turn into seven or eight lane roads on crowded Saturday afternoons, andnow the motorcycles even then driving illegally between the waiting cars might emerge suddenly to hit you and kill you, seeing you too late because my van blocked their vision. And how rude you were being to a passing motorist who never would have shoved his religion down your throat in the same way.

I doubt you realized that Taiwan is not the US. No, not in your bones. Otherwise you might have thought about what happens to people who hit pedestrians in Taiwan. The way the Taiwanese customarily assess “fault” the driver of the vehicle is almost always at fault, and if the pedestrian struck dies, then the driver goes to jail. Had myself or any other driver hit you, even though it would have been your fault ethically, we still would have gone to jail. When you strode out into that street, you threatened the safetyof every motorist in it, including that of my wife and children. But that didn’t occur to you, did it? Instead of human beings, each with their own lives, you saw nothing but possible recruits — objects,instead of people. When you ran out onto Kwangfu Rd, you objectified and dehumanized everyone in it.

Not content to be rude merely to one passing motorist, you then made the entire line of cars behind me wait for you while you walked over to my van attempting to say something to me. It is true that I answered your rudeness with a four-letter comment of my own, for which I was totally wrong and thus must beg your forgiveness. But it is also true that you had no business making the world wait on our private conversation. Aware of waiting vehicles, I did not stop. But because I had to allow for your threatening presence on a busy road, I had to slow down, abusing the patience of everyone behind me, and swerve, endangering other drivers.

Your behavior raises another issue. I have been here since you were in kindergarten, and I will probably still be here many years from now. You may leave after a year, but it is we here who have to live in the stink that you leave behind. Each time a foreigner like you abuses the patience and politeness that Taiwanese offer to foreigners, it impinges on the well-being of every foreigner in Taiwan. We long-termers are fortunate that Taiwanese are generally able to make the separation between Mormons and other foreigners and continue to offer the deference and hospitality for which Taiwan is famous. But someday even that seemingly inexhaustible well might run dry.

I didn’t look back to see what had happened to you, as I had other things to concentrate on. But I suppose that it shouldn’t really be surprising that an adherent of LDS Church, a Church that is enthusiastically committing slow-motion political suicide by voting in each election for candidates from a Christian Right determined to destroy the Mormon heretics when it gains real power, doesn’t even know enough to stay out of the road.