One of my friends on Facebook posted as his status on March 15, only a few days after the earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan Does Japan really need our help? I think they are fully capable of helping themselves. America’s priorities are so messed up! Aside from my response, which I’ll get to later, one of the first responses was:
To be honest I believe this to. I feel like they may have needed the immediate help as far getting people to safety and evacuation procedures, but Japan is the second wealthiest country in the world (I think lol) so I do believe they are already financially stable enough to get themselves back on track over the next few years. Its not like Haiti since they are one of the poorer (sp) countries who definitely needed and still does need outside help physically and financially. [sic].
An opposing view wrote:
It’s a sad reality when more than one hundred thousand will have died in Japan, yet both of you think that they shouldn’t receive our aid. Japan was one of the most generous givers of aid after Katrina from both public and private donors. It’s more than just us kissing their ass, or that they are the a wealthy country, or us having messed up priorities. It’s what a good human does when people are in trouble.
The rest of the total 13 comments used New Orleans and Haiti as examples of where our money needed to be given and that our US money wasn’t needed as much overseas in Japan. A final comment read:
smh, whatever happened to being a global citizen?? why limit help to long term or short term and equate lives to currency…smh
All of the comments were made on the same date and the terror of dealing with radiation and a possible nuclear fallout were just beginning to come to bear. Nor had the United States engaged in an operation against rebel forces and the regime of Moamar Khadaffi, both of which I’m thinking would have colored those comments differently.
Still, it was interesting to me how we, as Americans, view Japan.
Famous comedian Gilbert Gottfried was fired from being the voice of the Aflac duck after some jokes he made following the tsunami concerning Japan. Mind you, Aflac is the top insurance company in Japan, and receives 75% of it’s revenue in that market. And after running across a highly insensitive Youtube video (that was 1.5 seconds from becoming internationally viral) that this young white girl was saying that the tsunami and earthquake was God’s punishment for atheism in Japan and that said natural disasters was God’s way of bringing people back to God, I realized that how we view Japan is interesting to say the least.
I get the impression that most of us view the Japanese in one of two lights: either as ruthless businessmen who are threatening the American production economy or as the Imperial Nation of Japan circa 1941. There’s not much inbetween ground that we’ve allowed for when it comes to viewing the Japanese. But it shouldn’t come to much of a shock if you think about it. When we watch the news or any type of television, the dominant image that’s portrayed to us is usually within either of those two categories. It definitely shouldn’t come as a surprise when we have recent images of the movie Pearl Harbor emblazoned on our memories; the portrayal of the Japanese was a typical indurate and callous understanding of a culture we haven’t taken much time to learn and understand.
If I can do a slight excursus, the issue stems back to our elementary and high school history courses where Japan was always talked about in antiquity. We learned of the Japanese empire from millennia ago and 99% of us didn’t store any details about it. Fast foward to 1941 and we read and talked about the attack on Pearl Harbor, maybe debated the moral and ethical ramifications as to atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and for the most part, since then, we really didn’t discuss who and what Japan is. It’s this type of American insolence and ignorance that would prompt such a question to be asked.
It’s not a bad question that my friend posed on his Facebook wall, but I think it’s a question birthed out of American exceptionalism, therefore, it’s not a good question to ask. Given since I personally know the guy who asked the question, I’m sure it was a genuine question and something he truly wanted to know about, but I’d go out on a limb and say this is a question almost uniquely a question an American would ask. Personally, I align myself with the last comment as to how, in the time of great need, do we even think about taking a back seat? Since we are the United States, I’m sure we can afford to help out in anyway that they need to be helped out and the citizenry wouldn’t even know. Honestly, if we can bomb Baghdad in the middle of the night, or begin an operation in Somalia, and most recently Libya and the American public not know until after it’s happened, I’m sure we can offer and provide aid to a country, and our ally at that, that’s in desperate need.
I think it’s a sad moment in the evolution of humanity that we would predicate our aid based on what the country can give back to us. We shouldn’t want to give aid to the Japanese simply because they are our ally or because we have such a heavy business relationship with them all the way from energy down to small manufacturing items, but rather because they are our fellow humans who require our assistance.
We owe them our humanity.
As I walk and drive around the neighborhoods of New Orleans seeing empty lots and abandoned houses where people used to live, the images of the aftermath of the tsunami after the waters had retreated solemnly back to the ocean, it reminded of the pictures of New Orleans after the water had been pumped back out into Lake Pontchartrain. So for me to hear someone even remotely suggest holding back aid in whatever form needed kind of just rubbed me the wrong way. I know it sounds altruistic and not pragmatic, but I think we should appeal to our better sides and do what’s right, not for the sake of maintaing business connections, but simply because it’s right.
Keep it uppity and truthfully radical, JLL