It’s Just a Game, Kids.

Yesterday I was at work during the Women’s World Cup Final between USA and Japan, but I was really interested to see who would win, since I am an American living in Japan. I know a lot of expats who live here either cheered for Japan or expressed that they would be happy no matter which way the game went. Honestly, I am not much of a soccer fan, but I watched the updates of the game to kill time. Maybe I’m in football season withdrawal…

720p-Womens World Cup USA Japan

Anyway, after the USA team claimed victory, I was pretty excited and went to check the news updates online. What I found was disgusting but sadly, not very shocking. Americans took to Twitter to make jests at Japan for their loss by saying things about how it was payback for Pearl Harbor, and some even posted pictures of the disastrous aftermath in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII.

Trolls online are often disregarded. People say, ”Oh they are just able to write anything they want because it’s anonymous” but does that excuse them for what they do? As Americans, our reputation overseas is not the best. When I say I’m from America, sometimes people are excited and in awe, but often my middle school and elementary school students ask me if everyone has a gun. Some of them outright say, ”I don’t want to visit America because it’s dangerous.” After seeing things on the news like the church burnings and the school shootings, I can’t exactly convince them otherwise, even though my experience growing up in America was very peaceful.

I then saw people posting things like, ”This is why I want to move overseas!” I know the feeling of not wanting to be associated with people who do and say terrible things just for fun. However, being overseas, I am a representative of the United States, often the only one anyone here has ever come in contact with, meaning I have to constantly be on my best behavior in order to somehow ‘prove’ all Americans aren’t crazy people who yell slurs and shoot people. I think it’s actually harder being here as an American now with all the things going on in my country. I feel ashamed.

But I also feel hopeful. As soon as people started writing those awful things, people were there to step up and speak out about it. However, many Japanese people only noticed the bad tweets, not the ones chastising them. I am proud that my country has citizens who crave social justice and equality. I am proud that I was raised not to be a sore loser over a soccer game. However, we have a lot of work to do.

One summer during the break between school years, I took a U.S. history class at the local community college. We studied WWII and the dropping of Little Boy and Fat Man on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Our professor asked the class to think about the destruction it caused. He told us that no one at that time knew what would happen if we dropped the bombs, but we did it anyway. He then posed a question to the class, asking, ”Knowing what we know now and if it were up to you, would you drop the bombs over Japan again?” In my head, I thought, ”Surely no one will say yes.” I had been to Japan twice already by that point, and I had many Japanese friends and three Japanese host families who took me in and took care of me like I was part of the family.

A guy raised his hand and said, ”Yeah, I would still drop the bombs because hey, it’s better that Japanese people die instead of American people.” I could not believe it. How could he say that? People are people. Countries are just a division of land we created. A life is precious no matter whose it is. Since that happened, I’ve been to both Nagasaki and Hiroshima. They are two of my favorite Japanese cities. They are full of life and vigor and no matter who you are, you will be welcomed with open arms.

I wish people would stop thinking of people living overseas as ‘other’. Japanese people are guilty of doing this, as well, as being an island nation can make you feel isolated. But I think when we look back on the tragedies of war, an us vs. them mentality will not help us move forward. It will only help us widen the gap between our humanity and our paranoia. Go out and see the world and you will find that everyone is the same as you, but cling to your symbols of war and you will never experience the love others have to offer.

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7 thoughts to “It’s Just a Game, Kids.”

  1. Glad to see a blog like this because I can truly relate. While living in Korea, anytime the US was competing against anyone, in anything, and someone would say to me, “Hey, *your* country is playing so and so!” I would instantly cross my fingers the US would lose… and retort, “It’s not my country. I was just born there.”
    It’s nasty attitudes like those netizen trolls that turned me away from ever liking sports or claiming any “American pride”. I’m not a fan of national pride or “pride” in and of itself anyhow. I’m a bigger fan of things like compassion, understanding, love and kindness.

    I often heard the same.. ”I don’t want to visit America because it’s dangerous.” and I would sometimes admit that 3 of my own friends were killed in 2 separate shootings. And I worry for my friends in Japan, China and Korea who are planning to come visit the US. I always try to cushion my foreign friends with all kinds of safety nets.

    American pride??? Ha..

    American shame.

  2. This is disgusting (not your post, which was beautifully written, but American’s and their response to the entire game). It’s a shame that people feel the need to say things like that. I don’t want to blow them off as people who are ignorant either, because they will teach further ignorance and the cycle will continue to spiral. We need to be brought up in a way that respect, respectful tolerance, and respect disagreement are a social norm. As someone who wants to eventually move to Japan I know that every day will be a challenge, as far as how I am viewed as a black male and how I am viewed as an American. I know that I will have to be on my best behavior, if just for that fact that politeness and courteousness are my first instinct. At the same time though, it shouldn’t take someone moving overseas for people be on their best behavior. We should be on our best behavior at “home” as well. Every day I pray the world realizes that negativity only breeds more negativity.

  3. I agree that American trolls are some of the worst, and I am always glad when they realize that freedom of speech does not mean there are no social consequences for being racist and rude.

    I live in an area of Southern California with a large Japanese population. They are the most polite and respectful people I have ever met, which makes the obnoxious and ignorant internet jeering of Americans even worse. The Japanese women with whom I play volleyball and fierce competitors, but we all leave the competition on the gym floor. I find it fascinating to speak with them about their impressions of World War II, Japan’s constitution now, Japan’s lack of a standing army, etc.

    The dropping of Fat Man and Little Boy on Japan was horrific; however, I don’t know that it’s fair to condemn those who would still do it. (And I disagree with your professor. The U.S. knew exactly what would happen.) There were absolutely no good options at the time. Invading Okinawa alone caused nearly a quarter million casualties, many civilian, many due to suicide. The Japanese were willing to fight to the death, an invasion of Japan would kill millions. There was a kill order in place for all of the American POWs should the U.S. invade. (The only reason they weren’t killed was the shock and disarray after the bombs were dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.) In Fukuoka, horrific experiments were carried on American servicemen while still alive. The Japanese viewed non-Japanese as less than human, and treated them worse than animals — thousands died while in custody. Something like 7,000 never even made it to Japan, dying on various “hell ships” in the Pacific. And that’s just the Caucasians. There’s the Nanking Massacre and plenty of other racist atrocities committed by the Japanese in China during the same period.

    Much of the Japanese brutality was glossed over post-WWII, once Japan was a US ally. MacArthur commuted many death sentences, in fact. And I think this was a good thing. War is horrific. Leukemia from radiation is horrific. Everyone suffered, and everyone suffered enough. And you’re right, the murder of any human is a terrible thing, no matter what their country.

    But I do think it’s important to look at the whole picture before issuing a blanket condemnation of any historical or military action. Just as many Virginians today are nothing like their brutal slave-owning forefathers, the kind and welcoming Japanese of today aren’t the pre-WWII xenophobic Japanese indoctrinated into believing that they were a superior race.

    And I am thankful that humanity in general can evolve beyond internment camps and torture. Maybe some day we will evolve beyond internet trolls, too, and we can all just enjoy a really awesome soccer game together. No matter which country wins.

    1. Oh, I hear you. That reflexive response that “our own country’s lives our worth more” is the first step on the ugly road of Nationalism.

      So the Japanese students now don’t know about the atrocities their country once committed? That’s interesting, because the women I play volleyball with — who are mostly in their thirties — are adamant that, due to the Japanese aggression and atrocities in WWII, Japan should never, ever be trusted with an army again.

  4. I totally agree with you that the Japanese war crimes were glossed over. I never learned about some of the brutality Japanese soldiers committed against the Chinese, Koreans, and U.S. armies (and civilians) until I took a Japanese history course. My students here in Japan probably don’t learn about them either. Many Japanese people grow up with a victim mentality that they did nothing to deserve the events in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, but you are right that we need to critically analyze all events before coming to conclusions. I was mainly just appalled that my classmate outright said some lives are better than others. It took him one second to answer, so I don’t think he looked at it critically before speaking, which is why I felt the way I did, having been to Japan.

    1. Yeah, I wrote about censorship here last week. I’m not sure how far back that extends, but I’m assuming since those women are in America, they have a bit more of a world view than most people I encounter here. It’s kind of taboo to talk about things like that here. No one discusses politics much and there aren’t debates on TV. Overall everyone tries to avoid uncomfortable situations. But my friends who have studied abroad really love talking about culture and what Japan can improve on. A teacher I used to work with asked me my opinion on Shinzo Abe and told me hers as well but that’s about as far as I’ve ever gotten talking politics with Japanese people haha

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