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…
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.