By GIL ASAKAWA, Nikkeiview.com
I was shocked, saddened and depressed when I learned that there are people in the United States who think that the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which has caused enormous damage and casualties that will surely top 10,000, is some sort of karmic payback for Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. Really? Seriously?
Yes, unfortunately. Here’s just a sampling of some updates and comments from Facebook that rant about Pearl Harbor and the tsunami, and how the U.S shouldn’t send any aid to Japan:
Who bombed Pearl Harbor? Karmas a bitch.
Do I feel bad for japan? Two words….pearl harbor
Dear Japan, it’s not nice to be snuck up on by something you can’t do anything about, is it? Sincerely, Pearl Harbor.
screw japan they got what they dederve. any remember pearl horbor I do .they killed thousands of anericans and would do it again. kill em all let god sort emm out.
I’m all for free speech and these people have a right to say what they think, even if it’s ignorant, misinformed and downright hateful. But these thoughts are worrisome because they seem so cavalier, so easy for these people to express.
Thankfully, there seems to be a backlash building of people on social networks (just search for “Pearl Harbor” on Twitter) raising a chorus of sentiment calling out these ignorant comments and saying, for instance, “If this earthquake is Japan’s karmic punishment for Pearl Harbor, I dread to see what ours will be for Hiroshima and Nagasaki” and “Whoever said that the earthquake was karma for Pearl Harbor are morons. Obviously they forgot the US nuked 2 of their cities in retaliation.”
Some people who should know better because they’re public figures have made stupid pronouncements too. WNBA superstar Cappie Pondexter had to apologize for a pair of tweets, “What if God was tired of the way they treated their own people in there own country! Idk guys he makes no mistakes” and “u just never knw! They did pearl harbor so u can’t expect anything less.” She later apologized.
Alex Sulkin, a writer and producer for the animated TV show “Family Guy,” tweeted, “If you want to feel better about this earthquake in Japan, google ‘Pearl Harbor death toll.’ ” He also later apologized.
Gilbert Gottfried, a comedian whose raspy voice has been the quack of the Aflac duck for the insurance company’s U.S. television commercials, made some insensitive jokes (12 of ’em) on Twitter about the tsunami, and he was fired by the company.
Although she wasn’t a celebrity a few weeks ago, a student at UCLA, Alexandra Wallace, has become something of a name for a really unfortunate anti-Asian video she posted to YouTube, “Asians in the Library,” in which she makes the mocking “ching-chong” phony Chinese sound and makes a comment about how Asians in the library are irritating her even if they’re getting news about their relatives “back home” after the tsunami.
What is it about this horrible disaster and the tragic aftermath -— we’re on the brink of a nuclear meltdown, hello — that is bringing out such stupid reactions?
I’m most disturbed by the range of people spouting this garbage: Looking at their Facebook profile pictures I see young and old, white, black, Hispanic faces (no Asians, thankfully) and both men and women. One profile photo shows a smiling man holding a cute baby to his cheek. But the update next to his photo is anything but cute or smiling.
Years ago in the 1990s when I worked in Colorado Springs at the Gazette, I interviewed a veteran who survived Pearl Harbor and he kept saying “Japs” during the interview. He finally stopped, looked at me and said, “You know I don’t mean you, right?” If he’s still alive, I wonder if he would agree with the people who link the tsunami with Pearl Harbor.
For the record, here are some facts to counter some of the claims about Pearl Harbor, and other misinformation passed along in such comments:
Pearl Harbor suffered a terrible attack on Dec. 7, 1941, but it was an act of war, not an act of nature. The targets were military (not that that makes it less awful), and 2,402 men were killed and 1,282 wounded.
The U.S. declared war on Japan the next day, and towards the end of the war, embarked on a firebombing campaign that killed more people than the two atomic bombs that forced Japan to surrender. On the night of March 9-10, 1945, 335 B-29 bombers flew over Tokyo and dropped around 1,700 tons of bombs. About 16 square miles of Tokyo were destroyed and well over 100,000 people (that’s a conservative estimate) died in the firestorm caused by the bombing.
The atomic bomb over Hiroshima killed about 90,000 instantly, and in Nagasaki, 70,000 were killed by the second A-bomb.
If people think the tsunami is some sort of payback, that’s some steep interest over the decades, because anyone would say that during the war, Japan paid the ultimate price for its aggression.
Some people are objecting to sending monetary or relief aid to Japan, claiming that Japan didn’t even help the United States after Katrina. That’s blatantly untrue, or terribly uninformed.
The Japanese Foreign Ministry announced it would provide $1 million in relief aid to Katrina victims, and the government also donated $200,000 to the Red Cross immediately following the hurricane. Private Japanese donors gave more than $1.5 million and Japanese companies with U.S. operations gave $12 million towards Katrina relief.
What’s happening in Japan right now is a tragedy of worldwide proportions, and luckily, I think most people here in the U.S. and around the globe understand that and empathize with the plight of the Japanese. It’s just too bad that there are also those who think the Japanese people somehow had it coming to them.
Gil Asakawa is manager of student media at the University of Colorado’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications, where he oversees the student-run news website, http://CUIndependent.com. He authored “Being Japanese American” (Stone Bridge Press, 2004) and co-authored “The Toy Book” (Knopf, 1991). He writes a blog, http://www.nikkeiview.com/blog/, about pop culture from an Asian American perspective. He also blogs on Posterous and Tumblr, Twitters, spends time on Facebook and is a member of every social site and service he hears about. He and his partner Erin Yoshimura recently launched http://visualizAsian.com, a website featuring interviews with Asian American/Pacific Islander leaders to inspire others to follow in their footsteps.