Gil Asakawa's Nikkei View | The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the shame of racism
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The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and the shame of racism

Unbelievable. Again and again, I’m reminded how some Americans have a stubborn racist streak that’s covered up by a veneer of political correctness, but comes out with just a little bit of provocation.

Last year, people expressed ignorant racist hatred against Japanese … after the tragedy of the earthquake and tsunami of March 11 that devastated northeast Japan. Many referred to the disaster as “revenge” for Pearl Harbor, the military attack on the U.S. base in Hawai’i that pushed the United States into World War II.

Today, during what’s supposed to be the peaceful international celebration of athletics and goodwill, competition and sportsmanship that is the Olympic Games, that same ugly reference to Pearl Harbor came up … when the U.S. women’s soccer team defeated the Japanese in a 2-1 contest for the Gold medal.

The Huffington Post quotes some of the racist tripe, such as “This was payback for the USS Arizona! Take that you Japs!” by a Twitter user who describes himself thus:

I love Jesus, I’m a student at UM, Intern at @baycc, Work at Ruby Tuesday, and I love Auburn football!

Yeah, right. Sure. How very Christian of you. @BayCC, where this guy interns, is a church in Alabama. I wonder if Jesus would have spit up Pearl Harbor in reference to a soccer game more than 70 years after the fact.

SB Nation also cited the racist social media mentions in its story, “Not again, America,” where you can read such paragons of classiness as “That one was for pearl harbor… suck it.”

It’s easy to search Twitter for this stuff and come up with the drivel, but at least you’ll also find a lot of people who are outraged by the morons.

I understand that some people hold hatred dear and hide it most of the time only to let it out like a flasher might show some naughty body parts and get a thrill out of it. What I don’t understand is why this particular hate meme bubbles up so readily, and why it’s laced with the venom of racial hatred, not just patriotism/nationalism. Oh, that’s right. Japan isn’t just another country, and Japanese aren’t just foreigners like, say, people from France or England. Japanese look different — they’re practically from another planet. That’s the kind of thinking that made it too easy to justify putting 110,000 people, over half US-born American citizens, not foreigners, in concentration camps during WWII following the Pearl Harbor attacks. Talk about payback…

Look at the profiles of these people — they’re mostly young (many are college students), both male and female, and could be your server at, uh, Ruby Tuesday.

There’s one kid who tweeted “THAT’S FOR PEARL HARBOR JAPAN!” but his profile says “If you don’t like Pokemon then you probably shouldn’t follow me.” Really? Does he know that Pokemon is from Japan?

It’s especially disturbing that so many young people slip into this hate speech so easily. These kids’ parents weren’t even a twinkle in their grandparents’ eyes on Dec. 7 1941, so where do they get this stuff? From their parents? Grandparents? Friends? Pop culture? (I don’t think so… I hope not.) The ether? Or is the inclination to hate others something in their DNA?

The end result is a blast of pure ignorance that pollutes the social media stream when anything negative happens to Japan. Can people really be happy that 15,000 people died last year in the wake of the tsuami?

Can’t we celebrate Team USA’s victory (after having lost to Japan in the World Cup finals last year)? Yeah, this was a vengeance match for the US women, and yeah, they won. The Olympic win is payback fopr last year’s loss in the World Cup game. But it’s a GAME. Pearl Harbor was an act of WAR.

I’m heartened that there are sensible people with enough brains to call out the stupidity of the haters. But I’m saddened that the haters are always there, ready to reveal themselves at the next opportunity.