Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Hatred Dies Hard

 

ToraToraTora1970When I was a young man, my hometown in the Midwest was introduced to pay television. Warner Cable introduced Star Channel, the direct precursor to The Movie Channel. It offered 10 movies a month, with just one offering a day, shown six times in a row, starting at 9 AM. It changed my family’s life.

Dad was a steelworker and money was always tight. If we were going to pay for something as extravagant as cable TV we were going to watch. So, on many nights, dinner moved to the living room and we watched movies while we ate. It was the first time I had ever heard the F-bomb come through the television (Chinatown) and also the first time I ever heard it pass the lips of my mother.

The latter was during a showing of Tora! Tora! Tora! 20th Century Fox’s retelling of the events of December 7, 1941. As the Japanese made their bombing run, a very familiar female voice behind me left off a string of expletives that would have made a longshoreman blush in embarrassment.

I was appalled. The hatred and racial animus that came from the woman who gave me life was a shock and I couldn’t wrap my 14-year-old head full of mush around it.

It remained a mystery to me until a few years later, when I discovered my mother’s high school year book from 1944. When I opened it a half dozen small yellowed newspaper clippings fell to the floor. Several were torn and their edges fixed with Scotch tape.

The headlines were simple and direct: “Local Marine Killed,” “Local Grad Lost at Sea,” “Services set for Local Pvt.” These weren’t abstractions in a history book: this was flesh and blood, young men that she had known and maybe loved, all of whom had their futures sealed on a December morning on an island thousands of miles away from this grimy little steel town in Northeast Ohio.

My stance towards my mother’s lingering hatred softened. The older I got and the more I learned about the brutality of those that served the Emperor of Japan it disappeared completely.

In his book With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Eugene Sledge recounted coming across the desecrated bodies of his fellow Marines:

As we moved past the defilade, my buddy groaned, “Jesus!” I took a quick glance into the depression and recoiled in revulsion and pity at what I saw. The bodies were badly decomposed and nearly blackened by exposure. This was to be expected of the dead in the tropics, but these Marines had been mutilated hideously by the enemy. One man had been decapitated. His head lay on his chest; his hands had been severed from his wrists and also lay on his chest near his chin. In disbelief I stared at the face as I realized that the Japanese had cut off the dead Marine’s penis and stuffed it into his mouth. The corpse next to him had been treated similarly. The third had been butchered, chopped up like a carcass torn by some predatory animal.

My emotions solidified into rage and a hatred for the Japanese beyond anything I had ever experienced.

Hatred, however, has a way of becoming self-consuming. To our credit as a nation, we extended forgiveness. Not just of Japan, but to her German allies as well. That didn’t mean we had to forget, but it probably helped the 12 million Americans that wore their country’s uniform during the war to move forward. If anything was learned from the post-war world of 1919, it was that revenge was not a policy for peace.

The Japanese have not been as successful in atoning for their 20th Century sins as the Germans, in part because many of their victims, especially the Chinese and the Koreans, have resisted accepting any formal apology. What can anyone do when enough is never enough?

Lately we’ve seen some of that in play on our own streets. There’s an element in the professional grievance industry that will never be satisfied. No policy is acceptable, no piece of legislation goes far enough, no amount of wealth transfer satisfies past debt.

In that sense, the so-called powerless actually hold all the power. Only they can end the hatred, just as only I held the power to forgive my mother, to try to understand her and return her to the perch she had previously held.

Unfortunately I don’t hold out much hope. It’s a lot easier to forgive one than to forgive millions, especially when there’s political power to be gained. As long as human nature itself remains unchanged, we’re still in for a long, tough slough.

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  1. Richard Fulmer Inactive

    Probably generations have to pass and all the victims long gone before the hatred can be forgotten. The trick is to not create new victims – new reasons for hatred – along the way.

    • #1
    • December 7, 2014, at 2:28 PM PST
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  2. Jules PA Member

    EJHill: As long as human nature itself remains unchanged, we’re still in for a long, tough slough.

    And it is not just WWII Germany or Japan, or 2014 Ferguson, but all of human history that proves the truth of your statement.

    It’s been a long, tough slough…

    • #2
    • December 7, 2014, at 2:43 PM PST
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  3. AUMom Member
    AUMomJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Japanese company Daikon moved to Decatur, Alabama nearly 20 years ago. The Nakagawas moved three houses down from us. We struck up a friendship and were invited to many of the Daikon festivals.

    It wasn’t until we got home from the first one when AUDad and I were talking about it, that I realized why the group dance was so palpably awkward. Everything was tentative and out of sync, more than slightly out of rhythm. The mayor took part—the mayor who had been a young Marine in the Pacific during WWII. Several of the City Council members were just as inept at the simple steps. They had the same experience. Decatur sent many men to the Pacific. Most came home, none of them untouched.

    Over fifty years later, the two groups of men who fought each other were at the center. They struggled to conceal their feelings at doing anything together. The younger ones of us, whose fathers had been in the European theatre or Korea, did not carry the same feeling. Since that day, I have paid much more attention to reconciliation.

    • #3
    • December 7, 2014, at 3:33 PM PST
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  4. Kay of MT Member

    I have a very good friend whose father survived theNanking massacre. Her parents made it out of China and into Hong Kong, and she was born in San Francisco. She says her parents hatred of the Japanese defies description.

    • #4
    • December 7, 2014, at 4:02 PM PST
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  5. Pencilvania Inactive

    It kind of drains the blood from your brain to read that excerpt from the book.

    When I was in college I had a professor for The Bible as Literature – Thelma Richman, a lovely, funny, classy Jewish lady. One time, though, the current Middle East situation (1980s) came up in class, and she gritted her teeth as she stated that Arab soldiers were the only ones to do that – that one act of corpse desecration that is the most heinous described above. Her whole posture changed as she said it, I’ve never forgotten it. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that other armies have done it; but I have no doubt every adult in Israel is aware of the fact, which makes that state’s tolerance all the more incredible.

    • #5
    • December 7, 2014, at 4:34 PM PST
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  6. Petty Boozswha Inactive

    I’ve often wondered how the occupation an rehabilitation of Japan would have gone if the catharsis of Hiroshima and Nagasaki had not purged much of that hatred.

    • #6
    • December 7, 2014, at 5:52 PM PST
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  7. MJBubba Inactive

    The Japanese started off well to deal with their corporate guilt. I am thinking of their constitutional limitation on military development, and how it still has a constituency. However, like the Germans, they have never fully gripped that guilt and addressed it properly. The resurgent Japanese nationalists are in ascendance. The Japanese still insist that accurate history of their acts in China are lies.

    With China flexing muscle in the China sea, it looks like a rocky road ahead.

    • #7
    • December 7, 2014, at 6:32 PM PST
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  8. Al Kennedy Inactive
    Al KennedyJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJ, thanks for a thoughtful and important post.

    Living in Japan, I am continually exposed to the enmity and frequently hatred between Japan and China, and between Japan and Korea. It’s not the majority of the population, but it is a significant minority. Conversely, the Chinese and Koreans exhibit similar feelings towards the Japanese. Unfortunately, it continues to be perpetrated by some influential politicians, some major newspapers, and the history that is taught in the schools. They have long memories in Asia, and many times fear of losing face trumps being able to forgive and forget.

    • #8
    • December 7, 2014, at 7:08 PM PST
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  9. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHillJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I was struck by an interview in Time with Thomas Berger about his book War, Guilt and Politics After World War II

    “…The Koreans and the Chinese bear a large share of the blame. With the Koreans, there has been an unwillingness to help the Japanese find ways of reconciling when the Japanese have tried to do so. This was most apparent with the Asian Women’s Fund, which the Korean government did not support and in fact subverted by establishing a separate, rival support system for the former comfort women. This has been made worse by the tendency of Korean politicians to score cheap points by very publicly taking out their frustrations with Japan…”

    After something horrific it takes the victim to initiate the healing. Otherwise the cycle continues ad infinitum.

    • #9
    • December 7, 2014, at 8:37 PM PST
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  10. Al Sparks Thatcher

    The Japanese haven’t done as much as the Germans to “address their corporate guilt.”

    I’ll start out by saying I don’t believe in corporate guilt (or social justice either). But unlike the post-war West Germans who taught their kids, in school, about the holocaust and other atrocities, the Japanese tried to expunge it from their history, and didn’t teach the atrocities their WWII generation committed, at least not in their schools.

    The Germans then, and still today, have television programs about the Nazi era.

    As for Japanese apologies, they are being proffered by a generation that didn’t commit those atrocities, to people who are almost dead, or more likely to people who didn’t have those atrocities committed against them.

    It’s a good thing to remember Pearl Harbor. But I hold no animus towards the Japanese and I don’t hold the post-war generations responsible.

    But they should still teach their history warts and all.

    • #10
    • December 7, 2014, at 8:40 PM PST
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  11. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I recently read the memoirs of a survivor of the Bataan death march – a soldiers who survived the entirety of the War as a prisoner of Japan. In his narrative, his hatred for Japan came to consume his life for decades after the war. Only late in his life did he finally come to terms with his imprisonment and let it all go, when he came to realize that those who had harmed him were forever beyond his reach – his hatred had come to harm only him. There is a funny anecdote of him visiting a Honda dealership for the first time, after his reconciliation. It was, for him, the final proof that he was able to move on.

    • #11
    • December 7, 2014, at 8:40 PM PST
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  12. G.A. Dean Member

    A fine post… I can remember how the arrival in the US of Japanese and German cars in large numbers brought out similar emotional responses. Most folks got over it, some didn’t, but most did. But at that time America had other enemies to worry over, and it was in our interest to become close to both Germany and Japan.

    I would say that the best healing of these old hatreds lies less in admission or facing of corporate guilt, but rather in discrediting the whole idea of “corporate guilt”, especially a guilt that spans generations. It cannot be real. Better to focus on actual, individual guilt… real actions by specific individuals. For many, perhaps most, of the horrors, hurts, crimes and oppressions that are still generating anger in the world, the actual actors are long dead. Gone to their true reward.

    This is not to say that these things should be forgotten, they need to be remembered, and discussed, but as examples of a particularly human madness, and not as examples of what “those people” did, or do. If guilt is corporate, shared by an entire race or class, and everlasting, then there truly can never be a victory over hatred, and never a lasting peace.

    • #12
    • December 7, 2014, at 9:00 PM PST
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  13. captainpower Inactive

    skipsul: I recently read the memoirs of a survivor of the Bataan death march – a soldiers who survived the entirety of the War as a prisoner of Japan. In his narrative, his hatred for Japan came to consume his life for decades after the war. Only late in his life did he finally come to terms with his imprisonment and let it all go, when he came to realize that those who had harmed him were forever beyond his reach – his hatred had come to harm only him. There is a funny anecdote of him visiting a Honda dealership for the first time, after his reconciliation. It was, for him, the final proof that he was able to move on.

    Well come on then?
    Who is the author? What is the book? and what is the funny anecdote?

    • #13
    • December 7, 2014, at 10:14 PM PST
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  14. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    captainpower:

    skipsul: I recently read the memoirs of a survivor of the Bataan death march – a soldiers who survived the entirety of the War as a prisoner of Japan. In his narrative, his hatred for Japan came to consume his life for decades after the war. Only late in his life did he finally come to terms with his imprisonment and let it all go, when he came to realize that those who had harmed him were forever beyond his reach – his hatred had come to harm only him. There is a funny anecdote of him visiting a Honda dealership for the first time, after his reconciliation. It was, for him, the final proof that he was able to move on.

    Well come on then? Who is the author? What is the book? and what is the funny anecdote?

    I’ll have to dig it out again – let you know hopefully tomorrow.

    • #14
    • December 7, 2014, at 10:33 PM PST
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  15. Profile Photo Member

    I agree with a lot of what was written. It is indefensible the atrocities of war. My father-in-law also hated the enemy. As with EJs mother the war was personal and friends were lost. We never talked about it but he was in Nagasaki that fateful day. I don’t want to compare or contrast but remember. War is hell. In particular fire bombings that cause the streets to melt and the rivers to boil.

    Let us remember that on this day there is peace. We learn from the past and grow. That the mothers of both sides paid a heavy price. May they never pay that price again.

    • #15
    • December 7, 2014, at 10:50 PM PST
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  16. ST Inactive

    Like.

    • #16
    • December 8, 2014, at 1:12 AM PST
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  17. Metalheaddoc Member
    MetalheaddocJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My late grandmother was Greek. Nicest, kindest lady you ever saw. She makes Barbara Bush look like Manson. She hated, hated, HATED the Germans and Japanese for her entire life. She lived through the Nazi occupation of Greece. Never had a kind word to say about either country or people. A very religious woman, but the even the Holy Spirit couldn’t hit that forgiveness target.

    • #17
    • December 8, 2014, at 6:22 AM PST
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  18. Spin Inactive
    SpinJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My wife’s dad, who lives with us, was at Peleliu and Tarawa. It’s funny, last night he called up and said “Turn it on channel so and so, there’s a show on about Tarawa!”

    He hates the Japanese. Hates them outright. He hates anything Japanese. I don’t hate the Japanese, but I understand why he does. From everything I’ve read about the war in the Pacific, what the Japanese did wasn’t just a handful of bad soldiers taking things to an extreme. It sprung from who they were as people, and spoke to who they thought the Americans were as well.

    • #18
    • December 8, 2014, at 6:30 AM PST
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  19. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The book I referenced was Hell’s Guest, by Col. Glenn Frazier.

    The story about the Honda dealership was this (going from memory here).

    Frazier had recurring nightmares of his ordeal throughout his life, would wake up screaming even 50 years later. Burned through multiple marriages, and carried this nugget of hatred and bitterness with him for decades. Finally coming to the Lord, he was able to talk about it all at last and forgive his captors. As he went through this conversion, his nightmares finally stopped. His final sign that he moved on was being able to go into a Honda dealership to buy a car, an event so significant that he made sure to phone his pastor while there, and get lots of photos of him in the car and with the salesmen.

    I should add that his account was itself so difficult to read at times that it troubled even my sleep, removed 60+ years from events.

    • #19
    • December 8, 2014, at 6:55 AM PST
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  20. KC Mulville Inactive

    My grandmother, who left Ireland as a young girl at the turn of the century, never failed to mutter “the dirty Brits” whenever anything English was mentioned. She said it with a cold, bitter voice.

    When I think of the Brits, I think of the Beatles and Monty Python.

    Change happens.

    • #20
    • December 8, 2014, at 7:22 AM PST
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  21. Bob Wainwright Member

    I’ve talked to a few people who were in the Pacific and they all feel the same about Japanese.

    If you had to be captured in WW2, you would definitely prefer to be captured by Germans. Part of the reason the Japanese were so brutal was their sense of racial superiority over everyone else. They also had profoundly non-Western views of mercy and such. Being a prisoner was seen as shameful and deserving of contempt and abuse in and of itself. This is all related to a sense of “honor” that seems foreign and even primitive to westerners, the same type of thing that makes ritual suicide for being dishonored or embarrassed understandable in that culture. When people who suffered abuse by Japanese in WW2 see elements of Japanese culture that may seem innocuous to most, such as the bowing and other types of social rituals based on honor and class , you can understand how it would remind them of a mindset that made possible what they suffered.

    But the Japanese didn’t have a transcendent religion that urged people to be compassionate and merciful, unlike the Germans. So the question I’ve always asked is, What was the Germans’ excuse?

    • #21
    • December 8, 2014, at 7:34 AM PST
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  22. Misthiocracy got drunk and Member
    Misthiocracy got drunk andJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My dad still refuses on political grounds to ever own a German or Japanese automobile.

    Shrug.

    • #22
    • December 8, 2014, at 7:58 AM PST
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  23. Valiuth Inactive
    ValiuthJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    EJHill:After something horrific it takes the victim to initiate the healing. Otherwise the cycle continues ad infinitum.

    So when do you propose we start with the Taliban and ISIS? We forgave the Japanese and Germans because we needed them against the Russians and communists. That really is the secret to burying the hatchet. You just need a reason to work together, and in that process you build up respect and mutual ground for admiration, assuming you can keep the process going. After all we didn’t become good buddies with England until the 20th century. I rather recall some acrimonious feelings between our two nations at the beginning. But, two world wars and now we are the best of friends.

    • #23
    • December 8, 2014, at 8:00 AM PST
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  24. Doug Watt Moderator

    Unfortunately the one thing that is cross-cultural, that we all have in common is summed up rather well in the lyrics in one song from the musical South Pacific.

    You’ve got to be taught
    To hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught
    From year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!

    • #24
    • December 8, 2014, at 8:09 AM PST
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  25. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Valiuth:

    EJHill:After something horrific it takes the victim to initiate the healing. Otherwise the cycle continues ad infinitum.

    So when do you propose we start with the Taliban and ISIS? We forgave the Japanese and Germans because we needed them against the Russians and communists. That really is the secret to burying the hatchet. You just need a reason to work together, and in that process you build up respect and mutual ground for admiration, assuming you can keep the process going. After all we didn’t become good buddies with England until the 20th century. I rather recall some acrimonious feelings between our two nations at the beginning. But, two world wars and now we are the best of friends.

    There is so much truth to this. I read up quite a bit on post WWII Berlin this past summer, and what came out of that study was that the Allies did not take seriously the idea that Germany even should be rebuilt until it was apparent that the Soviets were likely to turn western Germany (there being no formal German Republic at that time) into another satellite state.

    Remember, the Marshall Plan was only passed in 1948, and was very much opposed in Congress at the time. Concomitant with the Marshall Plan, the US had to rebuild its military capability from the gutted skeleton it had become by early 1948. We needed both the reason and the means to protect and rebuild Germany. The Airlift helped by making the US empathetic to the 3 or 4 years of starvation rations that Germany had lived on from the last months of the war till 1949 – we had see German civilians as victims themselves and not as caricatured enemies.

    • #25
    • December 8, 2014, at 8:10 AM PST
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  26. Matthew Gilley Inactive

    Thank you, EJ. This topic is one I have tried to get my head around over the years, and just haven’t succeeded. I don’t believe anyone ever will. I’m a partisan when it comes to Japan. I studied Japanese in college, and have an East Asian Studies minor; had it been a major, I would have had the credits to claim it. I lived and studied there for a semester. I have friends there. Even with all that, the best I can do is offer some disjointed observations:

    • Japan’s conduct during the Pacific War (1931 or earlier through 1945) was brutal, inhumane, and unconscionable; it will forever dishonor Japan, and I mean forever.
    • We have no better ally in Asia or the Pacific, save Australia.
    • My grandfather served in the Japanese Occupation outside Kyoto. I will never forget the stories he told of Japanese citizens’ gratitude and kindness to him. The letters from his Japanese interpreter still bring tears to my eyes.
    • Nationalism in Japan is on the rise, I suppose, but today’s brand is several orders of magnitude more benign that what we saw during World War II. There is no comparison; in fact, the far right nationalists in Japan are little more than organized crime associates.
    • That said, the annual veneration of the war dead at Yasukuni Shrine is bothersome, nettlesome, and does our foreign policy no favors.
    • I am of the opinion that the Japanese constitution presents no real impediment to Japan building its military capability and projecting force anywhere in the world. I also believe that a stronger and more active Japanese military is in the United States’ best interests. If anyone wants, I’m happy to send them my law review article on this question, but it is best used as a sleep aid.
    • I will always treasure my memory of sharing supper with a local family in Hiratsuka that I had befriended. They invited the grandfather, who served in the Imperial Army as a young man. He was interested to hear about my grandfather’s service in the Occupation. When I told him my grandfather had died the year before, he stopped, sat ramrod straight in the kneeling position, bowed deeply and ceremoniously, and offered his condolences and thanks. I have no reason to believe his reaction would be commonplace, but I am convinced it would be nevertheless.
    • I never (repeat, never) encountered a hostile reaction as an American – even in Hiroshima.
    • I believe Japan feels embarrassment at least and in reality shame over their conduct towards the United States during the war. Usually, though, the embarrassment and shame is held in silence. I do not believe they are to that point (and probably never will be) when it comes to Korea, China, and the rest of Asia. I can’t make conclusions, but my suspicion is the reasons are ugly.
    • Warts and all (and I’ve studied and seen plenty with my own eyes), I love and admire Japan.
    • The United States was elated at its victory on V-J day. Over time, I believe the balance of Japan has come to realize they should be elated about it as well.
    • Japan’s attitudes about the U.S., in my opinion, stem from the fact we beat them and forced an unconditional surrender. No one in recorded history had ever done so, not once. That total victory engendered respect – grudging as it was at first – and over decades has become an alliance, perhaps even a close friendship. The unconditional peace that ended the Pacific War contrasts with our subsequent conflicts, which have ended ambiguously and which never seem to resolve.
    • #26
    • December 8, 2014, at 8:17 AM PST
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  27. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHillJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Valiuth: So when do you propose we start with the Taliban and ISIS?

    Just like we did it in ’45. Right after we kill all the idiots.

    • #27
    • December 8, 2014, at 8:26 AM PST
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  28. Man With the Axe Member

    It’s difficult to forgive people whose belief that their enemies were subhuman gave them license to commit mass murder, which is what the Japanese did in Nanking and elsewhere, and with many of their prisoners of war.

    Forgiveness ought to be preceded by acts of contrition by the perpetrators, absent which they don’t deserve forgiveness.

    • #28
    • December 8, 2014, at 8:43 AM PST
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  29. Bob Wainwright Member

    Doug Watt:Unfortunately the one thing that is cross-cultural, that we all have in common is summed up rather well in the lyrics in one song from the musical South Pacific.

    You’ve got to be taught To hate and fear, You’ve got to be taught From year to year, It’s got to be drummed In your dear little ear You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid Of people whose eyes are oddly made, And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade, You’ve got to be carefully taught.

    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late, Before you are six or seven or eight, To hate all the people your relatives hate, You’ve got to be carefully taught!

    I think this has it backward. Distrusting those from other groups or tribes, especially if they don’t look like you, is the natural human condition. You have to be taught not to do it.

    • #29
    • December 8, 2014, at 8:53 AM PST
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  30. ctlaw Coolidge

    Post-war, German society became very open to foreigners. So open that, like much of Europe, they have ironically imported large numbers of NAZI-philes.

    Pre-NAZI, it was also fairly open (at least contrasted with Japan) so it may not have been a big step culturally.

    Japan never opened up to foreigners in any absolute terms. A term like “gaijin” would not have been tolerated by the Allied occupation if in common use in post-war German culture.

    Disagree?

    • #30
    • December 8, 2014, at 8:59 AM PST
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