神風: Kamikaze

12:53 PM Jenny Zhi 2 Comments


During the Second World War, thousands of young Japanese men, known as the kamikaze, purposefully crashed their planes into Allied ships, slowing their attacks.  While the Japanese did, and still do, view these pilots as heroes, brave soldiers who would do anything for their country, much of the rest of the world sees them as “a whole generation of Japanese men [who] had been brainwashed into self-abnegation and blind obedience to the Emperor” (BBC). But despite all the clashes over the nature and motivation of these actions, one fact remains true: these men willingly sacrificed their lives for their country.

The kamikaze men, happy that they are about to die for their country.
You don’t really see that type of devotion in American soldiers. In fact, in many cases, American soldiers don’t even believe in the cause that their country is fighting for. In his novel The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien bemoans that he was “drafted to fight a war [he] hated” (O’Brien 37). It’s pretty obvious that not everybody agreed with the wars America has fought, the Vietnam War that O’Brien fought in being one of the most controversial. However, seeing that America has been fighting in some war for over 90% of its existence (Washington’s Blog), this lack of commitment and patriotism is, frankly, quite scary.

This creates a spectrum on which Japan is on one side and America the other. Why is there this drastic difference between the two countries? Before answering that question, let’s take a step back and look at the histories of both nations. Japan is a very homogenous society, owing to its location and historic policy of isolation. No matter where you go in Japan, everyone more or less looks similar, speaks the same language, and follows the same traditions. On the other hand, America is the famous “melting pot of the world.” This does a lot for creating an interesting blend of people and cultures, but at the same time, it results in many different ideas and perceptions of how things should be, which often differ greatly from how things are. This has come up time and time again in America’s history: women complained about the “repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman” (Declaration of Sentiments), African Americans claimed that “the character and conduct of [America] never looked blacker to [them] than on [the] 4th of July” (Frederick Douglass), and Native Americans blamed their increasing problems on assimilation by the white man (Sherman Alexie). It’s not surprising that Japan, obviously one people with the same culture, one nation with the same ideals, can band together so easily, while America flounders around still trying to sort out its own internal problems, while at the same time attempting to take care of other countries’ problems as well. It's biting off way more than it can chew.
It’s obvious that America is never going to achieve homogeneity without whitewashing and assimilating everybody in it. But the thing is, everybody, without a doubt, would resist said assimilation, and it’s the least likely thing to happen. The differences and disagreements will never disappear, because everybody wants to be acknowledged. So does the concept of “patriotic” exist in America? Maybe not in the most prevalent sense of the word. Maybe Americans are so loyal to their own in-groups that they cannot be loyal to America the country. But maybe individuals in America can find the perfect “balance of aggression and kindness” (Sarah Vowell) and over their differences, be patriotic to humanity.

2 comments:

  1. I love how you compared "patriotism" in Japan and the US. The point you made is very true, because the US has so many cultures it's almost impossible to have a unified opinion on any war. It's astonishing seeing how the US is always fighting wars, and maybe because of that patriotism is not that strong. To us, any war is just another war added to the 29849 we've fought before, so that might discourage people from feeling patriotic. Great Job !

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  2. It's interesting how culture (whether it be a unifying one or a variety interacting) can really affect how a country works. To be honest, I'm glad that America is a melting pot. A variety of views and opinions may cause some altercations, but it allows us to slowly work at a better solution for all rather than just blindly following one view. Although, you still have to respect the commitment the Japanese have to their own country. Nice Job!

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