Headlines from Asia and America on WWII

August 15th marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. For decades around this date, Japanese prime ministers have offered declarations for what their government did to their neighbors back then. Over the course of the past few days, I have seen plenty of articles about Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s statement and how his words were received by a few countries, including America. Headlines seem to speak volumes about a country’s agenda and intentions. Or would it be the president’s? Here’s mine.

https://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Neil-Postman-honesty-business-excellence-politics-clarity-Meetville-Quotes-34914.jpg
https://meetville.com/images/quotes/Quotation-Neil-Postman-honesty-business-excellence-politics-clarity-Meetville-Quotes-34914.jpg

Truth be told, I’m not into politics. I have my reasons, but they will be saved for another time. I am however transparently into people and how they treat each other based off of past events, current situations, and future possibilities. As I’ve read news articles this week, I have been engrossed by how headlines and statements can be phrased differently based on which outlet is feeding the information.

Abe profound grief
CNN’s headline
Abe refrains
XinhuaNet is a top news source within China
US welcomes Abe statement
a Japanese newspaper on America’s responses

The list and pictures could go on while sources within the same borders contrast in their opinions. For example, what CNN says above seems to be the opposite of what the New York Times is trying to get across to their readers.

What I’d like to do is see this story from the angles of the Chinese, Japanese, and American.

Chinese

According to Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying, Japan “needs to recognize and reflect on its history to win the trust of its Asian neighbors and the international community.” If trust still needs to be won, then the trust obviously isn’t there. I don’t know who she is speaking for as far as neighbors and community, but this statement is not to be taken lightly. China’s sources seem to be seeking an apology for the millions who were affected by WWII. I try to imagine the depth of this while feeling saddened that many of my students’ parents on WeChat are posting celebratory and deprecating comments about Japan. Is forgiveness an option? I dare ask since our English office of Chinese, Canadian, and American descent last year had moments of tension due to China/Japan relations being discussed. Each time, it seemed that the foreigners “don’t understand.” I want to. I seriously want to.

What are Chinese people expecting every year in the statements? A checklist of words, the LA Times surmises, that include “colonial rule,” “aggression,” and “apology” like the prime minister did back in 1995? Clear expectations from both sides would definitely help.

Japanese

From Prime Minister Abe’s speech, he echoes the apologies of the past but doesn’t see a need for more in the future. “Postwar generations now exceed 80% of Japan’s population.” This has me wondering how much of China’s population is postwar. Numbers anyone? From my American perspective, I’d be hinting at how repetitive apologies, over time, become meaningless. How does this differ in Asian culture? I’m all ears there. How long or much will it take to “win the trust”?

But wait a minute, how could people say this statement was “watered-down” or not enough? Maybe it’s because of how Japanese textbooks still discuss WWII and other events? (Side note: This is an issue that takes place worldwide. Just look at Texas’ recent controversy.) Is Japan’s long-term goal to alter future generations and their knowledge of WWII events? It is one thing to learn from one’s history so not to be doomed by it, but it’s a whole other ballgame to change history. As a teacher myself, I ask: How can my students learn from history if it’s modified to fit one’s agenda and show that mistakes of the past weren’t ours?

American

I haven’t personally experienced a time where millions of Americans have died from war. Therefore, I can only share something a black American coworker of mine shared last year. This was over a conversation at lunch when he, a Canadian, and I were discussing why the Chinese in our office took so much offense to our questions and opinions. He said, “If I could, I’d tell them how I could still be mad at white people because of what happened years ago.” We also came to a 9/11 point where the topic of radical Islam was approached. None of us were directly affected by either of these events, so we have been quick to forgive. We think those who have direct connections struggle much, much harder. Meanwhile, forgiveness and love should be the ultimate goals. Right?

I’m not surprised to see the Pew Research Center say that “Americans believe that Japan has atoned for its actions during WWII.” That’s probably where I (and probably my students) don’t sit well with some Chinese.

Nonetheless, I think it’s clear to see that every country has its history and its blind spots. While one group points their fingers at another, the phrase that “three fingers are pointing right back at you” becomes rather less cliché.

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Open and Willing

This year at our school, we have 12 Foreign Teachers (FTs) who come from countries such as the United States, Canada, and the Philippines. That isn’t what stands out the most in my mind. There are several quality reasons why the FT Team is so unique and great to work with. One thing is that everybody has lived in Asia at some point in his or her life. In those times, we have had the experiences commonly described as mountaintops and deep valleys. We as foreigners have taken notice of and have thought through the surroundings and what people within that particular Asian culture did and said, even if it was observing the fact that a lot of people stare at you. (Side note: This can be a hurdle for some, and it can be even more frustrating when returning to one’s home country and nobody is giving you a second’s glance.)

What I love most about the team is the experiences and backgrounds that each of us has and are willing to bring to the table. Not just are we willing to share, we are willing to listen. That’s why we have two ears and one mouth, right? We need to listen twice as much as we talk. I have seen and taken part in these blessed conversations many times already in just the first 3-4 weeks of work. I absolutely love direct, intense, serious questions/discussions that hit on the meaning of life and how to love our co-workers, students, and community the best we can with a changed heart. The best and worst thing about the team this year is that we ask those questions and seek the answers together. Best and worst? Yes, because it’s beautiful, yet horrifying, trying to mature with others holding you accountable personally and professionally. Just ask my parents.

I know… I know… there will be bumps in the roads whether it is differences, frustrations, or whatever may have you. A uniqueness of the current team is how the ones in the midst deal with it. I have personally learned that if it’s on your own that you deal with situations, good luck because failure is inevitable and more repeatable when not being willing to surrender your self to others. The thing is though that there are times when I can really see, feel, and experience the distinctions of those around me. This is the team that I want to be a part of. This is the team that is truly rare.

By the way, I just might be trying to define the Chinese Dream in my spare time.

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival (later this week) to you all!

Some Mighty Work

The two years beforehand were spent in a land much different than the customary ways of which I was used to. The people stared, taxis honked, and the owners in the markets either liked you or gave you an unfamiliar eye. Two months previous to flying over to Asia, I had gotten married. We went from one honeymoon to the next, as the present culture in this new area had the way of a short-term trip to it. Everything was seen with fresh eyes, and the culture and its people were perfect.This didn’t last long, as I’m sure you are supposing.

A little over halfway through my second year, I felt a tug in my heart. A national asked me, “Daniel, what is your true passion? And don’t lie to us either.” Firstly, I was shocked that a national asked such a blunt question, but I was also joyful at the fact that she did this. Next came my honest answer. “Well, my true passion is working with children with special needs. You know, the people on the sidewalk here that are asking for food. Those are the people I want to be with. I love teaching English and being here, but I would rather do that.” This was what prompted me to return to the US in 2012. So we returned and both attained teaching jobs at a high school I knew well and was impressed with.

Though it was my third year of teaching, it was my first year in America. It was much different from the Asian education system I had been becoming acquainted with. It was a transition, to say the least. My wife and I had returned to America so that I could learn the ins and outs about special education. What I learned is that this means taking on a caseload of 25-30 students, team-teaching, and instructing students ranging from mild to moderate disabilities in the same room. Through the laughs and heartaches that have come through this year, my heart has been called to an area that is familiar. Not even halfway through this 2012-2013 school year, more and more reflections on the two years in Asia started happening. Many things began to make sense, and a lot of my pride and selfishness surfaced. A great majority of the reasons we had come back were personal reasons that could have been changed if we had taken them to Father and relied on the HS to guide us. Therefore, we contacted the same school in Asia. We wanted to work there again, if we could, but this time the reasons were different. We weren’t just walking through an open door like before, we were now being beckoned to come through the door and serve.

That is why this August, my wife and I will be returning to Asia to teach English. Father has confirmed this mission through our prayers, times in His word, and counsel from others. It just so happens though that it took a year back in the US for Him to do some mighty work in our hardened hearts.