Wednesday, March 16, 2011


It is hard to write about the disaster in a country I love so much. I spent two years in Japan and have a lot of friends here. As far as I know, all of them are safe, even coworkers who lived in Sendai.

The black building you see swaying in this video from Tokyo's Shinjuku ward was the one I worked in while I was there.

I'm thoroughly disgusted with Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Gilbert Gottfried and their ilk. Beck especially deserves our opprobrium. That being said, Ishihara Shintaro, governor of Tokyo, repeated some similar tripe, so I guess you could say that my patience with doomsaying religious nutcases is pretty thin right now.

At this moment, I'm feeling pretty tribal, and the Japanese are my people. I lived among them, and for the most part they were more welcoming to me as guest than the Yankees I currently live among, who are ostensibly my fellow nationals. If this was God's retribution for anything we humans may have done, then God has pretty piss poor aim. It's not retribution for anything, though, and Glenn Beck can go fuck himself.

I'm a bit disappointed in America at our relatively paltry charitable response. Is it that we expect the Japanese to be capable of taking care of themselves? Why was the giving to Haiti so much greater? Is it racism? Let me explain that last one, before someone points out that Haitians are black: I suspect one of the reasons donations to Haiti were so great was white guilt over a combination of slavery and US interventions there. But Haiti is still obviously inferior to the US in many ways, from education to cooperative culture. It's easy, in a limousine liberal sort of way, to deplore racism when we are simultaneously making ourselves feel secretly superior by handing out alms. We never seriously expect those people in Haiti to be our equals, no matter what platitudes we may mouth in public. On the other hand, the Japanese are already our equals or betters on most fronts. Compare the lack of looting in Japan with New Orleans, for example, and I Goddamn dare you, or Beck or any other fuckhead to claim that theirs is a culture that needed smiting.

What is even more troubling is that the situation may get worse, and I'm not even speaking of the impending nuclear disaster. The last time a quake this big hit Japan (in the same general region) was in October 1707. Two months later, Mt. Fuji erupted. Fujiyama has already experienced a 6.0 tremblor in the wake of the Sendai quake. This was not an aftershock - the fault line under Fuji is distinct from the one in the ocean near Sendai.

My heart, and my money, are with Japan. I hope yours are, too.