Nina's Stillwater Calendar

Tuesday, December 5

Hurt Feelings

Today in Chinese class, a student presented some WWII Chinese history. For about two months during WWII, the Japanese slaughtered ~2,000 Chinese noncombatants in the southern capital and committed other atrocities. The descriptions are too disturbing to repeat. It was called the "Rape of Nanjing". The presenter though, spent the first few minutes, not preparing us for the disturbing parts, but insisting that he wasn't lumping all Japanese into the "bad people" category. Basically, he apologized to the three Japanese students in the course.

Why did he feel a need to apologize? I don't need to hear an apology before I get the honest truth about My Lai or Abu Ghraib. Germans don't need apologies before hearing about the Holocaust. Afghans don't need apologies before discussing the Taliban. So why did the student apologize?

Is it because we actually do tend judge others by the very worst examples of their group? For example, I don't like the French, because I think they are self-important snobs. Germans are racist. Closer to home, the education department is for girls who just want husbands and business degrees are for people who couldn't cut it in engineering. And these crass generalizations are coming from the wife of someone working on a business degree! (Sorry sweetie, but that is what it is.)

I am not ready to give up on all my personal prejudices. For example, politicians are dishonest. Maybe not always true, but a good thing to believe if only to help you remember to keep an eye on them. But if people feel that can't discuss history in a mixed crowd without an apology, perhaps our prejudices have gone too far.

1 comment:

Jill said...

Right on. I enjoyed your thought process. It's definitely true of how we behave today.