On Post-War Hatred

With today being Pearl Harbor Day, a quandary I have had many times came up. The issue is this – for how long after a war/attack/persecution is a people allowed to hate the other party?

The examples are many, and yet perhaps somewhat inconsistent. People would look at me like I was insane if I started cursing out British tourists for their treatment of the colonials 240 years ago, but would you be shocked if a Native American expressed anger towards the U.S. government for the terrible treatment of their people? Across much of the southern part of the United States you will see people flying Confederate flags, with slogans like “The South will rise again”. Is this merely misplaced anger from 150 years ago? Does it even matter? Is it odd that many Brits are still wary of the French after all the years of fighting? So many examples, and there doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer.

Would it change anything if both sides of the war were angry? Americans had (have) spent a long time being angry at the Japanese for World War II, Pearl Harbor, etc., and I’m sure there have to be many Japanese who are upset with the U.S. over the use of the atomic bomb. If one started to be less upset, should that cue the end of the other side’s hatred? Clearly this is not the case.

Does it matter if our former enemies are now our allies? Does time heal the wounds? I would think that you could argue that in both cases the answer could be no, absolutely not. If time does play a role, how much time must elapse? One generation? 100 years? It all seems rather incongruous to me.

In some regions of the world I am sure that the wounds from thousands of years ago still sting as though they were fresh. I imagine that in the Western world it’s much harder for a people to hate the people of a nation, or to refuse to purchase their products, than it used to be. Society is much more liberal; everybody is expected to get along with everybody, and every kid gets a participation trophy so they don’t feel badly about themselves. Nobody is allowed to hate, or even resent, people in public anymore. On the flip side, there are many regions of the world, and subsets of people who VERY much still harbor hatred for their former antagonists and live their lives according to this ethos.

I’m not totally sure I have an answer to this question. It was just something on my mind, and I decided to share. Your thoughts are welcome.

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Happy 123rd Birthday to the Statue of Liberty!

statue-liberty-1886-celebrationOn this day in 1886, President Grover Cleveland dedicates the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.

The statue’s full name was Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World. It had been a gift from French citizens to their American friends in recognition of the two countries’ commitment to liberty and democracy and their alliance during the American Revolutionary War, which had begun 110 years earlier. The 151-foot copper statue was built in France and shipped to New York in 350 separate parts. It arrived in the city on June 17, 1886, and over the next several months was reassembled while electricians worked to wire the torch to light up at night.

As President Cleveland accepted the statue on behalf of American citizens, he declared “we will not forget that liberty here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected.” The statue quickly became a symbol of America’s humanitarianism and willingness to take in the world’s “tired, poor and huddled masses”–in the words of the poem by Emma Lazarus inscribed on the monument’s pedestal–who yearned for freedom and a better life.

“Lady Liberty” was originally intended to work as a functional lighthouse and, from 1886 to 1901, the statue was operated by the United States Lighthouse Board. In 1901, the War Department took over its operation and maintenance. The statue and the island on which it stands, now known as Liberty Island, were together proclaimed a national monument by President Calvin Coolidge on October 15, 1924, and, in 1933, the National Park Service assumed oversight of the monument. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan established a commission tasked with restoring the deteriorating Lady Liberty in time for a centennial celebration in 1986. A joint French-American preservation and rehabilitation group cleaned the statue and replaced the glass and metal torch with gold leaf. The original torch is on display in the statue’s lobby.

Today, the Statue of Liberty is a major tourist attraction, hosting as many as 5 million people every year. Although access to the statue’s crown was restricted following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, tourists can still visit Liberty Island, and the statue’s pedestal observation deck and museum.

Some cool stats about Lady Liberty here.

(Many thanks to France and those who paid for her.)