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.

Learning what the world is thinking via the word definitions people look up

For those who are on Twitter, the information you can learn is overwhelming. There are hundreds of celebrities, athletes, news agencies, sportswriters, et cetera, bombarding you with information. Besides being the first to know with whom Tiger slept, or which baseball player signed with which team, you can find someone doing something pretty cool on Twitter. Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large for Merriam-Webster, has an account. On it, he “offers up daily dispatches on new words, etymology and more. Read his tweets about the latest happenings at Merriam-Webster and the wider world of lexicography and linguistics.”

I have enjoyed following him tremendously. One of my favorite things he posts is the words that people are searching for most frequently on Merriam-Webster’s website. For example, he posted this today:

Huge lookups for ‘indefinite’ since Friday. http://tinyurl.com/y9y2z8b All Tiger, all the time.

Tiger Woods says he’s taking an indefinite leave from golf to get his life and marriage back together. As a result, people flock to m-w.com to look up the word they aren’t sure about.

Another example:

‘Infamy’ most looked-up word yesterday http://tinyurl.com/yd3bnpm Pearl Harbor Day.

On December 7, 1941 the terrible attack on Pearl Harbor occurred. The following day, President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave a famous speech which included one of the more famous lines spoken by a U.S. president – “a date which will life in infamy”. Lo and behold, in 2009, on Pearl Harbor Day, many flock to the dictionary to look up the word infamy.

It’s really cool to me that you can see what’s going on in the world, or popular culture, or just what’s on people’s minds by the words they search for.

For those that are interested, you can “follow” Peter Sokolowski by clicking here. I would very much recommend it.