Curtis Dahlgren
Letter from Japan ("time out" from the socio-political stuff)
By Curtis Dahlgren
April 2, 2011

"Then those who feared the Lord spoke often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him [for/of] those who feared the Lord and thought upon His name." — Malachi

WE SPEAK SO "OFTEN" WITH EACH OTHER THESE DAYS, compared to 25 years ago, because technology has advanced so much (as the prophet Daniel predicted 600 years B.C.: "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.").

Technology has increased SO much, in fact, that too often we stand in awe of the things man has made out of the things God has made! We can speak "one to another" at the speed of light so routinely now that some of us forget about the speed of light's DESIGNER.

I don't text or tweet but, via E-mails, I can virtually chat with friends — even if they live half way around the world — and this week I received such a letter from a spiritual brother in Japan. He's an old college classmate who lives in southern Japan with his Japanese family, but he happens to visit the U.P. of Michigan every summer. Here are some excerpts from that letter:

Howdy Curt:

Jeremiah 17: 5-9 A curse and a blessing, and an assessment of the heart.
Paslm 116:11 I said in my alarm, "All men are liars."

Things are dire here. . .Our hearts go out in prayer for the thousands of people whose lives were literally washed away in the Tsunami, and for the hundreds of 1000s of those who are held up in evac. centers. The govt has been largely incapable of coping with this disaster, and of course what Govt wouldn't be,but transparency is 'unknown' here, so they are busy doing 'damage control' not 'damage to the housing, farming, lives, but to the image of Japan.What good will that do when the hard work of literally re-locating dozens of cities and perhaps hundreds of villages and their struggling inhabitants, ensues.

We have churches that also have been swept away, and then others who are on the fringe areas, and are trying their best to serve as hubs, for distribution and aid. The churches of our area, for instance, are sending up 100 bicycles, and washing machines, for the evac. centers, plus, other stuff. But the real work is ahead.

Imagine where to start? Many of the local leaders have died. I heard of One mayor who was having a conference on emergency practices when the Tsunami washed them all away along with the building! I've heard one mayor of one ravaged area, pep talking his people with "we'll re-build our home town! etc." Are you kidding? What home town? The buildings, except a gutted hospital or maybe the town hall, are all gone, the trees are gone, the lamp posts are gone, the farms are gone, the parks are gone, the post boxes, which of course they have been quick to search for, are gome. The fishing craft are either sitting in the rice paddy, on someone's house, or at the bottom of the harbor. The only thing that's left is the pride of the mayor. It's his city! . . .

People are prideful and foolish. Where is the fear of God, and awe at His creation? "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." (Prov. 9:10) For starts, move to 'higher ground!' — not only physical, but spiritual.

The Japanese are a resilient people. People are amazed at their composure, their quietude, their seemingly positive attitude. That was evident after the carnage of WWII also. But they are a nation of followers. They will believe and do what their Gov't tells them to do, or any person in authority. What one person, who has some sort of credibility, does, they will all do. But, this is an emotive and non-rational trait.

Now, they are waiting for someone to help. The Gov't is wringing its hands and very reticent to ask the USA for help. The Nat'l TV, NHK, doesn't like the USA and we wonder what help is being given by America. The French are being given some press. The PM of Japan says that this is an 'international crisis' and that it demands an internat'l response. That is Govt double talk, and a way a of saying that we don't want to have to appeal for help.

Just before this event the Okinawans were re intensifying their badmouthing of the US military for their bases in Okinawa! Perhaps it's difficult to appeal to the "marines' for help in the North. . . . [end of letter excerpts]

Human nature being what it is, some charities who give aid in other parts of the world are jealous of their "competition" and have openly discouraged Americans from aiding Japan (because it's not a "Third World" nation). The March 17, 2011 issue of USA TODAY had an interesting front-page article (NO DONOR RUSH TO AID JAPAN; Country is not perceived as being 'in great need'):

"The natural disaster in Japan and the threat of a nuclear catastrophe are dominating world headlines. But beyond the shock and sympathy, every-day Americans financial response to the crisis is so far oddly subdued.

"Charities in the U.S. have raised $49 million for the Japanese cause in the six days since the tsunami hit — a small percentage compared to other recent disasters . . The earthquake that decimated Haiti last year, for instance, prompted $296 million in American donations in the first 7 days . . .

"Part of the reason for fewer contributions may be the perception of Japan, which has the world's third-largest economy, as a self-sufficient society . . .

"Another element is the stoic nature of the Japanese people, who may not evoke as much empathy in the American media audience . . . A lot of Japanese people don't want to give media interviews out of a sense of humility . . They have this 'could have been worse' attitude, which may be a great mentality for survival, but it's not great at generating a great deal of interest and philanthropic support . .

"Among the most commonly heard expressions there are 'ganan,' to persevere or tough it out . . and 'shoganai,' it cannot be helped - which expresses a sense of fatalism . . [which is] not an American cultural characteristic . . " [end excerpts]

ALAS, Americans are also prone to forgetfulness and short attention spans. Maybe we have spent our quota of seriousness. The Japanese disaster may be just too much to comprehend. Besides, we are distracted almost totally now by Libya.

While media coverage of Haiti focused in on faces of children close up, our first TV videos from Japan were from helicopters, picturing water and other "things" but almost no human beings. Compared to Haiti, the damage is SO widespread that it's almost impossible to focus on it.

While it is obvious that America seems to be "letting down" on its help this time, some of our media focus is on "protecting" our children psychologically!

The Detroit Free Press (March 16, 201, p. D1) ran an article on "Dealing with disaster; Ways to help your child cope with tragic events in Japan and elsewhere."

Well, excuse me but I would suggest that if a parent wants to do something positive for a child in this regard, ask your kid to donate a tithe of his allowance for a couple of weeks to homeless and/or orphaned children in Japan. And lead by EXAMPLE.

As my friend in Japan said, we need to move to higher ground (spiritually as well as physically)!!

P.S. Let's stop apologizing for America! I just ran across an article in the New York Times from a year ago (2/25/10) regarding preparations for quakes in Istanbul, Turkey. The United States Geological Survey has studied and mapped the fault lines that run right through the city, and a Turkish committee is prioritizing buildings that could be reinforced to save the most lives. Istanbul is on the cutting edge of the effort to "Be prepared" for earthquakes.

Like Israel, America and Britain can't seem to get 'no respect' these days, or any credit for what we have done to help the world.

PPS: I found out an interesting factoid from the above article:

"Some Iranian geologists have pressed their government for decades to move their capital because of the nest of surrounding geologic faults."

Talk about potential "nuclear disasters"!

© Curtis Dahlgren


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Curtis Dahlgren

Curtis Dahlgren is semi-retired in southern Wisconsin, and is the author of "Massey-Harris 101." His career has had some rough similarities to one of his favorite writers, Ferrar Fenton... (more)


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