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Saturday, March 06, 2004

I guess I am the only person disturbed by the flag at the beginning of this ad. Maybe people are forgetting what it meant.

Having lived for five years in China, Taiwan and Japan, I met many people for whom that flag meant something much akin to the Nazi swastika. When I lived in China in 1989, Hirohito died. My host grandfather became very quiet for a few days. I asked him if he was sad that the Emperor of Japan died. (I was only fourteen and knew nothing of history.) Mr. Hou shook his head. It was hard to grasp how all this outpouring of international sympathy was meant for someone on par with the Nazis.

My Taiwanese grandmother, when I told her I was off to Japan to marry my sweetheart, warned me that the Japanese are very bad people. She said not to trust pink kittens and bubbly voices.

JJ once brought a stack of those headbands with the glaring sun to Taiwan following an election in Japan. Niki and I lived out our fantasies of becoming the Karate Kid. But when JJ gave them out to his classmates, the elderly teacher screamed at them to take off their headbands or else she wouldn't teach them.

Aesthetically, I had to admit to JJ that the Nationalist Japanese flag is pretty. But so is the swastika.* However, their meanings have been perverted. I explained that, even though the swastika once meant something very different (Empress Alexandra of Russia even decorated her palace with them), no white person can display a swastika these days without certain connotations attached.

*The swastika is also representative of the sun.

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