David Blight’s new book, “Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory”, talks about political motivation behind the different history memories of the American Civil War. This topic gets my attention immediately since I have experienced something similar myself. Being a Korean Chinese, I learned both Chinese and Korean History. One thing they have in common is that both countries suffered deeply from Japanese invasion early this century. Generations after the invasion, however, students of these three countries have a very different idea towards the war.
Once I had a conversation about history war with one of my Japanese friends. He insisted that the invasion of Korea was to help the Korean people since that’s what he was taught at school. He said the occupation of Korea and part of China was just an ‘expansion’, was to build ‘a better East Asian.’ For me, my history textbook talks about how Japanese army killed Chinese in the number of millions.
Just like explained in the “Race and Reunion,” some Japanese want to gain their political influence by changing the way to remember the war, portraying their criminal ancestors as heroes. Textbook has power to reinforcement an ethnic community and be proud of one’s country. People distort history to make young generation feel proud while they are learning “great” commitments their ancestor did.
To be fare, I don’t think they are the only one who remembers history politically motivated. Korean and Chinese governments emphasize the killing to remind their people that, as bad as the governments can be, they are way better than the foreign invaders.
Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall