I know absolutely nothing about any civil wars that may have happened in the histories of Japan, Thailand, China or Malaysia. What I do know about the root causes of civil war in Korea, Vietnam and Cambodia is minor. I don’t expect teenagers or young adults in Southeast and Far East Asia to know about the American Civil War (1861-1865). I assume though, that they have at least basic knowledge about World War II- in particular, the atrocities committed by the Nazis against Jews and other minorities in Europe, and Japan’s to this day still unprosecuted war crimes against most of Asia.
There is a disturbing fashion trend going on in some of the cities I’ve been to in SE and FE Asia- the wearing of Confederate flag clothing and turning Adolf Hitler into a chic brand.
I saw my first ‘Hitler chic’ t-shirt while in Harajuku’s crowded market streets a few months ago. The shirt depicted Hitler transformed into McDonald’s own Ronald McDonald- the fast food chain’s clown mascot. I didn’t think much of it at the time and figured it was some hipster way of calling McDonald’s evil. Less than two months later, I was in Bangkok when I saw a McFuhrer statue soliciting flood relief donations. The statue even gave a ‘Sieg Heil’ salute. Should I be donating to flood relief efforts or praying for a flood to wash away the ignorance?
A shopping visit to Khao San Road later during my Thailand trip revealed that the ‘Hitler chic’ trend wasn’t reserved to mockeries of Ronald McDonald. Hitler’s image could be seen replacing the Starbucks mermaid, an Angry Bird and the Milo Bathing Ape on some t-shirts. Last September, a school in Chiang Mai, Thailand caused outrage after some of its students dressed as Nazis during a dress-up day parade.
Combine the t-shirts with the Nazi paraphernalia shops (selling SS armbands, full uniforms, officer caps) I’ve seen in Japan, South Korea and Thailand, and I’m guessing that there is either a lack of education about Nazis in Asia or there has been a lack of proper ass whoopings. I’m going to assume the former and before Asian male youths start receiving the latter, maybe a proper education is needed on their part.
The Nazis weren’t cool. There’s nothing hip about Adolf Hitler. You can’t be the direct cause of 50 to 70 million deaths (estimated number of WWII civilian and military deaths in Europe) and ever be considered hip. I can’t imagine that schools no longer go over WWII in their curriculum, so what’s driving the trend to wear Hitler as a cartoon and other Nazi related clothing?
The Confederate Flag
If you’ve ever been to a reggae music club, dance-hall or concert, then you have seen your share of Jamaican and even Ethiopian flags. Reggae music is synonymous with Jamaica and due to Rastafarian-ism, Ethiopia has a place in the hearts of many roots minded reggae fans. Suffice to say, if you’ve been to a country-western bar, concert or NASCAR race, you’ve also seen the Battle Flag of the Confederacy aka the Confederate flag.
I’ll give the good ol’ boys and Southern belles a break here. If they want a flag that represented continuing and expanding slavery (there are also other reasons why Southern states seceded from the Union to start the Civil War), then they can continue to hide behind the guise of ‘Southern Pride’ all they want. I know a lot of black Americans from the South who love being from the South that don’t feel the need to whistle ‘Dixie’ and wave the Confederate flag though. Who I won’t give a break to though are those in Asian countries who have adopted the flag as their way of identifying with white America.
When I was at the airport in Bangkok (BKK), I saw a very ethnic Indian man wearing a black t-shirt with a Confederate flag across the back. Above the flag were the words, ‘Jesus Was White.’ T_T
Throughout Japan, nearly every gaijin (Japan word for foreigner) district from Tokyo to Osaka to Fukuoka has a country-western bar that is Japanese owned. Every one of these bars that I’ve seen has either the flag proudly displayed at the entrance or inside. I suppose these Japanese bar owners are ignorant of the fact that most of the Marines who stormed their beach heads were from the South.
The Confederate flag is a symbol of pride for some, a symbol of the South’s violent racist and apartheid past for others. If you aren’t from there, perhaps you should exercise caution before wearing your Confederate flag t-shirt with your Levis and Jordans whilst walking across the Shibuya scramble. You can’t feign ignorance when Google is readily available at your fingertips.
The South didn’t have to win the American Civil War in order for it to continue denying black Americans (not considered Americans at the time) equal rights and freedoms. It took 100 years after the war ended for blacks in the South to be allowed the same rights as their white neighbors. Only two full generations removed from those Jim Crow laws, you should be smart enough now to understand why the flag presents a sensitive issue.
Don’t let being hip make others think you’re being an idiot. We live in a global society where are literally seconds away from connecting to the entire world. If you consider yourself a global citizen then take better thought in how your clothing choices make you appear to the rest of the world. Making 10 of your friends laugh at your Hitler teletubby t-shirt isn’t worth offending one Jewish friend is it?