Last night, hundreds of thousands of people, in surfing their television, found themselves watching one of the most beautiful events that has aired in the last four years: the figure skating championship for the 2010 Winter Olympics. Of all the young ladies competing, though all displayed extraordinary beauty, elegance, and talent in the soaring twirls and spinning twists, two women stood out from among the rest. They were small, slender, beautiful girls, wearing sparkling leotards, with glitter framing their dark eyes and concentration molded upon their olive brows. They came from two different Asian countries, where the skill of their dancing has earned them the name of national celebrities. One, a small, Japanese girl named Mao Asada, dances to a simple, classical piece, and, though her dancing is flawless, the choreography has only a fraction of the fire and energy that sizzles over a foundation of breath-taking elegance when Kim Yu-Na from South Korea takes the ice, dancing to the theme song from James Bond. She wins the competition after the stunning, passionate piece, placing five points above her Japanese rival, and exceeding her own record by two points.
The disinterested onlooker enjoys watching these prodigies as they perform; they rejoice with Yu-Na in her success, and, though they pity Asada for her own great talent being superseded, the performance of Yu-Na has left them so breathless that they know the score is fairly won. No one realizes the enormity of the expectation and the extreme responsibility that has been placed on these young, small shoulders by the people of their country. The competition between them does not begin and end with the Olympics: it buries deep, plunging down the course of a hundred years, through the histories of their people. The two countries, and the two girls who stand as the sacred representations of their cultures, are enemies of old.
In the early twentieth century Japan experienced great economic upheaval when the new emperor, Meiji, rose to power. The Koreans insulted and rejected Emperor Meiji in their trading with Japan, and the emperor, seeing that the samurai army was jobless and posing a threat to his regime, sent them off to conquer and colonize Korea. The Koreans experienced great hardship through their slavery to the Japanese over the course of thirty-five years, until America, after the bombing of Hiroshima at the end of World War II, came into Korea to free the Koreans. The people, government, and economy of Korea were utterly devastated after Japan's autocracy in their country, and, though the Americans helped them back to their feet, Franklin D. Roosevelt didn't finish the course of regeneration. He, on the advice of the general in charge of the mission, deserted the northern precinct of Korea to a socialist Russia, a communist Mao Zedong, and the new Marxist upstart Kim Il Sung to take over the government in that section of the country. Thus ensued the divide of North and South Korea. This history, branded in the minds of the Koreans and the Japanese, lies in the worldview with which Yu-Na and Asada compete. The angst of their countries' expectations is overwhelming in the very force of this age-old feud.
I once observed a young Korean conversing with one of my brothers about how he saw common ground between America and Korea, in that they both had a mutual enemy in Japan because of Pearl Harbor. I was shocked by this idea. In my thoughts, the tragedy of Pearl Harbor was such an incident of the past that the guilt correlating to it has been forgotten, and that this feeling predominates in America. Japan has been wholly forgiven, just as the memory of the enmity of the Revolutionary War between the English and the Americans is rendered obsolete in our present function as allies. In the same way, the Pearl Harbor incident has been wiped away from our consciences, so that now Japan is one of America's greatest allies. But to the young Korean gentleman, Japan––disregarding the fact that the grave offense paid them is one dating to almost a century ago, and that the Japanese have seen great retribution for their tyranny and are a wholly different people––is still a very grim enemy.
Thus I see how the worldviews of the Western and Eastern worlds utterly clash. Christianity, though started in the East, has spread like wildfire, until, coming to the West, it has conquered and revolutionized the European world. Because of Christianity, we are endowed with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and that happiness is made by the practice of Christian virtues. The Ten Commandments are instilled in our minds, and this moral creed has given us the ability to rise above all other countries in the corporate wisdom that has led to freedom of religion, liberty of speech, and the high-minded principle of love that has led us to be renowned for our 'short memory': for our forgiveness and for our willingness to give succor to those countries who have not had the influence of the Zoë to give them Life and Light.
In the Eastern world, however, the cultures are steeped in the religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Atheism, all creeds wholly selfish, either in the self-centered pursuit of forgetting self, the megalomaniacal pursuit of a god that sanctions genocide and hate, or the egocentric mind that believes there is no god and therefore that man is the master of his own destiny. Their worlds are old: newness is not welcomed, freedom of thought and independence of belief is denied, and the sins of the fathers are punished in the children. They nurse their hate, for they have never learned the joy that comes from obeying the words:
"Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you."
Photo of Kim Yu-Na