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A RETORT to "RESPECT for the ELDERLY DAY," cross-cultural glance

Date Posted: 1998-10-09

I'd like to clear the air about the article printed in last week's edition of the Japan Update (Oct 1-7) on "Respect for the Elderly Day," cross-cultural glance. I was totally offended by Mr. Kenny Ehman's (Japan Update reporter) comments on how the American people should take pointers on how to treat their elderly.

The author has taken a personal incident and labeled all Americans and accused us as a nation of not respecting our elderly. I will not doubt that the situation his sister witnessed occurred and the disrespectful supermarket attendant to the elderly lady was unpleasant to encounter, but I am appalled the author made reference we treat our elderly this way as a whole.

There is good and bad in all countries, all nationalities, and this is not just an AMERICAN problem. I think the author needs to do more research before making such a broad assumption of a nation. There are isolated cases in the U.S. as well as Japan, to include anywhere else I'm sure.

I am an American who has lived in Japan for 11 years of my life, three years as schoolage child and eight years again as an adult. I have also seen my share of disrespect to the elderly by Japanese people. I have witnessed first hand the total disrespect of a grown son to his elderly parent during Obon. The son literally stood up at the table over his father and pointed down at him as he yelled unhappily about his father's advice. I have seen my Japanese friendsí young sons call their parents names and hit at them because they could not get their way.

As you can see this is a problem a lot of people deal with in our day and age. Contrary to the statement you made of it NOT being a social issue, it is that and also a universal one. This disrespect is not just in America, it is happening all around us, don't put the blinders on that this does not happen within the Japanese society as well.

The U.S. may not have an official holiday for respect to the elderly, but we do have a day called "Grandparentsí Day" on 13 September. Maybe this is insignificant to you at best, but the U.S. has many days set aside for many things, and as being a nation of freedom it is left up to the individual how or if they want to celebrate a particular day. Do your homework, Mr. Ehman! You have elaborated on an issue by speculation.

On a personal note, within my family we give the elderly respect, and I have aunts and uncles in the U.S. right now caring for grandparents. Another insignificance to you, may be the discounts given to our senior citizens in the U.S. It is true that ALL may not give the respect our elderly are due, but it is not something that AMERICA is guilty of, rather individuals. And sir, I think it is wonderful those "over 100 years of age get their name said on TV before the weather report by this jolly, plump guy in the morning", as you so tastefully put it. We are honoring our elderly by taking pride in announcing the accomplishment of aging.

Try to find the good in small things that can reach the hearts of many instead of glorifying in the negative that bring down the spirits of all.

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