Now, as the American women beat the Japanese women in soccer for the gold, Americans in twitterland are equating it to payback for Pearl Harbor. They are disgracing our nation and undermining the winning of the Gold with hatred.
This hideous behavior recalls the rocky first years of the Peace Corps, and one unfortunate postcard that confounded its ideals. I turned 12 the day before news came that a postcard from a volunteer named Margery Jane Michelmore written from Nigeria to a friend in the U.S. describing her situation in Nigeria as “squalor and absolutely primitive living conditions.”
Compared to the vicious tweets coming out in and around the Olympics, Margery Jane Michelmore’s comments were sort of “innocent.” Her postcard never made it out of the country and the University of Ibadan College Students Union demanded deportation, accusing Michelmore and her fellow volunteers of being “America’s international spies,” calling the Peace Corps as “a scheme designed to foster neocolonialism.” The international press picked up the story. Nigerian students protested the program. American volunteers sequestered themselves, eventually beginning a hunger strike. After several days, the Nigerian students agreed to open a dialogue with the Americans.
When I was growing up my mother told me I should never say anything I wouldn’t want appearing as a headline in the New York Times. The Peace Corps is a long way from Michelmore’s postcard; the lesson learned and thousands of dedicated volunteers have made a real difference for America’s image overseas, in addition to doing real good the world over.
The news of the initial racist tweets sent a chill down my spine and I was somehow releaved to learn that the twits who sent them were not from our country. But the results of the soccer gold medal match make me sad and sick once again: so many of my countrymen are so incredibly cruel, insensitive and stupid.
The worldwide web and all that it has spawned, including facebook and twitter, have made it easier for us to share the ugly sides of ourselves instantaneously. Maybe its not so great after all.
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Gloria. Circa 1955.
Gloria. Circa 2012.
Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.