What would we do without the Internet? It has been the prime source of my information about the crisis in Japan. Thanks to Facebook, Twitter, and even e-mails, I've been able to keep up with the situation, make sure my friends and family are safe, and find out about all of the wonderful fundraising efforts happening in NYC.
In a recent article in The New York Times, Sam Dolnick and Kirk Semple explore the Japanese community in New York City. Dolnick and Semple note that there are only approximately 20,000 Japanese living in New York City, and news of the earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan brought about responses that are "small, scattered and often private – a reflection of the population itself." It's true that there isn't a cohesive, organized group where the Japanese community here can call their own. But I've observed that the tragic events in Japan triggered an emotional reaction from many Japanese, especially musicians and artists, as they worked quickly to organize fundraising performances. Facebook, Twitter, and even my e-mail inbox overflowed with notices of these events.
The writers are right in saying that the efforts have been from small groups. Facebook communities such as Japanese New Yorkers and Moms United to Support Japan and Japan Earthquake ~ NYC Artists Fund Raising ~ sprung up online and raised money that went directly to earthquake and tsunami relief. Tuesday I'm attending a meeting of Japanese Americans and Japanese in America – a group mentioned in The New York Times article – to see how we as Japanese Americans living in New York can mobilize and strengthen our efforts to help the situation in Japan.
Providing help to the stricken nation isn't simply a grassroots effort. Institutions such as the Japan Society went right to work, establishing its Japan Earthquake Relief Fund and announcing that 50% of proceeds from its programs is going toward it from now until June 30. (According to the organization's website, the fund has raised more than $1 million as of March 17.) Carnegie Hall's JapanNYC is forging ahead, acting as a way to pay tribute to the cultural gems of Japan. While Carnegie Hall isn't doing any specific fundraising of its own, its blog offers a list of places where attendees of JapanNYC's events can donate.
Of course, not everyone is sympathetic to the plight of the Japanese, even during this time of crisis. Japan Probe posted screen shots of negative Twitter posts. Click here to see a sample of people who believe that Japan deserved to be demolished by Mother Nature. Personally, I couldn't finish reading all of these posts because I found them incredibly tacky.
Regular Joes aren't the only jerks on the planet; well known people are also riding the insensitivity train. Annoying comedian Gilbert Gottfried was fired from his gig as the voice of the Aflac duck after tweeting what he thought were jokes after the tsunami. I'm sure the Tweeting dingalings around the world feel Glenn Beck justified their tweets when he said the devastation in northern Japan was "a message from God." Nice.
I was able to overlook the posts and rants of The Ignorant, chalking it up to the fact that some people are just plain idiots. I firmly believe that intelligent people don't think the people of Japan are going through this tragedy because of karma. However, one post hit too close to home. It was written by one of my Facebook friends. This person went to my high school many years ago, and while we were not friends back then, we have several mutual friends, which I suppose is a good enough reason to connect on Facebook. Here is his post, which refers to the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant:
Really? He actually posted this as his status on Facebook? "Why not have them fix their own problem." This isn't Japan's problem; it's the world's problem. Some people think that other countries spend their time criticizing the United States, but when disaster strikes, they're quick to call us for help. Okay, I get that. But this is a crisis of epic proportions, and everyone who is able to help must do so.
I think it's important to mention that the person who wrote the post is a member of the US Navy. Stationed in Japan.
Oh, he also has the distinction of being the first person I've ever "unfriended" on Facebook.