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Japan Earthquake 2011: Should the United States Help Based on Japan's Response to Hurricane Katrina?

Updated on July 1, 2017
Survivors walk through the debris left after the earthquake that hit Japan March 11, 2011
Survivors walk through the debris left after the earthquake that hit Japan March 11, 2011

Why should America care about the devastation in Japan?

I have to admit that as I have read articles regarding the devastation suffered in Japan in recent days, I have been appalled at the number of comments stating that we here in the United States should not be concerned about the loss of life, the destruction of property and the ravaging of the Japanese economy that we have seen. It would be easy to get into a deep discussion of the political and economic reasons why the United States must be concerned about this tragedy, but instead I just want to focus on the moral reasons why. And it is simple really. Good people care. Period.

But even beyond that, as humans we must feel compassion for those in need, those who suffer, and those touched by tragedy. It is this sense of unity with our fellow man that makes us what we are. Without it we are less civilized and less worthy of compassion ourselves. We are nothing more than barbarians, neanderthals and primal beasts. If we cannot feel for those who have fallen victim to the mercilessness of nature when we are in a position to help, how can we expect others to feel for us when the tables are turned and it is our time to suffer? But some say Japan did nothing for us when we faced our time of need. Where was Japan, they say, when Hurricane Katrina came ashore?

The devastation of Hurricane Katrina
The devastation of Hurricane Katrina

A friend indeed if there as well when we're in need...

Many of the comments I have seen have focused on Japan's supposed lack of aid when Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region of the United States in September 2005 killing over 1800 people. But the reality is Japan was very generous in their aid for those struck by the catastrophic ruin of Katrina. Within days of the tragedy, individuals in Japan had donated $1.5 million and one Japanese businessman donated $1 million of his personal wealth to aid victims. The Japanese government donated $200,000 in cash to the American Red Cross plus an additional $800,000 in relief supplies such as blankets, medicine and generators.

But these donations were just the beginning of Japan's reaching out to the Katrina victims. Japanese corporations donated over $12 million in the early days of the storms aftermath and the AEON Group, one of Japan's largest retailers spent the month following Katrina's landfall collecting donations at their more than 700 stores and also donated 1% of profits to the relief effort. The Japanese Red Cross partnered with Japan's leading television broadcaster, NHK-TV, got a national fundraising drive. Musicians and entertainers joined together for Hurricane Relief Japan to raise money at concerts and via artist websites.

American Search & Rescue dogs are on their way to help in Japan
American Search & Rescue dogs are on their way to help in Japan

It is not about the numbers. It is not about repayment.

In the end, I have no idea what the dollar amount of Japan's support for the victims of Hurricane Katrina ended up being and frankly, I do not see why a dollar amount matters. Wealthy Japanese donated hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars to aid those in need. The average Japanese worker gave tens and hundreds, dollars and dimes -- whatever they could to help people on the other side of the world from a place they probably have no hope of ever visiting. They did this for people from the nation that sixty years earlier had killed tens of thousands of their countrymen with the dropping of two bombs that were more devastating than any weapon ever utilized before or since.

They helped because the Japanese people understand that in the end we are all here for each other before all else. Nothing in this world is more important than life and the freedom to live happily and peacefully. We may have once been enemies, but we are beyond that now and must join together to overcome the tragedies that we face. Hurricane Katrina took almost 2000 lives and has a name to give it a place in history.

The earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011 will likely have a death toll in the thousands and possibly tens of thousands but oddly will have to be given a name for the history books since quakes are not named. When the people of the future look back in the history books, lets hope that they will find Americans were just as generous in Japan's time of need as they were during ours.

Images of the Devastation in Japan

Please be advised that many of the images within the links below are somewhat graphic and may be too disturbing for some readers, but I thought it necessary to include these to illustrate just how devastating this disaster has been and how serious the crisis is that our friends in Japan now face.

Will you donate to help the recovery effort in Japan?

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