North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Sunday, March 27, 2011

99 year anniversary of a gift from Japan to the US

Today is the 99th anniversary of a gift of cherry trees from the Mayor of Tokyo to the city of Washington DC. The gift has over the years "blossomed" into a national celebration heralding the arrival of spring in the U.S. Capitol. Mayor Yukio Ozaki donated the trees in an effort to enhance the growing friendship between the United States and Japan at that time.

Washington Monument with cherry trees

How amazing that the friendship and warmth contained in that gift continues, even through the dark days of World War II. On December 11, 1941, four trees were cut down in the U.S. Capitol, suspected retaliation for the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Empire of Japan four days earlier, though this was never confirmed. In hopes of dissuading people from further attacks upon the trees during the war, they were referred to as "Oriental" flowering cherry trees for the war's duration.

Jefferson Memorial with cherry trees in full blossom

It seems fitting too, to be reminded of what our nation's capitol enjoys each year, as Japan continues its somber task of rebuilding and mourning an estimated 8,800 lost and 12,600 still missing.

Are there other gifts of this symbolic magnitude?

Dedicated on October 28, 1886, our Statue of Liberty, is a gift to the United States from the people of France. A robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom, bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue has become an iconic symbol of freedom and of the United States, best remembered in the days of strong immigration funneled through New York's Ellis Island.

Statue of Liberty, a gift from France

With these two gifts given to us, is there anything comparable that the U.S. has given in return? Teatree's sparse knowledge of history shows up - nothing comes to mind. Unless one considers the solemn Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, France, that honors American soldiers who died in Europe during World War II.

Normandy Cemetery and Memorial

The cemetery is located on a bluff overlooking Omaha Beach (one of the landing beaches of the Normandy Invasion) and the English Channel. It covers 70 ha (172 acres), and contains the remains of 9,387 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Normandy and ensuing military operations in World War II.

Embedded in the lawn directly opposite the entrance to the old Visitors' Building is a time capsule in which have been sealed news reports of the June 6, 1944 Normandy landings. The capsule is covered by a pink granite slab upon which is engraved: To be opened June 6, 2044.

Around the world, gifts and memorials speaking of friendship and gratitude are continually being made. And while some gifts emphasize a positive friendship, such as the US and Canada's famous Peace Arch between Washington State and British Columbia, others express hopes for reconciliation from past conflicts.

The Peace Arch, a celebration of kinship between the U.S. and Canada

Growing up during the bitterly divisive Vietnam War, one is heartened to read of recent week-long visit to Vietnam by 29 members of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF). The delegation, including people from all walks of life - veterans, their relatives, businessmen, social workers and students - was aimed at helping the delegation members learn about the current situation in Vietnam , Vietnam-US relations, the lingering effects of past wars and especially issues regarding the clearance of mines and unexploded ordnance in Vietnam. Members paid a fieldtrip visit to RENEW – a VVMF project on clearing landmines in Quang Tri province.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund delegation meets with Vietnamese delegation in January 2011

Whether a gift celebrating friendship, a memorial expressing gratitude, or reconciliation efforts meant to heal tragic events in the past, let's enjoy the spring celebration in Washington DC this year with a new appreciation.

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