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Martin Luther King Day

Today is Martin Luther King Day, which honors the man who gave his famous “I Have a Dream Speech” where he said that he hoped that his four children would be judged not by the color of their skins but by the content of their character. While some things have improved in race relations since King’s murder fifty years ago this April, sadly white people in this country have a long way to go before we can all say that racism is pretty much history. It pains me to write this as a white American woman but I feel urged to call things as I see them, especially since there were two ugly international incidents that took place a week apart that literally make me embarrassed to be a white American.

The new year kicked off with a YouTube star named Logan Paul who has apparently amassed a huge following among kids (which is why I had never heard of him before). This video by TheTalko shows a basic primer about Logan Paul and his brother, Jake, for those who have never heard of these two.

Recently Logan Paul and his friends decided to travel to Japan where they made a series of travel vlogs that essentially mocked the Japanese and their culture. This video shows the lowlights of Paul’s first few Japan travel videos while That Japanese Man Yuta provides English-language commentary of his opinions about Paul’s antics in Japan.

As for the piece de resistance, Logan Paul and his friends decided to go to a park that has a reputation for being known as the “Suicide Forest” because of the huge number of people who have taken their lives there over the past several decades. When they stumbled upon the body of a man who recently decided to hang himself, they kept on filming both the body and themselves laughing and making jokes about finding a dead body. Logan Paul uploaded the video only to take it down a day later after people started to react negatively to that video.

The video below isn’t the original video that Logan Paul made. It’s one that shows only the excerpts from the original video that focuses on Logan Paul’s reactions to finding that body in the forest along with commentary by penguinz0. (The few scenes that show the suicide victim’s body have been completely blurred in this video.)

Here are a few things about Logan Paul and his antics in Japan:

1. Of all of the public parks located throughout Japan he could’ve visited, he chose the one that has the reputation as being the “Suicide Forest.”

2. From what I’ve read about this park, it has clearly defined nature trails that visitors are expected to follow while they are touring the park. Logan Paul and his friends intentionally went off of these trails in order to go deeper into the forest. What other reason could they have done this in a park known as the “Suicide Forest” if they weren’t hoping to find a dead body while making a video that’s a poor imitation ripoff of The Blair Witch Project?

3. When they found the body the first thing they could’ve done was to call the Japanese equivalent of 911 or try to flag down a park ranger/park employee/police officer/someone in a position of authority. But they didn’t do any of these things. Instead they continued with making the video where Logan Paul is cracking tasteless jokes about finding the body while shooting footage of that dead man.

4. On top of it, Logan Paul was wearing a goofy hat resembling the head of one of the three-eyed green alien toys from the Toy Story movies while laughing and cracking jokes about finding a dead body, which only further showed how callous he was about finding a dead body in a park known as the “Suicide Forest.” It would be like me going to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia wearing a Mickey Mouse hat with a matching Mickey Mouse jacket and doing a livestream of myself cracking tasteless jokes by the graveside.

5. What Logan Paul and his pals refuse to realize is that the body they found wasn’t something that was put there for their amusement. That man who committed suicide was somebody’s son, somebody’s brother, somebody’s nephew, somebody’s spouse/significant other, somebody’s father, somebody’s uncle, somebody’s cousin, somebody’s friend, somebody’s neighbor, somebody’s coworker, etc. I can only imagine how those who knew that man felt when they learned that some foreigners made a video featuring the man’s dead body while cracking tasteless jokes and laughing at it.

Ironically this month is the one-year anniversary of the suicide of a guy whom my late aunt used to babysit from the time he was a baby until he reached middle school. I met him a few times when I used to visit my aunt along with my uncle and cousins. (I last saw him at my aunt’s funeral years ago.) I’m glad that the person who found Ben’s body called 911 instead of pulling out a smartphone and start making a video about how he/she found a dead body while cracking tasteless jokes then uploading it online.

One of my African American friends wrote a post on Facebook that basically said that the Logan Paul video incident was reminiscent of those photos of lynched African Americans in the Deep South that included white people who were gathered around the body smiling and laughing like they were out for a fun picnic day rather than actually being at the scene of a murder. (Yes, those lynchings were murder.) In this case it happened to be a Japanese man who committed suicide that was the target of the twisted amusement of Logan Paul and his friends but the result was the same. They felt that they were entitled to smile, laugh, and jeer at the body of a nonwhite man because he wasn’t born white so he’s more of an “other” and less of a human than they are.

After all, if they had found the body of a white man who committed suicide, would they have made a similar video? My bet would be “no.”

I came across this video from Reina Scully, a Japanese citizen who grew up in the United States, who explained the Japanese perspective on death and the Suicide Forest and why Logan Paul’s actions towards finding that body was offensive to the Japanese.

The only silver lining is that he has lost some lucrative deals with YouTube and Blackpills and he has also taken a break from his daily vlogging on his YouTube channel. Only time will tell whether his career as an online celebrity will ever recover from this debacle.

Even though Logan Paul was last week, this month in ugly white Americans didn’t stop there. This week President Donald Trump unleashed an international incident where, in a meeting, he pretty much called Haiti and Africa “shithole countries.” (Never mind the fact that Africa is a continent not a country.) He even complained about how there are very few immigrants from Norway.

I’ll admit that Haiti and Africa have their problems, which are due in large part to the legacy of white European colonialism dating back several centuries and which would warrant an entire series of separate blog posts in order to explain in full detail. (The late blogger Steve Gilliard did such a series on colonialism back in 2004 that’s so thorough that it’ll take you at least two days to go through but it’s definitely worth reading. This page has the links to the entire series.) Had the Europeans left these places alone, they would be much better off today with far fewer problems (especially with poverty).

Donald Trump has a history of racism that goes back decades. It was only natural that he would run for president while aligning himself with a political party that was once fairly progressive (it was antislavery in the days of Abraham Lincoln and it was another Republican, Theodore Roosevelt, who broke up a lot of the monopolies that were in operation at the time while championing conservation by establishing the national park system) but it ended when Richard Nixon started his Southern Strategy where the Republicans started to reach out to white racists who pined for the old days of the Confederate States of America.

It resulted in Republicans being obstructionists during Barack Obama’s time in office due largely because Obama was the first African American elected to the White House. It resulted in white Republicans like this infamous photograph of then-Arizona Governor Jan Brewer literally angrily yelling and sticking her finger right at President Obama’s chest when he arrived to that state on a visit. If both of the parents of President Obama had been white, Governor Brewer would’ve probably treated him with more respect instead of openly berating him like he was a naughty child.

In every nation on Earth it is the leaders who set the example for how its citizens behave. I’ve met older people who joined the Peace Corps and/or pursued careers in the civil service after hearing President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration speech that had this famous line: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” They could have made more money had they worked in the private sector but they felt inspired to pursue a different career path of serving others as a result of Kennedy’s speech.

When you have leaders like Donald Trump who are openly trying to find ways of banning non-whites from entering this country while turning a blind eye to the vicious acts of white supremacists (such as what happened last year in Charlottesville), you’re basically signaling to white Americans that it’s okay to look down on non-whites as being less-than-humans. While it’s not fair to blame Donald Trump for Logan Paul doing what he did in Japan, it’s the white supremacy style of his current leadership that has given people like Logan Paul the idea that it’s okay to travel to a foreign country and make a series of videos mocking nonwhites along with their customs and traditions. Just as Donald Trump thinks that Haiti and Africa are shitholes worthy of contempt, Logan Paul thinks that the Japanese are funny looking people with slanted eyes who make weird video games and weird big-eyed cartoon characters who are worthy of contempt.

With that mindset coming from the White House, it’s no wonder that Logan Paul decided to make that nasty video about finding a dead body in the Suicide Forest.

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American Flag

Let’s take a moment to remember the sacrifices our armed troops have made for this country on this Veterans Day holiday.

Now let’s go on to the links for this week.

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Last November my Unitarian Universalist church joined the many other houses of worship across the United States in putting up a Black Lives Matter sign.

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My congregation did one better with this sign. It also added the heart logo of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Standing on the Side of Love campaign and a rainbow banner indicating that it’s a welcoming congregation for the LBGTQ community. My congregation voted to erect this sign despite the fact that other houses of worship who have put up Black Lives Matter signs and banners have had them either defaced or stolen outright.

This morning I learned that my congregation has had the sign stolen. Yes, it’s distressing but, no, my congregation is not deterred. The word is that we will get a new identical banner and put it up. My congregation refuses to cower to the forces of racism, homophobia, and other types of ugly prejudice that has especially sprung up in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.

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