47 Ronin, the Battle of the Alamo and the Will McAvoy Speech – By Rock Kitaro
By Rock Kitaro
Date: February 10, 2014
Dragon Ash – “Walk With Dreams”
Let me begin by saying that I plan, by no means, to turn my website into a movie review site…But I confess…After watching Keanu Reeve’s “The 47 Ronin”… It was the first time in a long time that I was actually moved to tears inside an actual movie theater. Why? You might ask? I’ll tell you.
When I was nine-years-old, my parents took me and my brothers on a vacation trip to a city called San Antonio, Texas. The history behind Texas’s independence is, I think, both controversial and admirable. Since I was born in 1986 and know all too well that history is written by the victors, all we’re left to go on is what’s written in history books and passed on from generation to generation.
Despite the how or why Texas was formed, the most outstanding event in the Texas Revolution took place at the Alamo. At the age of 9, I learned how 189 men committed themselves to defending an old Spanish Mission against 1,800 Mexican soldiers. Led by Col. William Travis and James Bowie, the Texans withstood a siege for thirteen days before succumbing to a slaughter at the hands of General Santa Anna’s army.
I was nine.
“Rock, you’ve already established that you were nine. Why do you keep pointing that out?”
I’ll tell you why. Because if one of my readers is some kind of psychologist, I’d like an evaluation on why I took that historical event so deeply to heart. I swear to you, my life has never been the same ever since. The patriotic sense of giving one’s life to a cause…or dying while taking down as many as you can if it helped protect your comrades or loved ones. Dying to protect the people you love…
“But Rock, that doesn’t sound good at all. Besides, you say that. But if you were really in the thick of it, would you do something like that? How can you possibly know?”
Whenever I declare such bold personal thoughts, I really do get those condescending cliché questions. It’s true that I really have no way of truly knowing what would happen if put in such a situation, but it’s just a feeling I get. And when you’re a natural introvert who constantly reflects on your own actions…that feeling won’t be too far off if you’re honest with yourself.
“47 Ronin” That movie was quite beautiful to me. I know quite a bit about Japanese culture. The idea of avenging one’s master and fighting for the right to commit suicide with honor…that may sound absurd, but living these days in America, I don’t think anyone has the right to judge the Japanese or their ancient ways. When I was younger, I’ll admit that I used to think it was idiotic of the Japanese to willingly want to commit suicide. But it just goes to show how ignorant I was.
The culture of the United States is not a universal culture. Meaning, that just because we deem something appropriate or inappropriate, it doesn’t mean everyone else in the world has to agree with us. And I think one of the reasons why the U.S. is spited and abhorred by so many in other countries is because we have a habit of trying to impose our culture and morals on other nations. Especially when our own culture is all over the place with standards that are constantly being lowered.
Granted this is a mostly a generalization, the self-righteous judgment we cast on the people of other countries, whether they are male or female civilians or their military and political leaders…I say, what gives us the right? Who’s to say that our ways are better than theirs?
If a person was born and raised in a culture where they’ve simply come to accept it and are happy and satisfied with it, is it our place to come through and say, “It’s better where we’re at?” Who do we think we are? Our nation was established in 1776. That’s less than 250 years ago. We are still relatively young. Advanced, strong and influential, but young to say the least.
Now I know. I know I am a selfish individual who judges people on a daily basis. But one, I keep my judgments to myself and I don’t treat anyone any less. Unless you give me a reason to. To each, his or her own I say. Not to mention, some of the coolest individuals I know how some fucked up opinions, but they’re cool. In my line of business, diversity amongst characters is an asset. The point being, even my enemies don’t know they’re my enemies.
And two, at least I have the honesty and bravery to admit it. How is that brave? Well! Regardless of the popular slogan these days that it’s cool to be different, I say that most people are full of shit when they declare that they’re actually different.
It’s not cool to different. Look up the definition of the word, different. When the thoughts of insanity begin to slip in with you wondering if there’s something wrong with you because you don’t act or think the same way your peers do…Yes, you might just be different. The only way to abolish those thoughts of self-doubt is to go out, find, and surround yourself with people who are just as honest and self-accepting as you are. And when that happens…guess what. You’re not so different anymore.
“Well, Rock? What’s normal then?”
When people ask me that question, I can’t help but reply with, “why do you want to know?” It’s about as absurd as asking someone else if they think they’re better than you.
Seriously, why does anyone really need an answer to that first question? I ask this because determining what is or isn’t normal is about as pointless as explaining colors to a blind person. Why? Because I think what is normal is self-evident based on individual perspectives. Not to mention, I think people who ask such questions aren’t really concerned with an actual answer, more so than enjoying the thrill of simply justifying why the other person is wrong.
Alright, so…I’m gonna get off topic (I already jumped off topic), because of the real reason why I’m writing this. I guess it’s not just because I watched “47 Ronin” but because of a series of other observations and annoyances that have been piling up over the past couple of weeks.
“Why do you think America is the greatest country in the world.”
The following is an excerpt of a speech Jeff Daniel’s character gave in the first scene of the pilot of HBO’s “The Newsroom” written by Aaron Sorkin. In the scene, Jeff Daniel’s character is sitting on stage taking questions from an audience of college students, when one female student asks him, “Why do you think America is the greatest country in the world.”
Daniel’s character says it’s not the greatest country anymore.
“And you—sorority girl—yeah—just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is that there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt, a member of the WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about?! Yosemite?!!!”
He further goes on to say:
“We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”
Now, I didn’t go onto Google to check the facts of the stats he was saying. I didn’t even listen for holes to poke a counter argument. If you just listen to the gist of what he’s saying…if you have any idea of what’s going on in the world, or if you even follow history and can see the patterns of nations shift and change…then I’m sure that speech struck a nerve.
A friend of mine (my generation, mid-twenties) gave me his thoughts saying that our generation was lazy and entitled. It seems that the generations before us worked hard and endured to make us number one. And those of us born in this era where we are number one…we take a look around with complacency. Lacking the appreciation of how we came to be number one, which is why we don’t care if other countries have nuclear programs or post better statistics. It’s why so many don’t care if other countries even slight us. It’s why so many citizens born and raised in the present era, join up on the bandwagon of belittling the US, not realizing how good they really have it.
I even asked myself if I personally thought America was the greatest country in the world. And if someone gave me the microphone in a crowded auditorium…here’s what I’d say.
“Yes, I think the United States is the greatest country in the world.”
“Uh-huh. And why?”
With a subtle hesitation, I’d boldly say, “Because I was born and raised in it.”
Granted, I know that sounds incredibly vain and arrogant, but I honestly do aim to create a legacy as our generation’s greatest story-teller. And it’s not like I wear a shirt or post obnoxious bumper stickers on my car where I throw those kinds of thoughts into people’s faces. I wrote it on my website and marketed via several social outlets, and here you are reading it. Surely there’s no shame in that, right?
So spoiler alert, at the the 47 Ronin, all of the ronin finally received the right to commit suicide via seppuku thanks to the Shoguns blessing. Then, right when they drew their blades, about to sink the steel into their abdomen, the Shogun told the leader of the group that he’d spare his son’s life. The Shogun reasoned that he wouldn’t deny Japan his bloodline. As if letting his son continue to live was a blessing upon the entire nation.
Such a sentiment made me smile.
That’s what I want my lasting impression on this world to be. A blessing upon the U.S. I want to create works that last for centuries as national treasures. I want to make it a trend for individuals to never stop wanting to better themselves. I want to make it cool to soak up knowledge and use it to improve. To be chivalrous and nice. Respectful and honorable. I want to instill a moral conscience in the hearts of citizens without the use of religious guilt or legal ramifications.
Taking the route of literature and visual arts…I want to do my part in making America the greatest country in the world again.
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Contrary to your friend’s stance, I believe that many in our generation are not looking around with a lens of complacency, but rather a wry cynicism. We were told that we live in the greatest country; we were told that we are world leaders; that we are pillars of excellence and an example for all. But, we can also deduce on our own. We can see the United States take firm stances on global humanitarian efforts,and scolds China for treating her citizen’s poorly-but then we also see that we, as a Nation, fail to take care of our own.
We see European models of society, Asian, African, South American, etc and we can compare and contrast. Whatmore, we can now connect-freely-with those who inhabit those countries and get a first hand (Short of visiting) view of what it’s actually like to be there. We understand not only is there more than one way to go about living, that there is no ultimate “norm.”
And for many of my friends, we also see the devastating impact those considered to be apart of Civilized Nations have had on the rest of the world. My parents were not taught that a major reason Africa’s countries are behind in many respects is because colonizers destroyed their critical infrastructure (for reference, the U.S. has spent roughly 3.8 billion in 2011 alone to protect our critical infrastructure, that amount has since grown.) My friends and I were taught this. And we have seen the ramifications of ignoring this truth.
We are now in a society where a college education is a starting point–not an endgame, as it once was. We are no longer competing almost exclusively with American citizens–we are competing with a global society. We are expected to perform and output at extraordinary levels, and there is not shortage of belief we can–but, we are left trying to create a niche because these occupations of a generation past (hello, the ever dwindling manufacturing sector) are no longer vibrant or viable. Entry level jobs now require experience that most coming out of university don’t have (unless you’ve managed to snag one of those unpaid internships…) The cost of attending university has gone up 500% since 1986, and it continues to climb.
It is not that our generation does not live in a great country, a great nation, but we have a more complete view; a more complete understanding. And with that understanding comes a responsibility that may take more generations to implement. Or, maybe a few years–who’s to tell the future. Regardless, in order to be truly great one must strive to know themselves in the best totality they can. Which means, not just accepting rhetoric fed from those who have gone before, but taking it in conjunction with what we have learned, and are learning every moment of existing.
I wanted to see “47 Ronin” but no one would take me… .. ..
Well said, as per usual. And I think my friend agrees with what you said too. He said complacency, but I think he meant cynicism as well. I also see a cynicism, when it comes to the actual act or progress of doing anything about said problems with our country. The internet is great in that it allows like-minded individuals of kindred spirit to come together. But it’s also means I just need to get out more because not many in the real world (that I come in contact with, aside from the lawyers and middle aged professionals) seem to care about the future. Either that, or individuals who do think like you and agree with us just keep it to themselves. I won’t speculate on why?
I have been infinitely spoiled in the respect that I have been surrounded by people who not only concur, but are active in trying to bring about the changes they wish to see. To correct wrongs, even if it be as little as stopping a peer in class from making a demeaning remark, or challenging a broad stroked assertion (i.e. “Socialism is bad.” Well, why? Do you have a reason? A foundation? Do you *actually* know what socialism is or are you merely regurgitating what someone said? Political socialism? Economic socialism? etc). But then I’ve also witnessed that those who are disinclined to assert their view points do so because it’s difficult.
It’s difficult to not just accept that “Green means go, and therefore green means go all the time everywhere and if it doesn’t mean go to you, well then you’re wrong.” It’s far simpler to believe and adhere to: green means go. But what if purple means “go” in India? Red in China? Yellow in Bangkok? O no, now we have a conundrum.
So then, what’s easier? “Green means go. And that’s the only way.” Or, “Let’s explore what it means to have purple mean “go” and how did they get to purple anyways?” Uh, oh. Now, we’re thinking, we’re stretching, and growing–and let us admit growth, in any capacity, hurts. It’s uncomfortable, it rips and tears fabrics that we all hold onto. We have to undergo the arduous task of re-knitting and restitching ourselves, our worldviews. But, we get a glorious mosaic in the end, that was once a monotone green, now has ribbons of purple.
And maybe at the end of the day, you really hate socialism. That’s fine–but damn-it, know why for yourself.