Stuart K. Hayashi
If you have seen the drawings of mine that I have uploaded onto Instagram, you might have noticed my conspicuous method for signing each piece.
Every drawing says “Stu’s Art” on it. Below that is usually two weird symbols. What are those? Stars? Those are supposed to be trees. That is Japanese kanji. My last name, Hayashi, means “the woods.” Those two trees represent “the woods”; they are my family name written in kanji.
I have been told that, technically, it is not proper for me to write my Japanese surname in kanji, as I was born outside of Japan. Japanese katakana is used for foreign, non-Japanese words (and for the names of monsters, such as Godzilla/GO-dzi-lla). Technically, I am supposed to write my Japanese family name in katakana to let people know I am not a native Japanese person.
That got me thinking: I do believe in American exceptionalism. Margaret Thatcher pointed out that most nations are founded on “history” and not “philosophy.” By this she meant that thousands of years ago, some tribe split off from a bigger tribe, fought off neighbors, and drew a border around its territory. The nations were established by a shared kinship, a shared blood, even if those countries are now trying to get away from that by promoting what they believe to be a “multiculturalist” policy.
By contrast, the American republic was different from inception. As Leonard Peikoff observes, “America is the only country in history created not by meaningless warfare or geographic accident, but deliberately, on the basis of certain fundamental ideas.” Those fundamental ideas were a specific philosophy: the individual rights of man, as spelled out in the Declaration of Independence. This document said that what established this republic was not blood but adherence to a philosophy based on liberty, the principles of the Enlightenment.
We remember Bono saying, “Rock star preaches capitalism. Wow. … But commerce is real. … Commerce, entrepreneurial capitalism takes more people out of poverty than aid. Of course we know that. We need Africa to become an economic powerhouse. It’s not just in their interest; it’s in ours. It’s in our national security interest.” In that very same speech Bono showed he understands what the United States of America is about:
…America is an idea, isn’t it? I mean, Ireland’s a great country, but it’s not an idea. Great Britain’s a great country, but it’s not an idea. That’s how we see you around the world… as one of the greatest ideas in human history. Right up there with the Renaissance… right up there with crop rotation… The Beatles’ White Album… That idea, the America idea, it’s an idea. The idea is that you and me are created equal…
The idea that life is not meant to be endured, but enjoyed. The idea that if we have dignity…if we have justice…then leave it to us, we can do the rest. …
This country was the first to claw its way out of darkness and put that on paper. And God love you for it. Because these aren’t just American ideas anymore. … You’ve brought them into the world. It’s a wide world now. I know Americans say they have a bit of the world in them. And you do. The family tree has a lot of branches. But the thing is… the world has a bit of America in it, too. These truths… your truths… they are self-evident in us.
My Japanese teacher from high school is the one who told me about how native Japanese would think that I ought to write my surname in katakana rather than kanji. She also told me that I could move to Japan and become very well assimilated — even try to mimic the dialect of the region I live in — and I will still never be considered fully Japanese, as I was born in a foreign land. I have been told that you can be a gaijin who lives in Japan for forty years, and everyone you know there can love you genuinely — you still will not be Japanese in their eyes. It is said that you can choose to live in Japan but that you cannot choose to be Japanese. Insofar as that might be true, that is Japan’s loss.
By contrast, you choose to be American. You can be born elsewhere, and speak with a strange, heavy accent for the rest of your life. When you exercise independence and go about your life peaceably, people in America and elsewhere recognize you as an American in spirit.
The United States of America is the republic of choice — including the choice on whether or not you choose America itself.
In a video interview titled “What Is the Alt Right?”, I heard Theodore “Vox Day” Beale tell a fawning Stefan Molyneux that since the late nineteenth century, this has been the USA’s weakness. To him, the recognition that you choose to be American “is absolutely abhorrent, because what it’s saying is that America’s historical people [whites] and America’s historical culture [which Vox Day conflates with whites] doesn’t exist.” He says it is great that “if you were to move to Italy, and you were to get your Italian citizenship, you would still not be an Italian” — and that that attitude is what the United States should adopt.
The reverse is the case. As Baroness Thatcher observed, this sanctification of your freedom of choice is exceptional in the best manner possible. That you choose to be American is the glory of America.
The section on Bono was added on September 22, 2016 The quotations of eugenicist racist Theodore “Vox Day” Beale were added on December 6, 2016.