By Sean Michael Wilson

Has any one else picked up on a perverse territorial defence mechanism being used against immigrants who challenge aspects of their adopted country?

I recently saw a Japanese person say the following to a foreign person on Facebook during a long debate involving several people, both Japanese and non-Japanese:

“…if you don’t like Japan, you can get out from Japan any time you want!!! This is not your country. Why don’t you go back to your country…”

It was said because the foreigner had expressed some critical attitude towards some aspect of Japan. It does not matter, for the time being, what the specific subject of the comment was. All that matters is that the comment was expressed calmly, in a reasoned way, and was the person’s genuine view. But, all too quickly, that is the irrational, racist response they received.

I’ve also seen stuff like this from Conservative Americans many times, who when arguing with a ‘liberal’ person, very quickly leave all logic and reasoned argument behind and resort to things like this, which I saw on a well known web site: “If you hate America so much, asshole, then why don’t you get out. We don’t want you here.” Or, in Britain, where a UKIP candidate said of Black comedian Lenny Henry, after he dared make a comment about a lack of black people on British TV: “He should emigrate to a black country. He does not have to live with whites.”

All these are totally unacceptable – outright racist in the first and third case, and just plain strange in the second case, when it’s normally said to other Americans. In any case this reaction is always wrong. And here is why:

  1. A very basic point – we ALL have the right to express our opinions on anything, in any country.

That is a basic element of democracy and human rights. The ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1949, states:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

It says REGARDLESS of frontiers. It does not say:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Oh, but only in the country they happened, by chance, to have been born. In every other country you must agree, shut your face or get out.”

Do you notice the subtle difference between those two? The first is far better, for us all, from every country. We all benefit. And while there are certain restrictions placed on freedom of expression, such as on incitement or on child pornography, where you happened to have been born is not one of them. Not in a democratic system anyway.

  1. If someone criticizes your country it does NOT mean they hate your country. 

That is a very basic point. It simply does not mean they hate Japan/ USA/ UK/ wherever…

Actually, it is probably more likely to be a sign that they LIKE your country, even love it…because they care enough to want to make it better. They care enough to notice some problem, comment on it and suggest solutions. Why would they bother if they did not care about your country?

The problem is that you do not agree with the idea they have to make it better. OK, so then express your view calmly and reasonably. Say why you think their idea is not suitable for your country, or is based on some incorrect information, etc. But you do NOT tell them to get out of your country simply because they don’t agree with you. That is racism. That is how Hitler and Stalin acted. That is how North Korea is run. Fancy living there? Or do you rather like democracy, freedom and human rights? If so, part of that is article 19 above – that we all have the right to a basic freedom of opinion and expression, including for things that you don’t want to hear.

  1. The attitude of ‘my country, right or wrong’ is a big mistake.

It’s a very clear fact that we all need sometimes to receive constructive criticism, help, guidance. If our parents or friends or work colleagues just blindly praise everything we do, no matter how stupid or harmful it is, then how likely is that to help us work out the best way of doing something? Very unlikely. It’s the same with your country. If you take the stance that ‘No one is allowed to say anything critical of my country. If they do, they should leave’, well, then guess what? – YOU are your country’s biggest enemy. Because you are blindly allowing it to keep on making the same mistakes, without any chance of improvement, because you refuse to listen to anyone who disagrees with the way things are done so far. In the long run that is bound to damage your country, hold it back. So, maybe YOU should get out! Things might start getting better in your country without you around to hold it back.

The origin of the phrase ‘my country, right or wrong.’ is from Stephen Decatur (1779-1820), an American naval office, who around 1816 said: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong.” That was later improved upon by Carl Schurz, US statesman and Union Army General, who in 1872 said something with quite the opposite meaning and far better: “…my country is the great American Republic. My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.”

If wrong, to be set right, to be made right, improved on when there is some problem. And how can some wrong habit, position, erroneous view etc be understood and set right if people are not allowed to express their opinion freely? All people, regardless of which country they happened to have been born in.

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