In this journal, I’d like to discuss two unique features of American culture, which I found through the visit to Newseum and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
The first thing to note is that the free press has played a significant role in assuring the democracy and has been honored and respected. You can see this from the 45 words of the First Amendment, writ large on the front of the Newseum. It inspired me long after my visit to Newseum and made me realize that freedom of speech and press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble cannot be achieved without the accumulation of effort by predecessors who once fought for it.
Nowadays there is growing concern about the rise of fake news, which is primarily spread on the Internet through the sharing of online articles on social media, thanks to the development of the Internet. Undoubtedly, it has negative impacts on the society, such as influencing elections, but curbing it may have the potential to impede free speech online and threaten the freedom of the press. This is very controversial, and I hope some measures like creating the website where people can easily detect whether the news is fake or not should be taken by the neutral party, not by the government.
On the other hand, it seems that journalists in Japan are less responsible for providing fair, accurate information. We have to admit that Japan was accused of eroding press freedom and suppressing the debate over the Fukushima nuclear accident and the country’s stance on World War Two, by the UN’s special rapporteur on freedom of expression. As Philip Graham, a publisher of The Washington Post, said, “Journalism is the first rough draft of history.” I suppose that people have a need to know and journalists have a right to tell, so it is critical to raise public awareness of press freedom.
Another notable feature of American culture is the country’s embrace of the past. I was shocked to find the Vietnam Veterans Memorial stands among the lofty monuments in Washington D.C.’s National Mall. Considering the Vietnam War as one of the most punishing and protested wars in American history, its design was also meaningful. It is a V-shaped wall of polished black granite sunken into the ground, engraved with the names of nearly 58000 American servicemen. It is quite dissimilar from traditional war memorials which show patriotism and heroism gloriously rising from the ground. I consider this as the country’s fundamental strength, which makes it possible to accept criticism and embrace anyone who has different views. As for the Anti-Vietnam War Movement of the 1960s, the emergence of television was a game changer. The graphic news footage from Vietnam brought horrific images of the reality of armed conflict into living rooms for the first time. As the media made the experience of war more real to the people, the protests occurred throughout the nation, combined with the Civil Rights movement.
In conclusion, these two remarkable features of American culture are closely connected, such as valuing a free press and the embrace of the past. I believe they are what makes America unique and influential in the world. I wouldn’t have been able to find these if I hadn’t been to America and seen them for myself, so I really appreciate having wonderful opportunities in America.