"The Last Samurai" revisited

Last Friday for movie night, my wife and I selected “The Last Samurai.” We had seen it before, but when it was on TV recently, my wife caught a glimpse of it and decided it was time to see it again. I posted on this movie once before, but am moved to do so again.

Much of the movie is factually unbelievable. I don’t believe all the hype about honor in Bushido. The warrior class oppressed the lower classes in the same ways that happen through history. The last scene where Algren pops in on the Meiji Emperor and gives him foreign policy advise that causes him to reject a trade agreement with the US is hardly imaginable. What one has left if the historical fact is distorted at best, is a story about an expatriate who ends up fighting Americans/American interests in his assumed land.

The movie started me thinking about American expats, who they are, where they are, and what moves them to go somewhere else, and to Japan specifically. Their motivations are individual matters, and vary with the person, but there are some general ideas.

“Some westerners, on the other hand, needed Japan to lend them an escape from themselves. “Indian Wars, Vietnam and Orientalist Fantasy GARY LEUPP

There is most certainly some escapism involved for some people, escaping spouses, the law, the draft, taxes, any number of things. However, that can’t be the only reason. I mean people can’t all be running from something.

On the positive side – the numbers of migrants leaving the US in search of a brand new life abroad have been increasing steadily since around 1910 as a result of more wealth, better transport links and an American’s natural desire to travel and explore.

On the negative side – there is a growing feeling of disillusionment prevalent in the US today, and as this feeling intensifies so the numbers of citizens seeking out an overseas haven away from the glare of big brother and away from the aggressive and conservative political situation increases. Those leaving today are leaving for the same reasons as the ‘Lost Generation’ left back in 1918. Following the end of the First World War record numbers of Americans began leaving the US to escape their nation’s restrictions, the horrors of war and America’s ultra conservatism…between 1910 and 1920 the numbers of US citizens who fled abroad more than doubled from 55,608 in 1910 to 117,238 by 1920…today that figure now stands at 4 million. Record Numbers of Americans Living Abroad

No one is exactly sure about how many Americans live abroad. The Census Bureau has said it is impossible to determine the numbers. ( Census Bureau finds it can’t count Americans abroad ) What we can see, if the number 4 million is reliable, is that many are finding their homes outside the boundaries of the US.

As an expat myself, I can vouch for my chosing to live abroad by saying that my reasons for being here now are much different than they were before the Bush regime, which were different from five years before that, which were different from five years before that. This is my home now. Quite unromantic, possibly, but that’s all there is.

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