Relief for Japan: MS should honor Japanese ties through generosity

Published 2:00 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whenever natural disaster strikes, Americans are generous in their response whether it’s a U.S. calamity like Hurricane Katrina or an event far from our shores.

Mississippians, who annually top the national charitable giving list, are usually front and center when there’s a need either next door or thousands of miles away.

The horrific events in Japan offer a convergence of an international tragedy and a local connection. As could be expected, Mississippians are responding in their usual generous way.

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The earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis in Japan have captured the world’s attention, sympathy and response. The U.S. government and other American agencies and organizations, both public and private, have come to the aid of a nation that has suffered untold devastation and loss of life.

But here in Northeast Mississippi, there’s a special connection that serves as an even greater impetus to generosity. Since 2007, this region has had a special connection with Japan. It was then that Toyota announced it would build its newest manufacturing facility here, and similar announcements by several of its Japanese-owned suppliers have followed.

Before that, Mississippi had another Japanese automotive connection — the Nissan plant in Canton that opened in 2003.

In recent years residents of this region have greeted newcomers from Japan who’ve moved into the area to get the new plants off the ground. We’ve been exposed to more information about the Japanese culture as part of the region’s effort to make these newcomers feel welcome, and a sprinkling of Japanese restaurants have opened to add to the area’s expanding cultural variety.

While our shared humanity is enough to elicit a response from compassionate Northeast Mississippians, this new exposure to Japanese people living and working in the region serves to heighten local concern.

Tupelo formally established a citywide fundraising campaign for Japanese disaster relief. …

The Japan-America Society of Mississippi will be the conduit for the money to be sent to Japan. …

This newly created relief fund is a tangible way for Northeast Mississippians not only to extend a hand to people in need, but to show solidarity with new neighbors in our midst.