Reconciliation Essay

This is a essay i wrote in WR 121 during Fall term 2012 at Lane Community College.  It is on reconciliation and is in conversation with Louise Steinman’s book The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War.

Reconciliation Rarity

            In life relationships between two people or groups of people sometimes become broken.  Reconciliation happens when we mend those broken relationships.  To begin to reconcile a relationship, personal or other, both parties have to be committed to resolving their differences.  They have to be able to openly communicate about these differences that they have had with each other.  Good communication by both sides is needed, and both the giving and receiving of information is required if there is going to be a successful reconciliation.

Forgiveness and compromise are the two keys to a successful reconciliation.  Both parties need to forgive each other for the past differences and failures that have occurred in the relationship.  Forgiveness and compromise are needed because there was a disagreement between the parties that caused the broken relationship to begin with, and without them the two party’s differences cannot be resolved.  Compromise, and sometimes sacrifice, by one or both sides in the relationship is also necessary in order to have reconciliation.

In her book, The Souvenir, Louise Steinman writes about some a couple broken relationships.  One of those broken relationships is between the Japanese and Americans.  This relationship is broken during World War II and has not been fully healed since the end of the war.  Steinman illustrates how she strived to reconcile the relationship between herself, as an American, and the Japanese Shimizu family.

Steinman writes of when she and her husband Lloyd first visited Suibara to return the flag that her deceased father had brought home from the war.  They attended a gathering held in their honor at the Shimizu family’s home.  There they met the surviving family members of Yoshio Shimizu, whom the flag once belonged to, and others from the neighborhood.  Steinman returns the flag to the family, who accepted it in part celebration and part sadness.  In return she receives gifts from the family.  They ate, drank, took pictures, and shared stories.  The Shimizu family had taken the advice of their translator and treated Louise and her husband like long-lost friends of their missing family member Yoshi.  It was the first day of Jewish Passover and Steinman relates how they are being treated by the Shimizu family to the phrase she says every year at service for Passover.  “Since you were once a stranger in the land of Egypt, thou shalt love thy stranger as thyself.”  Both parties, in fact strangers, were treating each other as friends (149-54).

This passage deals directly with the forgiveness that is needed for a relationship to be reconciled.  The two parties, both Steinman and the Shimizu family had to forgive each other to reach the reconciliation that they did.  The Shimizu family had to forgive the Americans for their acts in the war, and likewise Steinman had to forgive the Japanese for their acts.  The Shimizu family had to also forgive Steinman for her father’s actions in the taking of the yosegaki flag.  Steinman had to also forgive the Shimizu family and the Japanese for the impact that the war had on her father.

The passage also shows some of the other aspects that may be needed in order for reconciliation to occur.  It tells of the empathy and compassion that both sides showed toward one another.  Both sides were able to realize that the war and politics is what caused the broken relationship, not the acts of their family members themselves.

The passage also broadened my understanding of reconciliation by showing how Steinman relates how she and her husband were treated to the phrase that is taken from the book of Exodus.  The phrase saying, “Love thy stranger as thyself,” means that you should treat strangers with openness, kindness, and friendship.  The openness, kindness, and friendship were show between the two families and were a big part of their successful reconciliation.

Steinman throughout her book shows that there is a great deal involved in reconciliation.  A lot of effort was necessary on her behalf for the reconciliation between her family and the Shimizu family to take place.  A lot of effort was also needed for the reconciliation between her and her father to take place as well.  She was committed to returning the flag to the family that it belonged, as well as to getting to know what her father was like before the war, through reading his letters, and by visiting the places that changed him forever.

Steinman had a lot of resentment for her father.  This resentment she held toward him was toward the person he had become after experiencing the traumas of the war, not toward the person that he was before the war.  That person she only got to know through his letters.  After visiting the places he had fought, and living what he experienced through his letters, she was able to empathize for her father and reconciliation took place.  This reconciliation could never have happened without all of her self-sacrifice.

This book shows that reconciliations are usually not easy.  Sometimes they may be impossible, but through forgiveness, compassion, and compromise, and almost always hard work, effort, and self-sacrifice the reconciliation rarity is possible.

 Works Cited

Steinman, Louise. The Souvenir: A Daughter Discovers Her Father’s War. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2001. Print.


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