The Sun Will Rise Again…
“We’ve become wealthy and comfortable. Recalling our defeat, I paid homage and prayed for the people who sacrificed their lives for this country.”
The quote above is familiar. We hear its echo when the Confederacy is brought up. Its variations go: Heritage not hate. Noble men fighting to protect their homes. But this quote wasn’t about the Confederate Flag, or memorials to Lee or Jackson. No, these were the words of Shinzo Abe, on his visit to Yasukuni Shrine, a resting place for tens of thousands of Imperial Japanese soldiers…and several A-class war criminals.
Having never been particularly forgiving to apologists of the Confederate cause, I feel justice compels me to be equally severe or even more so to my fellow countrymen. The emotions concerning the Second World War remain raw, but it’s damned past time we admitted we were way on the wrong side of history and made peace with our villainy.
Post-war Japanese society has come a long way from the shambles of 1945.
Divested of our colonial burden, traumatized by the excesses of modern war, we strove to create a new, different identity from the one that had led us to near ruin. We eschewed the “yamato” warrior ethos by banishing it into the fantasy world of cinema and television. The efforts to reform society into a more egalitarian, less closed one has gone in fits and starts, but the Japan of 2013 is worlds better a place to live in for the vast majority of people than the Japan of 1933.
But in this process we’ve also created a comfortable myth.
It’s the myth of the honorable warrior, the lost cause and of men “defending their country.” Some even go so far as glorifying our part in the war as a fight against western imperialism and racism dating back to the League of Nations. It’s a myth that works to whitewash atrocities, portray civilians in Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki as victims. We were victimized, too, the story goes.
It’s a comforting myth.
It’s also completely and utterly wrong.
The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere was a Monroe-esque nightmare of imperialism that had nothing in common with Fumimaro Konoe’s dreams of an “Asia for Asiatics”. Starting with the second Sino-Japanese War, the conduct of Japanese soldiers was deplorable, making the most of their imperial position to exploit and abuse the people they were ostensibly “liberating”.
No amount of excuses or hardships can make up for the sheer savagery we inflicted upon the rest of Asia. The most we can do is apologize, vocally, profusely and sincerely while at the same time demonstrating that we have, indeed moved beyond the flaws of our forefathers.
The fact that we have an entire political establishment that plays obfuscating games and a vocal cultural group online that goes to great lengths to try to intimidate and silence people who try to teach our children the realities of what we’ve done and what our society still does is a national disgrace. And each time I’m confronted with this evidence, I’m angered that my fellow citizens aren’t appalled by the conduct of these charlatans. It’s time to disarm them. It’s time to dig up the war criminals from Yasukuni and bury them elsewhere. It’s time to admit that a shrine to all our war dead comes with an implied message.
It’s a cheap piece of political theater by Abe and his neanderthals. Those who would carry us back into the days of nationalist claptrap and insecurity born of weakness.
Our tolerance of these idiots turns our entire country, our entire identity into a useful tool for successors of a historical monster. We become a pawn, a tool to lionize the unfathomable, and keep ourselves an outsider not only from Asia, but from decency and modernity.
I refuse, pointedly and repeatedly to be trapped in the narratives of our lost causers. It’s damned past time that we grew up in the international world and took responsibility for our history and more importantly for our future. To any of my compatriots who might be reading this, please, for the love of all that’s holy and good about our beloved Nippon, stand with those who speak the truth, who face the hard realities of the past, and reject both the politicians and pop-culture figures who would take us back into the political dark ages.
So let me be pointedly and absolutely clear. We, the Nipponese people, were wrong. We conducted horrendous atrocities in the name of national interest. We then whitewashed away that guilt and hid from the world behind the wounds of fire bombs and atom bombs. I’m sorry. I don’t know what else I can say but I’m sorry, and hope that on balance I can contribute to the world in a way to demonstrate that sorrow.
If the sun is to rise again, it will be the simple hinomaru, not the monstrous travesty of a flag hoisted by our nationalist nutjobs.
Oh in case I didn’t make this clear in the original version of this post.
I think the likes of Hideki Tojo, Seishiro Itagaki, etc. should be disinterred from Yasukuni. We should then just stick their busts onto the statues of Lee, Stonewall Jackson, et al. (And yes, perhaps it does mean I put those war criminals in the same plane as those confederate “heroes”)