Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Only two days after more then 90,000, including the Governor and mayors gathered to oppose a new base in Okinawa,
Hatoyama revealed his "stomach plans" - what he "had in mind" but could not disclose.
It is a combination of a modified plan of 2006 Agreement (a new base off Henoko Shore) and transfer of 1,000 Marines to Tokunoshima, where 15,000 out of 26,000 islanders rallied against hosting Marines only a week or so ago.
Hatoyma met with Tokuda Torao, former Lower House member who is wheelchair-bound. Tokuda is originally from Tokunoshima. Amaki Naoto, author and former diplomat condemns the act saying it was insensitive to visit a sick old man only to use his influence on the people of Tokunoshima. Hatoyama told him about his plan to move 1,000 Marines from Futenma Air Station there. Tokuda is reported to have expressed opposition at that meeting.
Hatoyama's other plan is to build an airbase by the "QIP" method, which involves embedding several thousand supporting piles into the sea floor. The methods is believed to have less damage to the environment, by avoiding reclamation.
Was the meaning of Hatoyama's pre-election pledge "at least kengai (elsewhere in Japan)" 1,000 marine troops going to a Ryukyuan island Tokunoshima? And was the the meaning of "futan keigen(reduction of burdens)" drilling thousands of piles into the sea bed of Henoko instead
of reclaiming it, which might kill coral reefs anyway by blocking sunlight?
How dare would he think these ideas could be acceptable?
According to Mainichi Shimbun, the QIP plan was first suggested during the process of SACO report in 1996, and further examined around 2000 to 2002. It did not materialize because there was a terrorism concern, as space between the structure and the ocean surface would enable installation of bombs. The cost estimate at that time was twice as much as the reclamation plan, and the maintenance cost would have been four times as much.
The "environmental concern" is dubious. The need to have the Governor's approval has been a big obstacle for those who wanted to build a base by reclamation. Isn't it obvious why Hatoyama would come up with this plan right after Nakaima joined the Okinawa rally against a new base on Sunday?
Today, April 28th, the anniversary of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1952 was the day of regaining sovereignty (at least to a certain extent) for Japan, but Ryukyu Shimpo's Editorial notes, for Okinawans it was the "day of abandonment," when the Ryukyuan islands, including Tokunoshima, were kept by the U.S. as sacrifice for it.
Okinawans will no longer stay abandoned. "There is going to be an 'All-Island Struggle,' if this proposal is true," some Nago citizens warn. "It is impossible that Okinawans would accept a plan that was rejected even under the LDP-Komeito Administration," Medoruma Shun says.
Hatoyama is scheduled to visit Henoko on May 4th. It will be the first time for Hatoyama to visit Okinawa since he took office in September 2009.
Eight months after Hatoyama and his new government departed from the 2006 Henoko plan to seek alternatives, he came back to Henoko, the worst dream imaginable for Okinawans.
Will Hatoyama be served tea at the Henoko Tent Village?
Will he even be admitted?
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 28, 2010
CONTACT: John Feffer, Institute for Policy Studies
firstname.lastname@example.org , 202-234-9382, cell: 510-282-8983
New U.S.-Japan coalition posts full-page ad in *The Washington Post*
Washington – April 28 – A full-page ad calling for the closure of the Futenma Marine Corps base and no base relocation within Okinawa prefecture has appeared in The Washington Post on April 28. This ad appears in the wake of the April 25 demonstration of nearly 100,000 Okinawans protesting the planned base relocation.
“Would You Want 30 Military Bases in Your Backyard?” reads the headline of the ad. “The new base would damage the health and safety of people and threaten a unique ecosystem that contains many rare species. This includes the Okinawan dugong, an endangered cousin of the manatee.”
The sponsors of the ad, the Network for Okinawa and the Japan-U.S. Citizens for Okinawa network, want to send a message to the Obama administration that a significant number of Americans support Okinawan concerns about the environmental and social consequences of U.S. military bases on the island. The ad challenges the prevailing consensus in Washington that the Futenma base is essential to U.S. national security.
The full-page ad coincides with a letter sent to President Obama and Prime Minister Hatoyama, signed by more than 500 organizations, that demands the immediate closure of Futenma and the cancellation of plans to relocate it to Henoko Bay. The letter can read at:
The full-page ad is the work of concerned U.S. and Japanese citizens who formed the Network for Okinawa (NO) and the Japan-U.S. Citizens for Okinawa Network (JUCON) earlier this year. JUCON (http://jucon.exblog.jp/ ) is a coalition of Okinawa and Japan-based NGOs, citizens groups, journalists and prominent individuals. The Network for Okinawa (http://closethebase.org/). the US-based NGOs, draws together representatives from peace groups, environmental organizations, faith-based organizations, academia, and think tanks. It is sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. Members include: American Conservative Defense Alliance, American Friends Service Committee, Center for Biological Diversity, Fellowship of Reconciliation, Greenpeace, Institute for Policy Studies, Just Foreign Policy,Pax Christi USA, the United Methodist Chuch, Veterans for Peace, and Women for Genuine Security.
Members of the Network for Okinawa available for interviews:
• Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity.
pgalvin@biologicaldiversity .org; 520-907-1533.
• Kyle Kajihiro, Program Director, American Friends Service Committee
- Hawai’i Area Office. email@example.com ; O: 808-988-6266; C:
• John Lindsay-Poland, Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation Latin
America program, Oakland, California, is active in the global No Bases
network and author of Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of
the US in Panama (Duke). firstname.lastname@example.org ; C: 510-282-8983.
• Doug Bandow, Robert A. Taft Fellow, American Conservative Defense
Alliance and former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan.
ChessSet@aol.com ; 703-451-9169.
• Ann Wright, Retired Army Colonel, former US. Diplomat.
email@example.com ; C: 808-741-1141.
Monday, April 26, 2010
At the end of the Battle of Okinawa,
Mountains were burnt. Villages were burnt. Pigs were burnt.
Cows were burnt. Chickens were burnt.
Everything on the land was burnt.
What was left for us to eat then?
It was the gift from the ocean.
How could we return our gratitude to the ocean
By destroying it?
- From the poem on the tapestry hung inside the "Henoko Tent Village"
We must never forget that in the hearts of the over 90,000 gathered in the Okinawa rally against the military bases, the memory of the Battle of Okinawa, in which over 90,000 Okinawan civilians' lives perished, lives on.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Yomitan Sports Park in Okinawa was filled with 90,000 people, and the event was over before a lot more people could make it there due to the heavy traffic. (Photo by Sasamoto Jun )
The banner reads, "We do not need a military either on the ocean or on the land." (photo by New York Times)
At the April 25 rally at Yomitan Sports Park, over 90,000 Okinawans have stood up and spoken, again, but this time with the unprecedented all-party participation of the Governor, all Mayors of the 41 municipalities (39 attennding and 2 sending their reps) out of the 49 inhabited islands, members of the Prefectural Assembly, Chairs of the municipal assemblies, 8 out of the 9 Parliamentarians of the Lower and Upper Houses, even including LDP's Shimajiri Aiko. People's New Party's Shimoji Mikio, endorses a plan to build another base in Okinawa, was absent as expected.
Based on the success of the April 25 rally in Okinawa, representatives of the steering committee of the rally, including members of the Prefectural Assembly, will go to Tokyo on April 26 to submit the resolution of the rally, which calls for a swift closure and return of dangerous Futenma Air Station and for the government to give up the idea of building a replacement base within Okinawa (the resolution in Japanese is quoted below. I will post when an English version is available.)
"It just ended. Number: 90,000. With the rallies on the two other islands, 93,700. Not quite reached the goal, but significant.
My husband said: "Nakaima just had a loud voice."
Governor Nakaima just said two points: elimination of the Futenma danger, and reduction of base burden of Okinawans. Both ambiguous terms. He made only one clear point though: permanent use of Futenma could not be tolerated.
Well, PNP's Shimoji, the only MP who was absent (Even LDP's Shimajiri was there!!!), could say all those things too and stay politically correct.
But again, any Nakaima is better than No Nakaima.
The three mayors, Iha of Ginowan, Inamine of Nago, and Shimabuku of Uruma, all made powerful and convincing statements, though pretty much what they have been saying every day.
All 41 municipalities were there, 39 mayors attending and 2 their reps.
The biggest significance was that it was the first all-party rally of this magnitude. "
English-language reports of the event:
Okinawans seek U.S. base removal from prefecture in mass rally
YOMITAN, Japan, April 25 KYODO
Anti-Futemma base rally in Okinawa child reacts to a speech during a rally calling for the relocation of the U.S. Marine Co...
By Maya Kaneko
- About 90,000 local residents and politicians in Okinawa called for the removal of a U.S. Marine base located in a crowded residential area in the southernmost prefecture in a mass rally Sunday, venting their frustration against the central government which is struggling to resolve where the base should go.
Many participants in the rally in the village of Yomitan were clad in yellow, the symbol color of the protest rally to demonstrate their ''yellow card'' warning against Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama's government. They excitedly cheered for and gave applause to speakers.
Okinawa Gov. Hirokazu Nakaima, who has conditionally accepted an existing Japan-U.S. plan to relocate the U.S. Marine Corps' Futemma Air Station, urged Hatoyama to remove as soon as possible the danger of accidents and crimes involving the Futemma base and called for nationwide support to ease base-hosting burdens on Okinawans.
The governor said he cannot allow the base to continue to sit in the densely populated area of Ginowan if the current efforts by the premier to transfer the facility out of the prefecture get bogged down.
''Some Cabinet ministers have indicated their tolerance for the possibility of Futemma airfield remaining as it is, but I say absolutely no to that,'' Nakaima told the rally participants. ''I want the prime minister to never give up and honor his pledge.''
Before his Democratic Party of Japan came to power last September, Hatoyama promised Okinawa people that he will try to transfer the Futemma airfield out of the prefecture or even abroad. The premier has vowed to settle the issue by the end of May.
Nakaima also said burdens to host U.S. military bases in Okinawa have exceeded the capacity of locals and asked people in other parts of Japan to ''lend a helping hand'' to ease them.
''This is not a problem that only concerns Okinawans. The safety of each Japanese individual is connected to Okinawa,'' the governor said, referring to the Japan-U.S. security arrangement.
The island prefecture hosts about 75 percent of the land area used for U.S. military facilities in Japan and half of the around 50,000 U.S. service personnel in the country.
Under the 2006 bilateral accord, the heliport functions of the Futemma base would be transferred from Ginowan to a coastal zone in the Marine's Camp Schwab in Nago, also in Okinawa, by 2014.
The United States has maintained its position that it prefers the existing plan.
The governor told reporters after the gathering while it has become ''extremely difficult'' to implement the current Futemma relocation plan as it is, he expects Hatoyama to respond to the wishes of the 90,000 attendants and ''find the most appropriate solution as a veteran politician.''
At the rally, Kana Okamoto and Narumi Shikiya, both 17-year-old students at Futemma Senior High School near the airfield, complained about the constant noise of U.S. Marine aircraft and said all bases in the prefecture should be removed.
''I sometimes feel the noise and danger of aircraft crashes as an everyday matter, but we should not think it cannot be helped,'' Okamoto said. ''I want everyone to face up to the base issue and make changes.''
Most of the mayors of the 41 municipalities in the island prefecture, which has a population of around 1.4 million, attended the rally.
Nago Mayor Susumu Inamine blasted the state for repeatedly suggesting contradictory policies on the Futemma issue.
Touching on a news report Saturday that the government has indicated to the United States that Japan would broadly accept the current plan to transfer the Futemma facility to Nago, Inamine told the attendants, ''Such an erratic and unscrupulous manner ridicules Okinawans and we can never forgive that.''
Uruma Mayor Toshio Shimabukuro also rejected any idea to move heliport functions of the Futemma facility to an artificial island to be constructed off the Katsuren Peninsula in the city, saying it would transform the community into a ''major military site.''
All major political parties, including the Liberal Democratic Party, were represented for the first time at an anti-base convention in Okinawa.
The LDP, which was defeated by Hatoyama's DPJ in last August's general election, was in government when the current Futemma relocation plan was forged.
The convention adopted a resolution seeking the early closure of the Futemma facility and the return of the land it occupies as well as a slogan calling for the revision of the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement and measures to boost the local economy.
''To save the life, property and living environment of citizens, we Okinawans urge both Japanese and U.S. governments to give up the relocation of the Futemma airfield within the prefecture,'' the resolution said.
Prior to the mass rally, about 2,000 Yomitan villagers protested an alleged fatal hit-and-run case of a 66-year-old Japanese man in the village involving a U.S. Army member last November. They called for the SOFA revision, claiming the release on bail of the U.S. soldier earlier this month is ''unreasonable.''
People in Okinawa have held mass protest rallies in the past following incidents such as the gang rape of a local schoolgirl by three U.S. servicemen in 1995 and an education ministry instruction in 2007 to delete or rewrite references in history textbooks to the Imperial Japanese Army's role in coercing civilians to commit mass suicide during the 1945 Battle of Okinawa.
In Solidarity with Okinawan People
On behalf the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) I want to express our firm solidarity with Okinawans in their fight for peace and justice, which are in reality also ours to make ourselves free from want and fear. We stand up to support the just cause of Okinawans from our stance to seek to implement the spirit of the United Nations Charter and the ideals of Japan’s Constitution that can be shared by everybody.
I believe that the following two points will contribute, to clarify the Governments of Japan and the USA positions:
1) Japan is not obligated to provide the US Marines with military bases.
In fact, US military bases in Okinawa were illegally expanded and built. Even before acceptance of the Potsdam Declaration on August 14, 1945, land was expropriated while Okinawans were detained in prison camps, and by means of “bayonets and bulldozers” with the start of the Cold War. Such acts are not justifiable even by the law of war, and therefore violate international law. And the Japan-US Security Treaty, which is invoked to paper over these illegalities, establishes that bases are provided to US forces under the conditions that provision is based on the will of the Japanese government, and that it contributes to the security of Japan and the Far East, but the US Marines, owing to the nature of the force, does not help to achieve such purposes, and as such their stationing in Japan lacks justification under the treaty. Furthermore, 75% of US military bases and facilities are concentrated in this one prefecture of Okinawa, and all Okinawans want US bases to be downsized and removed. The principles of democracy, which are recognized universally the world over, do not tolerate troop stationing which goes against the will of the people.
2) In Japan the Constitution’s Preamble and Articles 9 and 98 provide for the right to seek removal of US military bases.
The Japanese Constitution provides that “never again shall we be visited with the horrors of war through the action of government” and recognizes that “all peoples of the world have the right to live in peace, free from fear and want.” It says that the Japanese renounce war, do not maintain “land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential,” and it pledges to faithfully observe “established laws of nations,” which include the law of war and international humanitarian law. From the perspective of this extensive peace design, when at least part of the US forces stationed in Japan are highly problematic to bringing about peace and eliminating “fear and want,” it is possible to exercise one’s legitimate rights, including appeals to the international community, to resolve the matter which is the cause. In view of the situation with US military bases, which is a never-ending stream of aircraft crashes, traffic accidents, crimes, and pollution, it stands to reason that the people of Okinawa Prefecture seek the return of Futenma Air Station, and, with respect for their will, the Japanese government indeed has the right to take the initiative and ask the US government to immediately remove Futenma Air Station.
April 25, 2010
International Association of Democratic Lawyers, IADL
Jeanne Mirer, Esq., President
Osamu Niikura, Secretary-General
Thursday, April 22, 2010
"Move Futenma Outside of Okinawa out of the prefecture, out of the
country! Express our determination to Japanese and U.S. Governments!"
April 25 Prefecture Citizens' Rally
To call for immediate closure and return of Futenma Air Station
To Oppose inter-prefectural relocation, and
Location: Yomitan Sports Park
Let's All Go There!
3:00 PM, April 25 (Sunday)
Rain or Shine
Governor Nakaima, after oscillating back and forth, finally decided to attend. In the NHK News at noon of April 23, Nakaima was reported as saying, "I hesitated to make a decision while the Japanese government had not made a decision; but I decided it was a good opportunity to express my opinion about the over-burden of bases by Okinawa." DPJ's Cabinet Secretary Hirano pressured Nakaima not to attend, but Hirano, knowing Nakaima's decision, said, "it is the Governor's choice."
Ryukyu Shimpo on April 18 quotes:
Shimabukuro Toshio, Mayor of Uruma (where White Beach is):
Iha Yoichi, Mayor of Ginowan (where Futenma Air Station is:)
The rally starts at 3 PM, but Makishi Yoshikazu, an Okinawan architect and blogger says:
Many municipalities, including Ginowan City, will arrange free shuttle buses for the convenience of rally-goers.
Those who cannot attend are encouraged to wear or have something yellow to show solidarity.
"The 25th becomes an unprecedented event in modern Japanese history, if not the world history," Gavan McCormack, Professor of Australian National University shared his thoughts on the event.
"Never before in Japanese history has an entire region stood up and said 'No' to the central state authorities. And it is so much the more remarkable because they are actually saying 'No' not just to Tokyo but to Washington. And, not only that, they now almost certainly are going to win: they are going to impose their will upon the two most powerful governments in the world. For citizens to assert, successfully, their moral authority and their right to dictate to government(s) is really something to celebrate!
This may be a new phase in democracy. "
For those of us who are in North America, the Okinawan rally will start at 2 AM on Sunday 25th by the Eatern Time, and 11 PM on Saturday 24th by the Pacific Time. There will be solidarity rallies held across Japan, and in Washington., D.C., San Francisco, and Hawaii in the United States.
Governor Nakaima officially decided to attend and make a speech at the prefectural rally on April 25th.
No matter how indecisive, any governor is better than no governor. His presence will make a difference, and clearly communicate that the whole Okinawa is on a united front.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirano admitted that he spoke to Nakaima over the phone on April 20, just before Nakaima expressed his reservation again.
Nakaima is calculating the political gains and losses of attending or not attending, and of delaying the decision til the last minute or not.
"All we know about Nakaima is that he is not looking to the Okinawan citizens," a member of the rally committee says. Nakaima is just looking
His indecision is hurting his image, and is possibly affecting the turnout at the Rally. Or maybe more people will attend because of that, to show solidarity of ordinary residents.
On Sunday, Nakaima could be the only one in Okinawa watching the rally on TV at home.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Against New U.S. Military Bases in Okinawa
When: April 25th, Sunday at 2 pm
Where: In front of the Japanese Embassy
2520 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20008
What: Demonstrators will wear dugong masks and engage in a street
theater performance that symbolically restores the marine environment
The new Japanese government, pressured by the U.S., seems to be leaning toward building a new U.S. military base on Okinawa, which is a tropical island in Japan. The people of Okinawa, who already host more than 30 U.S. bases, don’t want another base that will further destroy the beautiful natural environment of their island.
Okinawans are planning to hold a rally of 100,000 people against the U.S. bases in Okinawa on April 25th. The people of Washington, D.C. will show our solidarity with the Okinawans with our own rally, in front of the Japanese embassy on Sunday, April 25 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
For more information, please check out our Facebook event page and Closethebase website. Contact: John Feffer, Institute for Policy Studies (202-294-9128 cell)
For more information on the other solidarity rallies around the world:
Press Conference & Earth Day Action:
Bay Area Organizations, Scholars and Environmentalists
Demand Halt of Military Build-up in Guam:
Environmentally Destructive and Costly
Date: Thursday, April 22, 2010
Time: 10:30 am
Location: St. Patrick’s Church, 756 Mission Street, San Francisco
Features: Music, Visuals, expert and community speakers:
Speakers and Press Contacts:
Rima Miles, Refaluwasch Carolinian from Saipan, member of One Love Oceania
Erica Benton, musician & member of Famoksaiyan, a Chamorro and Guam advocacy group
Yoko Fukumura, Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence
Rev. Deborah Lee , Women for Genuine Security
Aileen Suzara, Filipino American Coalition for Environmental Solidarity
Spokeperson from POWER
Center for Biological Diversity, Miyo Sakashita
Women for Genuine Security, Famoksaiyan (Chamorro and Guam/Marianas Advocacy Group), One Love Oceania, American Friends Service Committee, POWER, Movement Generation, Sonoma County Peace Crane Project, Center for Biological Diversity.
April 5, 2010, SAN FRANCISCO, CA* – On April 22, Earth Day, several groups will gather outside St. Patrick’s Church in San Francisco demanding a halt to US military expansion on the Pacific island of Guam. The action is also in solidarity with rallies that will be held in Washington DC and Okinawa, Japan this Sunday, April 25th in protest of a new US base in Okinawa which already holds 30 bases. 100,000 people are expected to rally in Okinawa this Sunday. The Guam build-up plan includes the proposed transfer of 8,000 Marines from Futenma Air Station in Okinawa after decades of local protests.
Contact Person: Erica Benton (510)-928-8247, Rev. Deborah Lee (415) 297-8222
Hawaii Okinawa Alliance: Candlelight Peace Vigil for Okinawa
Date: April 25, 2010
Time: 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Purpose: Sunset Candlelight Peace Vigil for Okinawa
Location: Japanese Consulate Honolulu
Nu`uanu Avenue & Kuakini
This Sunday in Okinawa, as well as throughout Japan, Washington, D.C. and here in O`ahu, hundreds of thousands of supporters of demilitarizing Okinawa will be rallying to close down Futenma Marine Corps Air station in the middle of urban Ginowan City, as well as to oppose all further US military base constructions in Okinawa, particularly the proposed port in Henoko Bay. We will be showing our solidarity with the people of Okinawa, as well as all peace-seeking peoples longing for a world without militarism or foreign colonization.
This will be a simple candlelight vigil in front of the Japanese Consulate, at the mentioned intersection. Feel free to bring candles, signs, ribbons, musical instruments, etc. This will not be a “protest” per se, as the Consulate will surely be closed, but rather a simple act of solidarity and fellowship with those rallying in Okinawa. Street parking is available but limited on adjacent streets by park; carpooling or taking bus is recommended. If anything, just come & bring friends and family!
As you may know, US forces invaded Okinawa in 1945 to fight Imperial Japan, and have never left, instead imposing US military bases on approximately 20% of Okinawa Islands best, limited land, and are proposing to build yet more! Former Defense Secretary Rumsfeld described Futenma as one of the most dangerous airfields in the world, surrounded by neighborhoods, schools, hospitals, etc. that have endured the bases for decades, despite promises by the US to close down the outdated facilities. The previous US and Japanese government administrations conspired to relocate Futenma partially in rural, northern Okinawa on pristine reef home to endangered species such as the dugong, and are insisting on this construction particularly by the Obama administration now. The current Japanese Prime Minister, Hatoyama, will be making a decision in May on whether to go forward with the construction despite vehement, majority opposition in Okinawa; thus, this is why the vigils are taking place in Okinawa, with national and international support.
Your support will directly go to the solidarity with the people of Okinawa! Mahalo & may peace reign on Okinawa, Hawai`i, Guam and the 160 nations burdened with foreign US military!
For more info: Jamie @ 728-0062 or email Pete: firstname.lastname@example.org Your ideas, energy, resources, etc. is welcomed!
Pete Shimazaki Doktor, Jamie Oshiro & Rinda Yamashiro
HOA (Hawai`i Okinawa Alliance)
Co-sponsored by American Friends Service Committee-Hawai`i
April 20, 2010
CONTACT: John Feffer, Institute for Policy Studies
email@example.com , 202-234-9382, cell: 510-282-8983
New U.S.-Japan coalition demands closure of the Futenma U.S. Marine Corps base and opposes the construction of new bases in Okinawa and Tokunoshima; Holds rally in Washington and posts full-page ad in Washington Post
Washington – April 19 – In the past six months, the governor, mayors, media, and citizens of Okinawa have joined to demand the closure of the Futenma U.S. Marine Base and oppose any new military base construction—in historic solidarity.
On this side of the Pacific Ocean, the Network for Okinawa (NO), an unprecedented grassroots network, has drawn together representatives from peace groups, environmental organizations, faith-based organizations, academia, and think tanks to support these same goals. The coalition represents hundreds of thousands of Americans concerned about democracy and environmental protection in Okinawa.
On April 23, 2010, the Washington-based coalition will send President Obama and Prime Minister Hatoyama a letter signed by more than 500 organizations demanding the immediate closure of Futenma and the cancellation of plans to relocate it to Henoko Bay.
Network for Okinawa member, Peter Galvin, Conservation Director at the Center of Biological Diversity, explains what is at stake, “Destroying the environmental and social well-being of an area, even in the name of 'national or global security,' is itself like actively waging warfare against nature and human communities.”
On April 25, 2010, members of the Network will rally in front of the Japanese Embassy in Washington D.C. at 2 p.m. They are demonstrating to demand the immediate closure of Futenma and to oppose new military base construction at any site in Okinawa, including the island of Tokunoshima. (Tokunoshima is a small northern island in the Ryukyu archipelago; historically a part of Okinawa.) The D.C. protest is an American expression of solidarity with the expected 100,000 Okinawans marching on the same date.
John Lindsay-Poland, of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, advocates nonviolent conflict resolution instead of war to resolve international disputes: "Military bases in Japan and other countries are material projections of our nation's will to use war and violent force. War is not only brutal, and ecologically devastating, but unnecessary. I want our country to have a different relationship with other peoples of the world."
During the week of April 26, 2010, the Network and its Tokyo-based affiliated coalition, the Japan-US Citizens for Okinawa Network (JUCON), will place a full-page ad in the Washington Post. JUCON (http://jucon.exblog.jp/) is a coalition of Okinawa and Japan-based NGOs, citizens groups, journalists and prominent individuals.
“The Washington Post ad will draw attention to this critical issue. It will put pressure on both Washington and Tokyo to do the right thing: respect the democratic desires of the Okinawan people and the fragile environment of this beautiful island,” says John Feffer, spokesperson for Network for Okinawa.
Most Americans have heard of the Battle of Okinawa. However, most don’t know Okinawa’s location; or that the U.S. maintains thirty U.S. military bases and facilities on twenty percent of this island, the size of Rhode Island. U.S. troops constructed the first U.S. military bases for the planned invasion of Japan and never left—even after the U.S. “reverted” Okinawa to Japan in 1972.
The U.S. Marine Futenma base—made infamous by the 1995 Marine gang rape of a twelve-year-old girl—generates noise pollution, accidents, and crimes on a daily basis. In fact, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld called Futenma the “most dangerous U.S. base in the
world.” The next year, the United States and Japan announced Futenma’s closure and the construction of a new base on the east coast of Okinawa in Henoko, a tiny fishing village.
Local residents immediately challenged this plan. During the past fourteen years, Henoko has become a lightning rod for Okinawan grievances over 65 years of unwanted U.S. military bases and over 130 years of unwanted colonial domination by Japan. That’s because Henoko’s emerald waters and coral reef are home for about fifty critically endangered dugongs, a symbol of Okinawan peaceful culture based on the sanctity of life (nuchido takara) and reverence for nature. In 1966, Okinawans designated the dugong (cousin to the manatee) as their living national monument. Nuchido Takara directly translates as “Life is a treasure.”
Okinawa’s unique biodiversity (the island known as the “Galapagos of the East”) captured the attention of transnational environmentalists. In 2003, a coalition—including the Japan Environmental Lawyers Federation (JELF) and U.S.-based Center for Biodiversity, represented
by Earth Justice—sued the U.S. Department of Defense to halt the construction of the base. This marked the first-ever international lawsuit under the U.S. National Historic Preservation Act, as the dugong is protected under Japanese cultural properties law. On January 24, 2008, a U.S. Federal District Court in San Francisco delivered a historic ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, finding that the DoD plan had violated the NHPA. Despite this ruling, the DoD has continued to insist upon Henoko as a site for a Futenma “relocation.”
The Network for Okinawa (http://closethebase.org/) is sponsored by the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington. Members include: American Conservative Defense Alliance, American Friends Service Committee, Center for Biological Diversity, Fellowship of Reconciliation,
Greenpeace, Institute for Policy Studies, Just Foreign Policy, Pax Christi USA, the United Methodist Chuch, Veterans for Peace, and Women for Genuine Security.
Members of the Network for Okinawa available for interviews:
• Peter Galvin, Center for Biological Diversity. firstname.lastname@example.org ; 520-907-1533.
• Kyle Kajihiro, Program Director, American Friends Service Committee - Hawai'i Area Office. email@example.com ; O: 808-988-6266; C: 808-542-3668.
• John Lindsay-Poland, Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation Latin America program, Oakland, California, is active in the global No Bases network and author of Emperors in the Jungle: The Hidden History of the US in Panama (Duke). firstname.lastname@example.org ; C: 510-282-8983.
• Doug Bandow, Robert A. Taft Fellow, American Conservative Defense Alliance and former Special Assistant to President Ronald Reagan. ChessSet@aol.com ; 703-451-9169.
• Ann Wright, Retired Army Colonel, former US. Diplomat. email@example.com ; C: 808-741-1141.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Ginowan's Mayor Iha and author Yoshida Kensei have been arguing this point over and over in their presentations and books.
See here for Iha Yoichi's interview.
Ruling coalition group: Move all Marines to Guam
A group of Japan's ruling coalition lawmakers have proposed that all the US Marines in Okinawa should be transferred to Guam to resolve the issue of where to relocate a US air base in the prefecture.
The proposal was crafted by a group of governing coalition legislators, including Democratic Party Lower House member Hiroshi Kawauchi and Social Democratic Party policy chief Tomoko Abe.
The group says the US military's current relocation plan does not require the building in Japan of an alternative facility to the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station.
It also says the plan allows all the US Marines in Okinawa to be moved to Guam.
The group suggests that a domestic base will only be needed when US Marines conduct training in Japan.
Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has said that he intends to settle the relocation issue by the end of May. The group says Japan can consult the United States about the location of a training base after the deadline.
The lawmakers will pressure the government to study and adopt their proposal.
NHK Report April 21
See here for the official website of the program. The Japanese translation is here. ５月４日ニューヨークで開催 シンポジウム『生存者の叡智』のパンフレットです。日本語案内はこちらをご覧ください。
Sunday, April 18, 2010
"Hantai!" - Tokunoshima's Record-Breaking Addition to Ryukyuans' Democratic Voices 徳之島 市民の６０％が基地反対集会に参加
"The treasures of the Island are Nature, Children, and Kindness"
The most frequently-seen word in this photo is hantai (反対), meaning "opposition."
According to Okinawa Times report, 60 organizations, including all the three towns of the island and their mayors were involved. One of the mayors said, "It will be poisonous for us if we drink the soup of economic subsidies." He was talking about the "economic rejuvenation projects" and hefty subsidies, what the central government has always provided the municipalities that host bases in Okinawa. He knew that once the local economy becomes dependent on such subsidies, it will be difficult to get out of it, as many Okinawan base-hosting municipalities have experienced.
This rally is the latest addition to the series of democratic voices of Okinawa. Again, Tokunoshima is part of Kagoshima Prefecture now, but traditionally it is part of the larger Ryukyuan culture, and I would still call a voice from Tokunoshima one of Okinawans' (Ryukyuans'). (See my April 6 post "Is Tokunoshima Really Outside of Okinawa?)
According to another report on April 18 in Okinawa Times, the associations of mayors in Okinawa announced that out of 41 municipalities (cities, towns, and villages) of Okinawa, a total of 29 have submitted position statements regarding the relocation of Futenma Air Station. A total of 23 municipal assemblies have passed statements that opposed inter-prefectural relocation, i.e. construction of another base within Okinawa, and asked Prime Minister Hatoyama to keep his pre-election pledge that the relocation site would be outside of Okinawa prefecture.
In the 12 A.M., April 19th NHK news, Prime Minister Hatoyama said to the reporters, "I would like to learn from this expression of popular will." Onaga Takeshi, Mayor of Okinawa's capital Naha and the head of Okinawan Mayors' Association said, "Japan's security must be considered by the whole nation. You can't just put the burden in one place and act like you don't care." The Tokunoshima rally should make an impact on policymakers in Tokyo, as what turned out to be a referendum by the island residents on the base relocation plan.
Speaking about subsidies, Medoruma Shun on April 15 again is relentless on the corruption over the base relocation. He quotes Ryukyu Shimpo's April 15 article that reported on April 14, seventy-three parliamentarians formed a group to endorse legalization of casinos in Japan. It is officially called "Coalition of Parliamentarians for Promotion of International Tourism Industry," but it is dubbed "the Casino Caucus." The chair of the organization is Koga Issei, a DPJ member, and one of the seven vice chairs is notorious Shimoji Mikio, an Okinawan representative of People's New Party, who has endorsed plans to relocate Futenma within Okinawa.
Okinawa is one of the top candidates for building a casino under the possible new legislation. Medoruma says, "Even after the administration change, the policy of 'carrots and sticks' by the central government will continue, and Shimoji is about to jump on those carrots." Construction of a new casino would be a delicious reward for burdening another military base. "This is why Shimoji insists of inter-prefectural relocation, no matter how much sharp criticism he receives within Okinawa." (see March 16 post for more.)
Another event that is coming up, which Shimoji is not going to attend, is the April 25 Okinawa Citizens Rally. It is expected to draw 100,000 people or more. Okinawa's Governor Nakaima is still oscillating over his attendance to the rally.
Whether the indecisive governor is there or not, Okinawa and its people are going to add another important chapter to its history.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Stockholm, August 9, 2002
Old Environments – New Environments
I feel it’s no coincidence – after all my intentions not to be here, and last minute programme changes – that I should be speaking on this particular day in this particular place about a particular event that happened today, some years ago. I refer to the atomic bombing of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.
And it was in Stockholm in 1950, five years afterwards that a petition was started demanding an unconditional ban on atomic bombs. The first government next to use nuclear weapons in war would be a government of war criminals, the petition said, guilty of crimes against humankind.
Is Nagasaki a suitable subject for a conference on Canadian Studies? One of the best things about our peaceable country is that Canada connects. Our ancestries circle the globe making us uniquely suited today to building bridges ‘over troubled waters.’
Canada ought also, as one of the participants in the creation of the atomic bomb, be reminding the world of its horrors. Dr. Takashi Nagai, the University of Nagasaki’s dean of radiology at the time, understood Canada’s role. In The Bells of Nagasaki, he wrote, “…uranium crude ore is scarce throughout the world….” But “…Canada produces any amount of uranium.”
Canadian and American leaders shared the same attitude towards “the Japs.” Prime Minister MacKenzie King’s diaries revealed that he thought it was fortunate that the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan and not on the white peoples of Europe. Harry Truman referred to my race as “savages, ruthless, merciless and fanatic…. They sure as heck didn’t look like us… yellow little creatures that smiled while they bombed our boys. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast. It is most regrettable but true.”
Arundhati Roy is asked these days, as the unthinkable is being thought, and the talk of nuclear war swirls around her, “Why don’t you leave Delhi?” She answers, “If I go away, and everything and everyone – every friend, every tree, every home, every dog, squirrel and bird that I have known and loved – is incinerated, how shall I live on? Who shall I love? My friends and I discuss Prophecy, the documentary about the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The fireball. The dead bodies choking the river. The living stripped of skin and hair. The singed, bald children, still alive, their clothes burned into their bodies. The thick, black, toxic water. The scorched, burning air. The cancers implanted genetically, a malignant letter to the unborn. We remember especially the man who just melted into the steps of a building. We imagine ourselves like that. As stains on staircases. I imagine future generations of hushed schoolchildren pointing at my stain … that was a writer. Not She or He. That.” She adds, “… The very notion that war is an acceptable solution to terrorism has ensured that terrorists in the subcontinent now have the power to trigger a nuclear war.”
The First World War, dubbed the “war to end all wars,” gave way to another more terrifying war. And today, the people of the world are faced with the numbing thought that the last “bomb to end all bombs” at Nagasaki may yet give way to the bomb to end all life. There is a mania for suicide in the air. Arundhati Roy says that whether nuclear bombs are used or not, “they violate everything that is humane. They alter the meaning of life itself. Why do we tolerate them?” she asks. “Why do we tolerate these men who use nuclear weapons to blackmail the entire human race?”
It is time to remember Nagasaki. It is time for us to scratch away the numbing dailyness of our lives and look again at what we cannot and beg not to see. This June, I was there, and thought of the pilot who flew overhead that day over a city that was described by a novelist as the “Naples of the Orient…. Like Kyoto,” he wrote, “Nagasaki overwhelms one with its beauty and serenity. It is a town of stone roads, mud walls, old temples, cemeteries and giant trees.” In an interview, Captain Sweeney used the word ‘pretty’ to describe the city below. It was the greatest thrill of his life, he said, when he dropped the bomb.
There is a thrill in murder. There is a thrill in war. It is not just the certifiably insane who know this thrill. The eagerness for blood continues unabated in the human condition. But like parents of murdered children, being faced after years with the release of murderers, we must look again, and warn and grieve once more, openly, publicly. We need to acknowledge the appetite for war, the fears that feed it, the hunger for vengeance, the blood lust. It is fresh blood that the dogs of war always demand. And so I believe we need to be graphic in our remembering, visceral in our imagining, we need to understand how the past is demonstrably present so that the salivating beasts with their mad thirst may drink and feel and realize the close, close connection between ourselves and the ones we devour. We need to taste the blood and know it to be our own.
In my own madness for meaning, I am searching through the grid of our mythologies, our tales of murder and our encounters with the Divine. I am calling this talk, “Three Faces of God.” A friend of mine finds this title ‘too religious’ and argues that religion lies at the root of cycles of violence. More reason, I would think, to look at religion. Hans Kung states that in our striving for peace, we should begin with religion. “Peace among the religions” he says, “is the prerequisite for peace among the nations.”
My novel, The Rain Ascends, is an engagement with the God of Abraham and the Goddess of Mercy. Abraham’s God was the God of my childhood, the God of the patriarchs. Like us, Abraham found himself in a world where death and suffering were non-negotiable. His world, like ours, was also one of unimaginable abundance. In such a world, God made a covenant with Abraham that his descendants would be as the stars of the sky. It was through Abraham’s two main sons -- Ishmael, his eldest, child of the servant Hagar, and Isaac, the child of his wife, Sarah -- that God promised, “I will make you into a great nation” and “I give this land to your descendants.” When Abraham died, both Ishmael and Isaac, together as brothers, buried their father.
Today, three great faiths, Judaism, Islam and Christianity, claim Abraham as father. His descendants are indeed, as the stars of the sky -- Jews and Arabs by right of birth, and Christians, by adoption and faith. Muhammad, the founder of Islam traced his lineage through Ishmael, and Jews claim their lineage through Isaac. Christians identify with Jesus, the Jew. All three are bound together as siblings.
The foundational myth of Abraham’s great test has confounded people through the ages. In the book of Genesis, we are told that Abraham was ordered to do the unthinkable.
Genesis 22. “The time came when God put Abraham to the test. ‘Abraham’, he called, and Abraham replied, ‘Here I am.’ God said, ‘Take your son Isaac, your only son, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah. There you shall offer him as a sacrifice on one of the hills which I will show you.’…. So Abraham took the wood for the sacrifice and laid it on his son Isaac’s shoulder; he himself carried the fire and the knife, and the two of them went on together. Isaac said to Abraham, ‘Father’, and he answered, ‘What is it, my son?’ Isaac said, ‘Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the young beast for the sacrifice?’ Abraham answered, ‘God will provide himself with a young beast for a sacrifice, my son.” And the two of them went on together and came to the place of which God had spoken. There Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. Then he stretched out his hand and took the knife to kill his son; but the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven, ‘Abraham, Abraham.’ He answered, “Here I am.’ The angel of the Lord said, ‘Do not raise your hand against the boy; do not touch him. Now I know that you are a God-fearing man. You have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’ Abraham looked up and there he saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he went and took the ram and offered it as a sacrifice instead of his son.
This is the story I heard as a Christian child and I did not know, until I read Carol Delaney’s book, The Trial of Abraham that for most Muslims, it is Ishmael and not Isaac who was the intended sacrifice. But for all three faith-communities, one of the main values that is gleaned from the story is that of obedience, of complete submission to the will of God. Mohammed Atta, before his flight into the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001, is said to have written or said, “I must be like my father Abraham willing to sacrifice all.” And he did.
Carol Delaney asks us, “Why is the willingness to sacrifice the child, rather than the passionate protection of the child, at the foundation of faith?” She suggests that we need a new myth and says, “I ask that people imagine how our society would have evolved if protection of the child had been the model of faith.”
Today, the children of Abraham in the West and the Middle East, Christians, Jews and Muslims, are speaking about justice, freedom and submission to God. Their words translate into violence and a growing dread that the fearful forces at play will propel us into a reckless abandonment of constraint and a catastrophic worldwide conflagration that will end life, as we know it.
There are other voices in the world. To begin, there is a certain small island in the east, where the world’s longest living and intensely peaceable people live.
My brother, a retired Episcopalian priest, was in Okinawa for a few years in the 90’s. He told me that in 1815, Captain Basil Hall of the British navy steamed into Naha, Okinawa and was amazed at what he found. The story goes, that on his way back to England, he dropped in to the island of St. Helena and had a chat with Napoleon.
“I have been to an island of peace,” the captain reported. “The island has no soldiers and no weapons.”
“No weapons? Oh, but there must be a few swords around,” Napoleon remarked.
“No. Even the swords have been embargoed by the king.”
Napoleon, we’re told, was astonished. “No soldiers, no weapons, no swords! It must be heaven.”
A unique culture of peace had developed in one tiny part of our warring planet. We might well wonder about the spiritual heritage of such a people. Today they boast not just the longest living humans in the world – the number of centenarians per 100,000 is six times that of the U.S. – but the world’s longest disability free life expectancy.
According to The Okinawa Program by Dr. Bradley Willcox, Dr. Craig Willcox and Dr. Makoto Suzuki, Okinawan society “… reflects a cultural cosmology where the female embodies and transmits sacred forces (shiji). Most Okinawan villages still have “divine priestesses,” called noro or nuru, whose job it is to commune with the gods and ancestors and serve as spiritual advisers. In fact, until the late nineteenth century, the king’s well-being and success as ruler depended on the spiritual sustenance granted by the high priestess (kikoe ogimi), who was of equivalent social standing. This is a unique cultural phenomenon. Although women act as religious functionaries in other societies, there is no other modern society in the world where women hold title as the main providers of religious services.”
When Japan, that once warring nation, took over the kingdom, there was an entirely bloodless coup. No soldiers were found to help later with the invasion of Korea. A disobedient people, Japan concluded. A kingdom without soldiers was clearly impossible. Okinawa, with its history of peace, must surely have had a culture as close to heaven as this planet has managed. And perhaps therefore a special target for the forces of hate.
On Easter day in 1945, on the day of triumph for the Prince of Peace, war came to the people of peace. The battle of Okinawa was the biggest land battle of history to that point. In twelve weeks, in eighty-four days, 234,000 people died, more than the people killed in August in the two atomic bombings.
My brother was in Okinawa in 1995 on the 50th anniversary of the battle. Beginning at Easter, and for twelve weeks after, with the pastoral candle lit, a breathtaking action of speech took place. For two hours at noon and two hours at night, the dead were recalled and their names read. These were not just prayers for the Okinawan victims -- parents, grandparents, infants, schoolchildren, the familiar members of the community. The embracing in prayer included Japanese and American soldiers, those who had brought this disaster upon the most gentle of peoples. Here was mercy quietly demonstrated. It did not make headline news. But the Prince of Peace, mocked and murdered on Easter day 1945, was powerfully alive on Easter fifty years later.
In Okinawa’s Peace Park, the names are engraved on row upon row of granite slabs resembling the waves of the ocean nearby. A white towering structure encloses a huge statue of Kannon. She is described as an Asian symbol (with no deification) and is the central figure in the structure where each year on August 15 an interfaith service is held.
There is something surreal about the Christian calendar and the dates of war atrocities. Was it a deliberately conscious act to drop the world’s first atomic bomb on the Day of the Transfiguration, the day when Christ’s face became ‘glistering white?’ The word for ‘transfiguration’ in Japanese, hen-yo-bo, also means ‘disfiguration.’ In Okinawa, the day of resurrection was the day of death. In Hiroshima, the day of transfiguration was the day of disfiguration.
The atomic bomb, created by the Christian west, was prayed over by a Christian military chaplain before it set out on its lethal journey. “Almighty God, Father of grace, we pray you, let your grace come down upon the men who will fly in this night. Guard and protect those of us who will venture forth into the darkness of your heaven. Lead them on your wings. Guard their bodies and their souls and bring them back to us. Give us all courage and strength for the hours that lie before us, and reward us according to the hardships they will bring. But above all, my Father, give your world peace. Let us go our way trusting in you and secure in the knowledge that you are near to us now and for all eternity. Amen.”
While this prayer was being said, prayers to the same God were rising to heaven from Urakami cathedral in Nagasaki.
Nagasaki had been Japan’s window to the west, visited by Francis Xavier in the 1500’s, and later by renowned European physicians. It became the primary medical centre and the primary centre for European studies, to be visited by the top students of Japan.
Although Christianity had begun to take root in the sixteenth century, within a hundred years, the country was closed, Christianity was banned, and for the next two hundred years, the Japanese Christians, known as the “hidden Christians,” were hunted down to be crucified, hung over sulfur pits, tortured and killed.
There is a story of how some of the hidden Christians escaped and survived, thanks to a confusion in the minds of persecuting authorities who mistook statues of the Madonna for Kannon, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy.
It was roughly between the sixth to the tenth centuries, as Buddhism spread eastward, that the male Buddhist deity of compassion became known in China as the Goddess Kuan Yin and in Japan, as Kannon. Nestorian Christians traveling the silk-road south and east from Persia were carrying statues of Mary, the Mother of Christ. Many of these statues were adopted as images of Kuan Yin. In Japan, during the on going round up, the presence of these statues in the homes of the hidden Christians signified to the authorities, that these were Buddhist homes. But unseen by the persecutors were crosses and crucifixes, symbols of Christianity, hidden within the Madonnas. Here is one instance where a partnership between Mary and the Goddess of Mercy stayed the hand of murder.
In 1873, the 235 year ban on Christianity was lifted, and survivors headed back joyfully to Nagasaki, settling in the Urakami district where the pre-eminent presence of Christianity in all of East Asia was established. Urakami Cathedral, built brick by brick by believers, was completed in 1914, the year that began the war to end all wars.
At 11:02, on August 9, 1945, it was precisely on this spot over Urakami cathedral, over a Christian neighbourhood that the atomic bomb exploded. What I understood this year, as I walked the few blocks of that sacred place from the cathedral to the peace park to the monument of the hypocenter, was that when we murder the other, we are murdering our own, our family of faith, our Isaac, our Ishmael, our Jesus, our children, our futures.
Father George Zabelka was the Catholic chaplain on Tinian Island at the time, and as he put it, “the last possible official spokesman for the Church before the fire of hell was let loose…” He lived to regret his approval of the actions that day. “There is no state of corporate evil that is not the result of personal sinfulness,” he said in an interview in 1984. “In August of 1945, I as a Christian and as a priest, served not as an agent of reconciliation but as an instrument of retaliations, revenge and homicide…. I chose nationalism over Catholicism, Caesar over Christ, as the “Great Artist” manned by Christians in my care, took off to evaporate the oldest and largest Christian community in Japan – Nagasaki…. I played an important and necessary role in this sacrilege – and I played it meticulously. I am responsible…. I mean it literally…. A sacrilege is the desecration of what is considered holy. For the Christian, the ultimate place of the holy is the human person…. Therefore every act of violence toward a human being is an act of desecration of the temple of God in this world. War for the Christian is always a sacrilege. There is no such absurdity as a Christian ethic of justified sacrilege. I am a priest who played a role in a sacrilege and that must be said by me and others like me without equivocation or else the future is a nightmare…. I want to expose the lie of killing as a Christian social method, the lie of disposable people, the lie of Christian liturgy in the service of the homicidal gods of nationalism and militarism, the lie of nuclear security.”
For Father Zabelka, it was an act of mercy and grace that, in his old age, he was able to make a pilgrimage to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to his Calvaries. He wished to look into the faces of the bomb victims and say, “Brother, forgive me for bringing you death instead of the fullness of life. Sister, forgive me for bringing you misery instead of mercy.”
Dr. Takashi Nagai was a bomb victim who did not live long enough to welcome Father Zabelka. He was a nuclear physicist, dean of the radiology department in the medical school of the University of Nagasaki, a medical doctor, scientist, researcher, artist and scholar, knowledgeable about atomic energy. He was also a Christian convert, one of Abraham’s new children, and his beloved wife, Midori was a descendant of Christian martyrs.
He had his own understanding of the holocaust. It was not an accident. The particular place the bomb fell was not done by human design alone. That morning, according to A Journey to Nagasaki, a booklet published by The Nagasaki Testimonial Society, three B29’s left Tinian Island with the lead plane, Bock’s car, carrying a plutonium bomb. One of the planes missed the initial rendezvous point. The two remaining planes then headed for Kokura, the second target destination. This time smoke obscured the view. The back-up was Nagasaki. Tokiwa Bridge, the target in Nagasaki, was covered by clouds. Captain Sweeney, the pilot, continued northwards. An hour before noon there was a break in the clouds.
In his book, The Bells of Nagasaki, Dr. Nagai shares his anguish in graphic detail. The children in the many schools in the area, the nuns in prayer, his wife with the rosary melted beside her bones, the faithful Christians who had been purified by such intense suffering for so long – all these deaths were not accidental. Nagasaki’s hell was a sacred offering for peace. Its meaning was that this was not to happen again. Not to anyone.
Dr. Nagai believed that the bomb was carried by the wind and by God precisely to Urakami. The grammar checker on my computer rejects the words “the bomb was carried by the wind and by God” and offers instead, “God carried by the wind and the bomb.” Father Zabelka would have agreed with the computer. He says it was God who suffered at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. “Calvary, the place where Christ suffered and died…is the holiest shrine in Christianity. Hiroshima and Nagasaki are Calvaries. For here Christ in the bodies of the “least” was put to death by exactly the same dark and deceitful spirit of organized lovelessness that roamed Jerusalem two thousand years ago.” The cry of the ancient psalmist, and the cry of Christ, “My God my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” translates, in this context to “My God, my god, why have we forsaken Thee?”
We forsake each other, and we kill, partly because, like Father Zabelka on Tinian Island, we don’t know what we are doing. We don’t realize that when we kill, we are killing our own. We have forgotten the pivotal presence of Mercy in the world. The Goddess of Mercy who stopped Abraham’s hand is still saying, “Stop.” We don’t have to kill. No matter how terrible the world, no matter how great the suffering in it, from whatever cause, we do not have to engage in any act of vengeance or retaliation or murder.”
Could the catastrophe at Nagasaki have been prevented? Einstein, without whom the bomb could not have been made, said that next time he would rather be a peddler or a plumber. He did not know what his knowledge would help to unleash. Two thousand years ago there was one who prayed that his killers would be forgiven because they didn’t know what they were doing. But today, we know what our weaponry is capable of doing.
On the walls of the museum commemorating Dr. Nagai’s life was his question. Who had done this? Who had brought this catastrophe to Nagasaki? His answer was, that we had done it ourselves. We humans had created hell. We were responsible. These were not words of hatred, nor were they cries of despair. His message to the world was simple. “Love your neighbour as yourself.” This was the commandment contained in his faith. The tiny one room house in which he wrote his books was called Nyokodo, -- “as yourself, house” from “Love your neighbour as yourself.”
“I have my mind,” he said. “I have my eyes, I have my hands.” With these tools still left to him, the bedridden Nagai, ill and dying, poured his passion for peace into his books, a line at a time. Exhausted after writing a line, he would rest in prayer, then continue with the next line. In the extremity of his suffering, the joy and the power of an indwelling Spirit of Mercy spoke through him. This voice that spoke so clearly to Abraham needs to be heard today by Dr. Nagai’s siblings, Abraham’s other children, in the Middle East and in the western world.
When I read Dr. Nagai’s comment, “I have my eyes, I have my hands,” I was reminded of a legend of the Goddess of Mercy. It is said that she was manifest in a compassionate princess, Miao Shan, the third daughter of a king of ancient China. Miao Shan’s fervent desire was to be a Buddhist nun. The king, however, wished her to marry. At length, the king relented and Miao Shan was permitted to enter a convent but with the strict requirement that she suffer hardship. Miao Shan remained steadfast. Enraged, her father ordered the convent destroyed. Shortly afterwards, the king became ill and was informed that only medicine made from an arm and an eye of a person without anger could save him. Miao Shan gladly sacrificed both arms and both eyes for her father’s health. When the king went to give thanks to his benefactor he was horrified to discover it was his own daughter. She became the Goddess of Mercy and instead of dwelling in heaven, she remains connected to earthly suffering, gathering the prayers of those who call upon her.
Like Miao Shan, Dr. Nagai offered his hands and his eyes in an act of sacrificial love. The power of mercy was present in both.
My first encounter with the Goddess of Mercy was in a dream in a Buddhist temple when I was visiting Japan in the early 90’s. Before that night, I had never given a thought to Her and knew nothing at all about Her. I described the experience in my novel, The Rain Ascends, as the narrator, Millicent Shelby, begins her journey. Here are Millicent’s words:
She came to me that spring in a dream and touched me in her evanescent way, saying that she, the Goddess of Mercy, was the Goddess of Abundance. Mercy and Abundance. One and the same. The statement shone in my mind with the luminosity of an altogether new moon.
What I am trusting, this pen-holding moment, is that it is she, the abundant and merciful one, who is both guide and transport for the journey. She is map, road and traveling companion, moving through light and shadow, dancing the direction. And what I realize just now for the first time is that it is not I on my own who seek her, but she who seeks me. It is she who in the act of flinging stones onto the forest floor – white stones, stepping stones, word stones -- it is she who weaves the way towards herself. She draws me through the miasma of the day-by-heavy-day sad morning wakenings to her as yet unknown glad rising.
It’s about a decade later now and the ‘altogether new moon’ of that dream still shines in my mind, but even more strongly today. The Goddess of Mercy, the transcendent power of mercy, is the Goddess of Abundance. They are one, equal and together in the human condition. Without abundance, there can be no mercy. Without mercy, there can be no abundance. Like Abraham, we live in a paradoxical planet, a severe and generous place. Like Abraham, we are presented with both murder and mercy. And like Abraham, we are obedient to the deity that we worship, to the point of murdering our children, our hope and our future. But unlike Abraham, we seem to be deaf to Mercy’s command.
We hapless humans are creatures that are prone to losing our way. We have followed the glittering signposts of money and power and mistaken these for the way, the truth and the abundant life. In the name of money, greed is a virtue, and self-interest our essence. The market fundamentalists of our day, like Christian fundamentalists, Islamic fundamentalists and Jewish fundamentalists, are obedient to death, willing and able to wage war, ready to justify murder.
Without the Presence of Mercy, the dream of abundance is a nightmare, Isaac and Ishmael are murdered, the sacrifice is all there is, and we have a voracious, blood-thirsty deity, reigning over a planet of ashes and dust. We have misunderstood the foundational story of Abraham and missed the point. In emphasizing Abraham’s obedience in the ancient myth, we have glorified him, instead of the One who offers us the way of mercy. Instead of seeking the face of the transcendent in our midst, we are relying on our strength alone. And so as we wander through the cathedrals of consumption, as we bow down to the altar of money along with its powerful and obscenely wealthy priests, as we participate in the scapegoating of the poor on our streets and elsewhere, as we stand by watching the seas and forests dying, we feel the promise of abundance slipping from our grasp and a certain dull confusion, a certain soul weariness sets in.
According to Kuan Yin, Myths and Revelations of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion, She, who has been worshipped for centuries on the island Pu To in China, is also unheeded these days. Today the sacred island of the goddess is ablaze with neon, resounds to karaoke and disco bars and has become a major place of prostitution. It is as if the secular has declared war on the divine feminine. This is not the work of Communism but the consequence of the pursuit of consumerism. This seems to be the lowest ebb the sacred island has ever reached and we fear for the future of this unique place. Maybe Kuan Yin will have to perform a miracle on her own island – for little else seems possible in the face of such denigration.
The awesome power of money in our day has the entire world in its thrall. For the last several years, I have joined with others who are trying to look away from the mesmerizing idol. As the addicts of the money game play their lives away in the global casinos, there are small communities around the world attempting to build more humane and people centered systems of money. I have been involved in one small community currency experiment in Toronto – a city that is one of the shining places of hope in the world. The Toronto Dollar is a dream of connection, of cooperation, and of building community. It is a tool for citizens to demonstrate commitment to the well being of the least in our midst.
Through this engagement, I have learned that the abundant way is about the joy of friendship, and about the journey of trust. I share the conviction of those who believe that people and societies locked in cycles of addiction require faith in a higher power before we can be freed. Well-intentioned impulses alone are not enough to effect a transformation from dream to reality.
How do we today find the power that can yet transform our society and our suffering world? How do we break out of money’s grasp over our hearts and minds? How do we heed Mercy’s restraining voice that says, “Don’t kill?” How do we find the power to hold back the armaments of war? How, as Stephen Lewis asks, do we find the political will to halt the spread of aids in Africa? Is it, as Carol Delaney asks, that we need a new myth? Or do we need rather to see that the “passionate protection of the child” is in the old myth?
There are words of direction and challenge that rise up to us from out of the holocausts of the world. In the depths of Nagasaki, in the darkest night, a barely audible voice is saying, “Peace on earth. Goodwill to humankind.” From this distance of time and space, we can still see the Presence of Mercy made visible in Dr. Nagai’s hands – his hands in prayer, his hand holding his pen, his hand held high to the end, by a love so strong that nothing will ever extinguish it. Like Dr. Nagai, we have access to that power, we can discover the Presence of Mercy, alive and active within us even in the most unspeakable abominations. In the midst of our vast incomprehension, Mercy and Abundance together beckon us to a higher calling.
Following the holocaust in Europe, many people concluded that there was no all-powerful God ‘out there’ to rescue us. We were adrift in a universe abandoned by the divine. The feminist theologian, Rosemary Ruether says, “Each of us must discover the secret key to divine abandonment – that God has abandoned divine power into the human condition utterly and completely, so that we may not abandon each other.” What this tells me is that the power of the Transcendent One, the power of the Holy One is working within us, empowering us in the same way that Dr. Nagai was empowered.
In Abraham’s time, Mercy held back Abraham’s arms and turned his eyes away from murder. In our day, I believe that as we walk with our tiny steps of trust, as we entrust ourselves to the one God/Goddess of Mercy and Abundance, as we participate in the making of a peace without victims, She will rush to reveal Herself in more ways than we can begin to dream or imagine. She will effect the necessary transformations of our hearts and make the more-than-human power of mercy accessible to us. As we walk with our hearts open, we should expect to be surprised by Love’s actions within and among us, in whatever is to come in the days ahead.
Joy Kogawa, born in Vancouver, B.C. in 1935, is a writer living in Toronto. She is best known for her novel "Obasan." Her most recent book is a children's story, "Naomi's Tree." Her present work-in-progress is entitled, "Gently to Nagasaki." She is a Member of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia and has been awarded seven honorary doctorates and numerous prizes for her writing.
The Bells of Nagasaki, Dr. Takashi Nagai, Kodansha, 1984.
Summer games with nuclear bombs, Arundhati Roy, The Toronto Star, June 10, 2002.
Theology for the Third Millennium, An Ecumenical View, Hans Kung, Anchor Books, 1988.
Abraham on Trial, The Social Legacy of Biblical Myth, Carol Delaney, Princeton University Press, 1998.
The Okinawa Program, Bradley J. Willcox, D. Craig Willcox, Makoto Suzuki; Clarkson Potter, 2001.
Kuan Yin, Myths and Revelations of the Chinese Goddess of Compassion, Martin Palmer and Jay Ramsay with Man-Ho Kwok, Thorsons, 1995.
Pilgrimaging East, an interview with Fr. George Zabelka, by Charles McCarthy, 1984.
A Journey to Nagasaki, Nagasaki Testimonial Society.
The Rain Ascends, Joy Kogawa, Vintage Canada, 1996.
AntiSemitism and the Foundations of Christianity, edited by Alan T. Davies, Paulist Press, 1979.