Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Japan must address her misogynistic ways.

I’m proud that the US government is finally getting on Japan for denying apologies and reparations to women (primarily South Korean) who were used as sex slaves (I am not going to use the preferred term of “comfort women” because it takes away from the brevity of the situation and lets the Japanese off easy) by the Japanese military while on its Asia romp during World War II.

The fact that Congress is close to adopting a resolution on the matter that will pressure Japan is very significant. This proves that the government believes in human rights and doing right—and that it will chastise even its closest ally if necessary.

Shinzo Abe said that the Japanese government would not apologize under him. This is uncalled for, but it is not unexpected. Abe is a strong nationalist who will undoubtedly visit Yasukuni Shrine, which is a memorial to the war criminals in Japan. This is a sore point for China: China’s government has said that the Japanese people and the Emperor are not to blame for what happened in China during World War II at the hands of Japan. But, when prime ministers visit the shrine, they are celebrating primarily the Japanese officers found guilty of war crimes in front of international tribunals.

Most Japanese people are calling for Japan to apologize, and it is unfathomable that the country would refuse to do so. Japan—South Korea relations are improving (thanks to—no joke—South Korean soap operas, among other things) and with China and North Korea already making East Asia unstable, why would the Japanese government try to drive a wedge between the only other major American ally in the region?

What Abe’s government is doing is sick and wrong, and America is doing the right thing by taking a stand against Japan’s actions. After it pushes the Japanese into expressing apologies, condolences and paying reparations, though, it needs to look at itself as well.

HR 662 deported Latin-American citizens of Japanese descent to Axis countries during World War II. This is an occurrence hardly documented and never taught. While the American incarceration of its own citizens during World War II was wrong, this is even less talked about and even more frustrating.

I am not trying to piggyback issues here at all. What Japan did to most of Asia after being opened up to trade in the 1700s has been mostly wrong. Asia served as Japan’s experiment in imperialism, and Japan’s current government needs to redress these wrongs—especially the “comfort women” issue, which dehumanized women and made many choose against marrying because they wanted to keep their bodies in the exact state that they were in so that they could be “living proof of the evil that was committed against them by the Japanese government.”

Abe said today that no one could be sure that these women were forced to be sex slaves. This is a slap in the face, and anyone that claims to care about humanity and human rights should be appalled.

The US government is rightfully going after Japan for this. It’s time that our allies stopped getting free passes. But, it’s hard to throw stones when one lives in a glass house. We can’t talk about free governments when one of our biggest allies is Pervez Musharraf, who is going to suspend democracy in Iraq. The US government is in no place to talk about wrongdoings when it imprisoned its own citizens without due justice, experimented on black men with syphilis and sterilized mentally-challenged men without ever properly addressing these issues. Houses appear to be in order when everything is swept under the rug, but really, the dirt just compounds until the situation is out of hand--in this respect, both the United States and Japan are in the same boat.

But, first things first: Washington must go after Abe and Co. expediently. The “comfort women” must be apologized to and must be paid reparations. Japan also needs to be held accountable for Unit 731, which Japan continues to gloss over.

Then, though, the US government has a lot of explaining to do, including why it sprayed biological weapons over Hawaii in the 1960s. Even though it may sound naïve, we have a lot of questions to ask our government, and they definitely owe us quite a few explanations.