Letters to the Editor,
The Daily Yomiuri,
Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8055
When I read in the paper that the National Diet was preparing to once again take up the issue of granting suffrage for local elections to foreign permanent residents of Japan I felt optimistic that maybe for once something progressive and positive could be achieved. The editorial "Suffrage for foreigners insufferable nonsense" (November 17, 2004) does no diminish my optimism. But it was entertaining to witness the same old rhetoric dragged out of the editor's polemical closet once again. The fact that the word "absurd" was used twice in the article does not emphasize the point so much as it makes the writer sound like a tired, broken record, or dumb parrot. But I understand that Japanese rhetorical technique is to chose a minimum number of points and then repeat them ad nauseum without expansion or logical progression towards a concluding principle. The duality logic is alien to Japanese cultural heritage.
Attacking the argument in favor of permanent foreign residents' suffrage - that suffrage not being specifically prohibited by the Constitution is a deliberate evasion of other "legal principles" established by the courts - is a backward approach to things. In fact, the editorial does not broach the main argument in favor of granting suffrage - that is, the money. It's about money, and democratic accountability.
Because I pay my taxes in this country, it means that everyone who draws a public salary is my employee and I am their employer. Every public school teacher, policeman, fireman, public librarian, doctor and nurse. Even the Prime Minister is my employee. So is the Emperor. I support them. It is only right and fitting, therefore, that because they take my money they also take upon themselves a burden of responsibility to me that they can expunge, in a democracy, through the ballot box. It's only reasonable.
Arguing about the serious repercussions posed by foreign suffrage for "the foundations of the state" do not impress me because the state is such an arbitrary thing. It is a human invention, and not beyond reinvention. I expect that anyone reasonably familiar with modern Japanese history ought to know this well enough. But then, familiarity with their own history is not a Japanese forte, while obfuscation is.
I am a foreign permanent resident of Japan. Because I am not a citizen I regret that under Japanese law I am not even recognized and protected as a human person. Indeed, the wayward Arctic seal Goma chan was granted more consideration under the law than foreign residents here when it was granted residency status in Yokohamawithout a guarantor. A culture that harbors values like Japan's culture does not deserve to be looked on as a leader in the world.