Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
This is about yet more evidence of the popular confusion of real life with entertainment. The page 2 article "Nakayama: Teachers should instill respect for flag, anthem," (March 6) quotes Education Minister Nariaki Nakayama saying, "If children are not taught to pledge allegiance to the national flag and anthem, they will feel ashamed and ridiculed when they go abroad." I think what Mr. Nakayama meant to say was "pay respect to the national flag and anthem," not "pledge allegiance" to them. Aside from the obvious disconnection
between feeling shame and pledging allegiance to a piece of colored cloth, Nakayama seems to be ignorant of the fact that Japan has no such pledge like the Americans have. Of course, when this is pointed out to the conservative government, the National Diet can quickly rectify that situation by writing one and stuffing down every student's gullet. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara would probably jump at such an opportunity.
I feel that the Education Minister probably learned the idea of a pledge of allegiance by watching too much American entertainment. So, not only is pledging allegiance a learned behavior within a culture (like America's) but it is now jumping cultures, and I would not be surprised if Hollywood, with its great jumble of fact and fantasy, is catalyzing it.
What comes next? Will Mr. Nakayama start holding his right hand over his left breast while Kimigayo plays, and then move to have/force others to do the same?
The very idea of a pledge of allegiance is an odious one, and even within America its application is not without problems. Proponents will say that the pledge is not to the flag itself so much as to the principles it represents, to honor fellow countrymen who gave their blood and lives for those principles so that I/we might enjoy the freedoms and rights we do today, and why am I not with the program?, etc. That is all great talk, but it is only talk.
I understand the motive in the Japanese establishment for promoting patriotism, although I disagree with it. The patriotism that counts is the love of country that survives knowledge of a nation's dirt, not the homogenized, souped-up nationalism of an ideologically-driven school curriculum. Forced patriotism is less reliable, less honorable, and less valuable than the real thing. But since Japanese culture cares more for cosmetic appearance than for real substance I can see how this difference is ignored.
Published on Sunday, March 13, 2005 as “Pledge of allegiance problematic.”