Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4, Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
It seems probable that when LDP Secretary-General Shigeru Ishiba says "we have to consider the interest of Japanese taxpayers across the country" in “Foreign voting debate rekindled as Abe tries to attract labor,” (August 21) his intention is to divide Japanese from non-Japanese by using citizenship as a wedge: separate Japanese citizen taxpayers from non-citizen taxpayers - people like me - in the belief that my interests are separate from or at least different from Japanese citizens' interests. But that's not the case. When I consider the word "Japanese" as an adjective describing place rather than a noun describing identity I easily consider myself a Japanese taxpayer. I live here. I pay taxes here. I've spent half my life in this country. I will die here. Therefore Japan is my country and I am a Japanese taxpayer whose interests easily synchronize with those of (most) citizen residents. Giving the vote to tax-paying permanent residents like me will not promote a subversive fifth column in society that empowers foreign interests here while simultaneously undermining Japanese sovereignty. That’s unduly paranoid. “The fear that foreigners could vote against the Japanese interest” is a fear that will immediately melt in the light of intelligent reason because my interests are the same as Japanese citizens’ interests, and clear thinking should make that obvious. But, sadly, I do not expect clear thinking or intelligent reason from those in whose hands the matter rests.
On another note, I must ask if it is inappropriate for me to be able to have a voice in the disposition of my tax yen at the hands of public servants - like the Prime Minister - who are, in effect, my employees, even though I am not a citizen. Imagine the state as a corporation and all taxpayers as shareholders. Giving us seats and a voice at the shareholders meeting will probably turn out to be a surprisingly smart move.
Incidentally, I cannot vote in any country in the world. I’ve heard about democracy all my life but I’ve never experienced it. I’m not a citizen here, so I can’t vote in Japan. I’ve lived abroad so long that I’ve lost the right to vote in my home country, Canada. And through timing and circumstances I never voted there anyway. Now I’m middle aged and I’m still waiting to vote. America likes to attack and invade everywhere and everyone, claiming after the fact that no matter how badly it went wrong it was nevertheless a virtuous and well-intentioned plan for democratization. Maybe we should petition the U.S. President to rescue us.
Published on Sunday, August 31, 2014 as “No leverage over public servants.”
This is the second of two versions of this letter that I sent to the paper. The paper printed my initial online comment rather than this letter which I wrote after and E-mailed and faxed. It is slightly longer but a better written letter and I prefer it to the original, the one that was published. One outstanding problem with the printed letter is the last line “Oh, well, enfranchisement will help give us leverage,” which I deleted from the longer version. That’s because it sounds bad. I should not have used the word “leverage” because that is exactly what conservatives keen on denying foreign permanent residents the vote fear. Leverage for us translates into compromised sovereignty for them, and my use of the word might be taken as confirmation of their xenophobia. But, as I wrote, I don’t agree with that because the “compromised sovereignty” argument is predicated on the notion that my interests are different from citizens’ interests, which is a false premise. My interests are largely the same as Japanese citizens’ interests. I hoped the paper would see the difference and publish the better letter, but …