Readers in Council,
The Japan Times,
5-4 Shibaura 4-chome,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023
Yoshito Hayashi is at it again! His June 1 letter “Keep quiet on comfort women” and his Oct. 15 letter “Teach our kids to love Japan” reveal his consistent thinking. In June he advocated deceiving and lying to youngsters about the truth of heir country as part of the official curriculum, and now it’s instructed patriotism.
I hope that people are sophisticated enough these days to immediately see the error of notions like it being right and fitting to die for one’s country in the guise of “love of country,” and to be stubbornly suspicious of those who bruit about“patriotism.” The patriotism that counts is not the patriotism that the pedagogues deliver with political dispensation, so much as it is the love of country that sovereign individuals achieve and define for themselves, in full knowledge of the reality of their country. As we learned in June, Hayashi is all in favor of obfuscating the reality of his country. What kind of patriotism can that inspire? A fool’s patriotism, it seems to me.
Unfortunately, Japanese often bear a reputation in the global community as being somewhat morally obtuse. Widespread failure to acknowledge the truth of their history and to liveresponsibly with the consequences of that history is frequently behind this, but ideas such as Hayashi’s proposal certainly do not help.
In the letters that may follow Hayashi’s latest letter it will be interesting to see in what directions readers pursue themes like patriotism, education, school curriculum, etc., as they pertain to Japan today, but I certainly hope that abominable suggestions will not win popular support.
Published on Sunday, October 19, 1997 as “Lies can’t foster genuine patriotism.”
The Comfort Women issue is another example of whitewashing history, and keeping quiet about it is plain dishonesty. If it is factually wrong - which it is not - that fact is less important to the Japanese, I think, than the fact that it is a socially uncomfortable topic. Even after the government of Japan was forced by documented evidence to concede the existence of forced sex workers at wartime military brothels, hardliners continued to present Comfort Women as professional prostitutes contracted and paid for their work.
Why should the Comfort Women issue come out now, so long after the war? I imagine it is because the women are aging and dying off quickly and they want closure before they die. For its part, the Japanese government also knows that the women are dying off and their strategy is a common and predictable one - procrastinate until the witnesses are all dead and the matter dies with them.
Keeping quiet about issues and not teaching students about them will only add to the unfortunate situation of mainland Asians continuing to be angry at Japan for the wartime history, but the Japanese public increasingly mystified as to why.