This will be my most controversial post yet, perhaps the most controversial one I shall write this summer. It’ll cause a bit of criticism, perhaps some praise. There will be friends who will never view me the same again and there will be people I don’t know who’ll blast me for this.
I started this post on June 7, more than a month ago, and have since came back once to try to finish it. Crazy schedules, sickness and a whirlwind of other things have delayed this, but now I’m ready to finish.
When I began writing this, I was in the middle of watching “Ip Man.” I started watching it because it was a highly-rated movie on this site I use to watch movies (yes, criticize me all you want, but it’s faster and cheaper than Netflix.) [Turns out it’s one of the sites the government has just shut down in its appeasement of the movie industry.]
It’s about Ip Man (or rather, Ye Wen), a martial artist, the one who taught Bruce Lee all he knows, but moreover, about how he uses his skills to defend his city and country during the war, not only physically but their honor. And this got me thinking.
During the occupation the Japanese killed so many Chinese people. It wasn’t just about fighting a war. They killed people left and right for the fun of killing. Not to speak of the Rape of Nanking. Were you even humans? Yes, rape has always been used as a weapon in warfare, but what you did was beyond simple rape. You tortured. You made sons rape their mothers, fathers rape their daughters. I ask again, were you even humans?
I’m not writing this in the heat of the moment. Yes, the emotions stirred up from the movie and the fact that I had free time when I began this most definitely ignited the urge to write this post. But this is an issue I’ve thought about and researched before and after all, it’s been more than a month.
In one of my journalism classes freshman year we read a story about a Japanese American/Chinese American couple whose parents couldn’t understand their union. The couple couldn’t understand why their parents were still stuck in the memories of Japanese-Chinese relations of the war years. But I understand. Anyone, born in China or elsewhere, raised in China or elsewhere, any Chinese person who has an inkling of their culture and history understands. How can you not?
What must be understood is that this is not a condemnation of the Japanese people. I have friends who are Japanese. I don’t look at them any differently than my white friends, my Chinese friends, or any of my other friends of other races and ethnicities. This is simply a request for the Japanese government to apologize and compensate for the wrongs they committed. When a person refuses to admit and apology for a mistake, we look down on them. We say they should just admit it instead of making up excuses. Why shouldn’t the same principle apply to countries?
Yes, there have apologies from individual Japanese prime ministers and assemblies, but never has the Japanese government officially apologized for the forced laborers, the comfort women, the tortured prisoners, and all the other victims of their atrocities. Nor have victims or their heirs received reparations for their suffering.
Japanese nationalists have been the backbone of this resistance. They’ve rewritten history textbooks to downplay or exclude their crimes against humanity. They’ve fought against resolutions proposed by more progressive Japanese politicians, ones that aimed at apology.
It is not an issue of patriotism or pride. It is a problem of responsibility. The U.S. apologized and compensated WWII-interned Japanese Americans. West German Chancellor Willy Brandt fell on his knees in a silent request for forgiveness during a visit to a Warsaw ghetto. The German government has made billions in reparations to Holocaust victims. Why can’t the Japanese government formally repent?
Please don’t tell me you’re not responsible simply because Japan’s government nowadays is not exactly the same government as during the war. In fact, it’s closer than the West German government was to the Nazi government when Brandt was in office in 1970.
To the Western governments, I ask also, why are you not pressuring the Japanese government to apologize? There was pressure for the German government to apologize for the Nazi killings. There were the Nuremberg trials. Are Asians less of a people? Are we not worthy of your humanistic efforts? Yes, there have been calls from the Dutch, from individual U.S. states and others for Japanese apology, but nothing solid. In the U.S., California Representative Mike Honda, himself a Japanese American who was interned in camps as a child, has helped pass a House Resolution asking the Japanese to apologize for the sufferings of comfort women (in his earlier career he also introduced this broader resolution). But the U.S. government has yet to issue an official request.
And this is not an apology-for-apology situation. Yes, the Chinese government, much like the governments of many other countries, also has much to apologize for, both to its own people and to others. But humanity is not a business transaction. It’s not yours for mine.
This is no longer just a request for an apology for the Chinese people. This is a request for an apology to all the Asiatic peoples the Japanese hurt, terrorized, tortured, enslaved, maimed, you name it, during their expansionary period.
Apologize now. That’s all we’re asking. Apologize now before the last of the survivors pass away.
Agree with what I said? Disagree? Want to offer another opinion? Let me know. If you don’t want it to be public, send me a private message instead. Post a comment otherwise, here, on Facebook or via Twitter (@sunburstkisses). [I’ve since swapped handles, now at @Rowena_Li.]
EDIT July 11, 2010: I guess it’s not that controversial after all. When I first began this post (that is, when I wrote those first few sentences), this was bound to be way more controversial. But after backing it with more facts, I suppose it’s more of an argument than a controversial assertion. I guess the part of me that’s been trained in backing everything with facts just couldn’t let this be a scathing attack.