Japan is not the victim; the Japanese people are.
Recently, an article on the New York Times informed me of an invite from the Japanese government to president Obama, an invite for him to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, the site of the infamous nuclear bombing of World War II. While the president does not seem to be interested in being the first US president to visit the memorial, he did send Mr. John Kerry, the secretary of state, to visit and say some words.
Mr. Kerry gave the kind of speech that everyone would have seen coming, one about eradicating the use of nuclear weapons and creating peace in the world. The speech was great, and I agreed wholeheartedly with what the speech was trying to accomplish.
Still, sometimes, when thinking about the so-called “Peace Memorial” in Hiroshima, I can’t help but think about my grandparents, who were born in Korea, then under Japanese rule, and the horror stories I hear about how the Japanese treated us, along with other people they were at war with, namely the Chinese. The Japanese forced unwilling Koreans to change their names from Korean to Japanese, they denied us our right to speak our language, and they forcefully conscripted our men into the army where they would be discriminated against for being Japanese, beaten, shot at, and sometimes even experimented on. As for our women, they were conscripted as well, not into the army, but rather into a group of “comfort women”, an unforgivable euphemism for sex slaves. Comfort my a**.
I’m getting emotional here. Sorry. I could go on for hours about the Japanese atrocities that took place here in Korea, but then again I wouldn’t be able to make the point I want to today.
The problem I see with the so-called “peace memorial” is that it give Japan, a country that started the war against America and it allies on its own volition, an excuse to say, “We were damaged as well, we’re not the bad guys here.” I agree with that statement to some degree, mostly because I know that it was not the common Japanese citizen’s fault that the country went into war, and that the people who died from the nuclear blast in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were probably just people who didn’t even know about the atrocities being committed by their government. And if the citizens individually come up to me and say that they were victims in their own right, I would believe them, because they were. They were forcefully conscripted too, (although there were little to know Japanese sex slaves that were conscripted.) they weren’t allowed speech against the actions of the government, and many Japanese were arrested for “subversion” when they spoke about the horrors of war. The Japanese people were brainwashed, and I accept that.
The quarrel I have is not with the Japanese people themselves, but with the government that represents them. The Japanese government, when they teach the children of their nation about the nuclear bombings of their country, fail to mention their own atrocities during World War II, the mistakes they have made, and how war was horrible for the Americans, just as it was for the Japanese. The Japanese army “advanced into” Nanking, as opposed to “massacred and raped the populace”, and Pearl Harbor was simply a tactical mistake committed by the government at the time. The bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, on the other hand, are mentioned as “devastation that must not be repeated”, and something that “teaches us that war is horrible”. There’s something missing in that statement, the statement on who started the war to begin with.
I’m not saying that the use of nuclear weapons is justified in any way. I actually believe that America should have looked at other routes to peace, something other than the death of tens of thousands of (mostly) innocent people. But even then, there is something clearly wrong about an invading country trying to teach the invaded about the “values of peace”. The Japanese government needs to accept the fact that they would not have been bombed, had they not embarked on a path of their own demise, a path that killed millions of innocent people, Japanese and non-Japanese alike. I feel sympathy for the dead, the Japanese people, but Japan is not in a position to invite president Obama and give him a lesson on “making a peaceful world”.