Arguing point on ‘massacre’ hurts Japan

Recently no day seems to pass without our having to put up with double talk from a Japanese leader or a director of NHK (the national broadcaster). It wasn’t even a year ago that then Tokyo Gov. Naoki Inose made a spectacle of himself because of his comments in a New York Times article [suggesting that Istanbul would be an undesirable site for the 2020 Olympics].

Last week it was Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga’s turn. He condemned The New York Times’ March 2 editorial (“Mr. Abe’s Dangerous Revisionism”) for stating that nationalists of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s ilk “still claim that the Nanjing massacre by Japanese troops in 1937 never happened.”

Suga seems to be in an endless conflict over the semantic definition of “massacre,” which is the wanton or savage killing of a large number of people in battle. True, the number of Nanjing victims could be in contention, given the city’s population at the time, but consider this: On Dec. 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek, now a U.S. national historic landmark in South Dakota, some 290 Lakota men, women and children were killed by the U.S. Seventh Cavalry Regiment. Although at least 20 soldiers went on to receive the Medal of Honor for “heroism,” historians in the 20th century deemed the killings a “massacre,” and in recent years, Native American activists have called on the U.S. government to rescind the award of the medals because of the evidence that the troopers demonstrated cruelty.

Atoning for the dead should not be a shameful act but rather a patriotic one that strengthens the foundation of a democracy.

Abe and his company — servants of a group rather than the whole community — will have a tough time refuting the authenticity of every article in a New York daily with which they disagree. And the more they spill their beans, the more the global interests of all of Japan suffer.

I propose that the Japanese media stop attaching the subjective term “patriot” to Abe and his company, although euphemism is rampant in Japan these days in the face of a the ¥1,000-plus trillion public debt. Japan’s international reputation is really at stake.

We cannot let a Japanese leader destroy our commonwealth again.

fumio sakuragi
tokyo

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.