Since Donald Trump’s election in November, Americans in Japan have marched in the streets, protested near the U.S. Embassy and given speeches in various public spaces. Some may wonder why non-Japanese nationals demonstrate in Japan against policy made 10,000 kilometers away.
While I do not speak for everyone, many believe there is civic value in taking a public position on important issues, and that our responsibilities as American citizens do not end when we board a plane. We are still called upon to vote, contact elected officials, make donations and, yes, march, protest and rally. We march because we are citizens, but also to become better citizens. Such gatherings create momentum for people to influence decision-makers through letter writing, phone calls and other advocacy.
As a Jew whose immigrant grandparents saw much of our family murdered in Nazi concentration camps, I understand the danger of demagogues. But do we need to personally suffer from acts of injustice to feel another person’s pain? To be outraged? To stand up against bullies? Many with far more to risk have taken a public stand, so I feel a moral obligation, especially as a person of privilege, to stand with them and on behalf of all those too vulnerable to raise their voices in speaking truth to power.
Some march to stand with the U.S. citizen who was shot and told “Go back to your own country” for having a beard and turban, the hardworking mother torn from her family by immigration agents, the Muslim-Americans detained at airports without access to lawyers, or marginalized communities (including people of color, LGBTQ people, women, people with disabilities and immigrants) that are often denied equal treatment and opportunities in America. Others protest the rejection of science in the midst of climate change, a war on facts and the free press, foreign policy that sidelines career professionals, or attempts to gut regulatory agencies, health care and social safety-net programs. Individuals rally so the Japanese public is aware that many people hold a different vision for the future of America from what the Trump agenda seeks to create.
Ironically, efforts by those in power to demonize “the other” have resulted in diverse communities uniting. In Tokyo, people have joined together from different faiths, nations, economic means and cultures to engage in dialogue, strengthen bonds and promote policies rooted in facts, empathy and justice.
On April 15 we will gather again in Tokyo to peacefully protest in solidarity with over 150 sister marches worldwide to demand the release of Trump’s complete tax returns since 2005, whether voluntarily or through an act of Congress. After the election, his advisers stated that Americans do not care about President Trump’s campaign promise to release his tax returns, even though such disclosure is supported by two-thirds of Americans and has been undertaken by every U.S. president since 1976. We care.
We care about transparency, security and accountability. Tax returns are more than pieces of paper. They are windows into Trump’s unparalleled business conflicts that call into question motivations for decisions that may put people’s safety (especially in Japan) at risk, including ones pertaining to China (where Trump was granted long-sought trademarks after changing his stance on Taiwan), Russia (where President Trump’s ties continue to emerge) and the Middle East (where the president’s travel ban targeted majority-Muslim nations, except where he has business interests).
We care about the growing wealth gap in America and the plundering of regulatory agencies in favor of massive tax breaks for the wealthy. Tax returns can show how the president and his billionaire Cabinet members may benefit from such policies. No tax-related legislation should be debated until Trump’s complete tax returns are released.
We also care that Congress fulfills its duty to act as a check on presidential power. Every member of Congress should support the Presidential Tax Transparency Act, which would require Mr. Trump and all future presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns.
So we march again. Please join us.
Jesse Glickstein is an American attorney living in Japan. Sarajean Rossitto, Ric Fouad, Jenise Treuting and Rabbi David Kunin — key organizers in ongoing advocacy efforts in Tokyo — contributed to this column (as did others who wish to remain anonymous). For more information about the April 15 March for Transparency, Security and Accountability, visit www.facebook.com/events/279687809130062. The official Tax March website is www.taxmarch.org. Foreign Agenda is a forum for opinion on issues related to life in Japan.
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