During the early hours of Tuesday, Dec. 12, Tozen Union member Ryan Smith (aka Jon Doe) passed away. He was 37.
He is survived by his wife, his 1-year-old daughter and his mother.
From Athens, West Virginia, Ryan studied journalism at Concord University. He moved to Japan in 2008 and taught English to adults and children.
Ryan loved to talk politics and never missed a chance to declare his commitment to Marxist revolution and his pride in his rural, working-class roots. His YouTube channel has over 1,800 subscribers.
But he loved nothing as much as his tiny daughter. Since her birth, nearly every Facebook entry he posted included photos or video of her.
Just a random post on his account since his death gives an idea how loved and missed he is:
“As they lay you to rest this day I can only pray your restless soul is at peace. The impact your life had on so many cannot be ignored. May your wife find the strength to carry on your memory for your daughter. God speed, Ryan. I know the brightest star in tonight’s sky is you.”
But the best way to capture the man and his spirit is to quote something he wrote on the site two days before his death:
“I don’t believe in God, but I believe that humans have a special spark in them. I don’t believe humans have a soul, but I know there is a common feeling which binds all of humanity.
“I don’t believe in heaven or hell, but I know those who stomp on their fellow human beings have to hide from the rest of us to avoid being hung by a rope in the streets.
“I know right from wrong. I know it’s wrong the way capitalists treat working people. I don’t need a god or soul to understand that capitalists are bad people.”
Ryan Smith’s Jon Doe YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/user/freedomwv.
Hifumi Okunuki and Louis Carlet are members of the Tozen Union executive.
TELL offers counseling services in English and Japanese: www.telljp.com.