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The version of patriotism Misao Nakaya suggests in his March 7 letter, “Teach patriotism at school,” seems to be the old-fashioned kind related to blind acceptance of authority and self-sacrifice. This kind of selfless patriotism is clearly not politically neutral and hardly represents a true feeling of love for one’s own country. Rather it is a product of the rightist rhetoric of belonging and heroism.

The times are gone when one could find it natural to simply “belong” and thereby entrust his/her fate to authority with the assumption that his/her interests would be taken care of in the best possible way. The very facts of World War II should be enough to prove that authority either cannot make, or has no interest in always making, the best decisions for everyone. Thus the recent government’s plan to use school time and facilities for what amounts to political indoctrination is quite scary.

Teachers who have refused to sing the national anthem “Kimigayo,” on the other hand, have taken a little step toward preventing the rhetoric of belonging from being unconditionally imposed on pupils. It is my opinion that, rather than indoctrination, children need to be helped to think and make decisions independently — only so they can grow into fully responsible subjects who, among other things, will be able to come to terms with and accept their country’s past — rather than just ignore or deny it. True love of one’s country starts with full awareness that citizens are in charge of their feelings and opinions. Without these freedoms, there can only be more or less unwilling obedience or fanaticism, depending on the degree to which one believes in the accepted doctrine.

paolo milano

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