Since my return from Japan I’ve been reading a book called “The Japan We Never Knew: A Voyage of Discovery“ by David Suzuki and Keibo Oiwa. The book basically takes an anthropological look into the people of Japan. One passage I read really hit home.
When referring to Japanese civilians committing mass suicide when trapped in cave rather than surrender to Americans during WWII:
“Those children did not take part in the decision, so I say it was not just a mass suicide but a mass murder. Why would mothers go against their every instinct and kill their own children? They preferred to kill the creatures they loved the best rather than let them be captured by the enemy. That’s what they were taught. Their humanity was transformed by their education. (p. 27 emphasis added)
Those words echo in my head:
“That’s what they were taught. Their humanity was transformed by their education.”
The very propaganda that taught them to believe that the enemy was pure evil, would torture them upon surrender, that it was better to kill themselves than be captured – ended in the loss of their own humanity and life. An illogical education resulted in a tragedy.
The story goes on to talk about an identical situation happening in another part of Japan; however, in the cave were two Japanese men who had lived in Hawaii for several years. Having an understanding of American culture they did surrender and of course no one was tortured – they all lived to tell the story.
So is the enemy as evil as we make them out to be?
It makes me question our own American education. Doesn’t the media promote the same illogical beliefs in our “enemy”. We see all enemies as terrorist. Suicide bombers and torturers. Time and time again I hear aquantances joke about seeing a middle eastern man on a plane and questioning if he is planning a hi-jacking. This is insane racism and propaganda propetuated by our own political machine. Isn’t it?
Propaganda prevailed in Japan. Are we any different? We see the same images of “terrorist” torturing and decapitating innocent civilians – but is that a true cross-section of those who oppose us? Can we really label everyone who opposes America a terrorist, a murder, a religious zealot hell bent on the destruction of a Christian nation – or is there something more complex, more logical?
I do not know, but I do think it is important to take a lesson from the past and view EVERYONE as a person, not a machine of evil and destruction – no matter what our Government, our neighbors, or the media tries to push down out throat. It’s all to easy to convince ourselves that WE would never fall for those same old tricks, that WE’RE too smart for that, but we aren’t.
We have to keep our humanity. Now more than ever.