Nan­jing Mas­sacre needs to be widely known, stud­ied

Toronto Star - - INSIGHT - JOY KOGAWA

As a per­son of Ja­panese an­ces­try born in Canada, I have a love for both Canada and Ja­pan. But in my child­hood dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, in the in­tern­ment cen­tre of Slo­can City, B.C., I learned of Ja­pan’s atrocities through news­reels at the Odd Fel­low’s Hall on Saturday nights. To­day, along with my pride in Ja­pan’s many won­der­ful qual­i­ties, I still feel the weight of Ja­pan’s mil­i­tary his­tory and the needs of the vic­tims and their fam­i­lies through­out Asia who con­tinue to suf­fer be­cause of it. I long for heal­ing for those who carry the harm and peace for those who carry the shame down through the gen­er­a­tions. As we ac­knowl­edge our mu­tual vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties, I be­lieve we can over­come the fears and the rage that sep­a­rate us.

While writ­ing Gen­tly to Na­gasaki I fell into the Rape of Nank­ing in 1937 and was trapped there by un­speak­able im­ages. Over a pe­riod of weeks, the Im­pe­rial Ja­panese Army mur­dered un­counted num­bers of sol­diers and civil­ians while over­tak­ing the Chi­nese city of Nank­ing. It mat­ters that pornogra­phies of wars that leer our way from the past be cat­a­logued as we face the ap­petite for war that sali­vates to­day in a world be­yond sabers and bay­o­nets.

Here are 10 rea­sons that I join with Asian Cana­di­ans in sup­port of Bill 79, “An Act to pro­claim the Nan­jing Mas­sacre Com­mem­o­ra­tive Day.”

1. Large-scale acts of vi­o­lence in his­tory need to be widely known and stud­ied so that they are not re­peated. Whereas the Holo­caust in Europe is taught and re­mem­bered, the same can­not be said for wide-scale atrocities in Asia’s his­tory.

2. In an age of in­creas­ing xeno­pho­bia, fake news and his­tor­i­cal re­vi­sion­ism, when even the vic­tims of the Holo­caust can once more be openly mocked, ac­tions such as the pass­ing of Bill 79 as­sume a new ur­gency to re­mind us that our hu­man­ity de­pends on rec­og­niz­ing our ca­pac­ity for bar­bar­ity.

3. As a Ja­panese Cana­dian, I stand with the Asian Cana­dian com­mu­ni­ties who stood in sol­i­dar­ity with us dur­ing our long strug­gle for Ja­panese Cana­dian re­dress. Our sup­port for them en­cour­ages a con- tin­u­ing re­la­tion­ship of good­will. Lack of sup­port and op­po­si­tion con­sti­tute a be­trayal that por­tends di­vi­sive­ness among us and an­tag­o­nism to­ward Ja­panese Cana­di­ans.

4. On­tario is known for its var­ied mul­ti­cul­tural pop­u­la­tion and is a model of ci­vil­ity for which our coun­try is cel­e­brated. Pass­ing Bill 79 lends fur­ther stature and a moral di­rec­tion for a world in tur­moil and hun­gry for hope.

5. Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion can­not hap­pen with­out ac­knowl­edge­ment of truth. Bill 79 will as­sist rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts by ac­knowl­edg­ing the his­tor­i­cal truth of the mas­sacre at Nank­ing. By tak­ing this step, On­tario stands clearly with the world’s his­to­ri­ans rather than with re­vi­sion­ists, equiv­o­ca­tors and de­niers of his­tory.

6. Iden­ti­fy­ing with those who suf­fer and hear­ing the truth of their sto­ries helps to al­le­vi­ate their suf­fer­ing. Deny­ing or at­tempt­ing to di­min­ish their pain pro­longs and adds to the wrong.

7. Bill 79 will serve to re­mind us that in­no­cent Ja­panese Cana­di­ans suf­fered as scape­goats for Ja­pan’s cul­pa­bil­ity. It will serve as an ed­u­ca­tional tool to make soci- ety aware of scape­goats in our day.

8. The pass­ing of Bill 79 sends a mes­sage of en­cour­age­ment to the coura­geous ed­u­ca­tors in Ja­pan in their strug­gle for truth in his­tory. The young peo­ple of Ja­pan de­serve to learn their his­tory at home rather than fac­ing the shock of learn­ing it abroad.

9. On Sept. 22, 1988, four decades af­ter the Sec­ond World War, the Cana­dian govern­ment’s full par­lia­men­tary ac­knowl­edge­ment of the harm done to in­no­cent Ja­panese Cana­di­ans is a tri­umph of truth and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. In a time of in­ter­na­tional ten­sion in Asia, the pass­ing of Bill 79 will be an ac­tion of sol­i­dar­ity and hope for truth, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion, peace and pros­per­ity in Asia.

10. As a Ja­panese Cana­dian, I long for Ja­pan to be counted among the coun­tries of the world that demon­strate high moral lead­er­ship. It is my hope that pass­ing Bill 79 will act as a spur in that di­rec­tion.

Joy Kogawa lives in Toronto and Van­cou­ver. Her lat­est work from Caitlin Press is Gen­tly to Na­gasaki.

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