Nanjing Massacre needs to be widely known, studied
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.