Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Daily Roundup...

So we have a new Pope: All hail Benedict XVI. I studiously refrain from offering any extended commentary on a man about whom I know very little except for a few early news reports. It's too early to tell what his impact will be. But his selection signals a pretty clear lack of interest in broadening the appeal of the Church to an increasingly secularized and globalized world. Which perhaps is less blinkered than many liberals would suppose: broadening appeal at the expense of doctrinal integrity can ultimately lead to implosion. Still, it's a fine line between the doctrinal and the doctrinaire, and it remains to be seen whether John Paul's successor will carry on his tradition or constrict it still further. I hope not the latter, if the Church is to have any continued relevance in addressing the world's ills.

In other news, the Chinese government shows signs that it's finally calling a halt to the anti-Japanese protests:

I suppose it was time...the protests were getting ugly, and I don't doubt the police were being deliberately lax in restraining the violence. Which I do not condone. But I do understand it, on some level. Unless you are of Chinese or Korean descent, you can't possibly fathom the depth of resentment against Japan that lurks in the cultural consciousness of both nations, and that takes very little to ignite. It's not helped by the reactionary attitudes entrenched in the current Japanese government. Whatever its public, official admissions (and even they have been woefully inadequate), the fact remains that Japan has continued to downplay, avoid, and even outrightly reject any true accountability for the atrocities it committed in the years leading up to and during WWII. The most recent round of whitewashed history textbooks are the symptom, not the disease. But they are a pretty bad symptom. Can you imagine German history textbooks referring to the Holocaust as a "controversial incident"? How about German officials who publicly visit Hitler's grave? If you think the comparison between Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany is overstated, think again:

Add to that the fact that in its pre-WWII occupation of Korea, Japan essentially sought to wipe out every vestige of an independent Korean language and cultural identity. Talk about ethnic cleansing. And let's not even get started on the comfort women.

This is not to deny that as many Japanese were innocent victims, rather than perpetrators, of coldblooded atrocities during WWII. Two words: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. One could further argue that there has been no recognition or acknowledgment that these were crimes against humanity. (Yes, I realize I'm in a minority on this.)

But at least no one denies that they happened, or the magnitude of their impact. The worst of Japan's continued resistance to accountability is that generations of Japanese grow up not knowing, and therefore not understanding, the source of all this anti-Japanese sentiment - which just exacerbates the tensions. If those who do not learn *from* history are condemned to repeat it - well, for goodness sake, what do you expect of those who don't learn history in the first place?


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