The Victory Day ‘confusement’

Historical amnesia spreads far and wide
By PHILLIPE AND JORGE  |  August 1, 2007

The late, great Professor Longhair used to describe a complicated situation as “the time when all the confusement comes in.” Every August, in Vo Dilun, we are the only one of 50 states to observe Victory Day, the anniversary of the day when the empire of Japan surrendered and World War II ended.
 
Because of the way that war ended (with the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki), the ensuing debate on the racial implications of bombing an Asian nation, the way in which we commemorate Veterans Day and Memorial Day as official holidays, and a few other minor elements (ain’t it nice to have a holiday in August!), your superior correspondents have always had mixed feelings about Victory Day.
 
For many years, our good friend Dr. Lloyd Matsumoto, a biology professor at Rhode Island College, has collected data and empirical evidence revealing that xenophobia and racism die hard and that there continue to be abusive incidents involving Asian-Americans on or about Victory Day.
 
A recent story in the New York Times gives another dimension to this and it continues to annoy P&J. This is the attitude of the Japanese government toward honestly confronting the past. It just hasn’t happened. On Tuesday, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expressed irritation at a resolution, passed by the US House of Representatives, calling on the Japanese government to “formally acknowledge and apologize” for its wartime coercion of women into sexual slavery.
 
But the government of Japan continues to have a problem acknowledging the past and telling it as it is. Japanese history books for school children are notoriously inaccurate. The usual way of people who do not want to acknowledge reality is to, as Abe pointed out a few days ago, “The 20th Century was an era in which human rights were violated. I would like to make the 21st Century into an era with no human rights violations.”
 
Redress of past violations is a necessary part of setting the conditions so that current conditions and efforts improve on the last century’s truly pathetic record. So, “Victory Day” continues to be a dubious holiday, in many respects. Still, P&J can’t get too worked up about trying to put an end to it as long as the Japanese government cannot bring itself to honestly acknowledge that country’s past.

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