As the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II approaches, questions related to Japan’s wartime actions once again come to the fore. For example, will Prime Minister Shinzo Abe make an offering to Yasukuni Shrine on Aug. 15, as he did a year ago? Will he admit Japan was an “aggressor nation” in his much-anticipated address to mark the occasion of Japan’s defeat?I do not read Brian's article entirely as an indictment of those balky Japanese leaders who refuse to admit to an imperialistic past. Yes, that finger can be pointed.
The annual fuss about what will and won’t be said and who will and won’t visit Yasukuni always begs the question: Why can’t Japan do what Germany did, i.e., admit it was wrong and that it did some horrible things, and make a sincere apology that isn’t almost immediately contradicted by other Japanese leaders? [Click link above for complete essay]
But in a wider sense, what nation that sent its young people into battle can ever be free of the stigma of creating and sustaining a valorous past that tries to excuse the wracking sorrow and loss of those who actually participated? To have "given their last full measure" is not just a mantram of winners and losers. It is the mantram of those who shaped and made possible the conflicts that claimed so many. It is a way to deflect attention from their own limping and self-serving rhetoric. The subtext is, "if those who died in battle died valorously, then I too, as a policy-maker, am off the hook and in some sense valorous."
And this is as disgusting as it is untrue. To walk proudly across the bodies of the men and women who fell valorously in battle ... it may not be unusual, but that doesn't make it any more palatable.