At the start of the Western World’s New Year, artivists quietly put up a statue of a barefoot young girl sitting in a chair with a second, empty chair next to her. This display was erected in front of the Japanese consulate in Busan, South Korea. The girl, depicted as sitting placidly, has begun a diplomatic row between Japan and South Korea. She is a memorial to the Comfort Girls of World War Two, a reminder of Japan’s history of atrocities they’d rather not discuss.
During that conflict, Japan kidnapped between 50,000 and 200,000 women from Korea (both sides), China, the Philippines, Australia and the Netherlands and forced them into around 2ooo rape stations euphemistically called “comfort houses,” These were scattered over the Japanese occupied territory and 3/4 of all the brutalized women died. The survivors, well, I’m sure I don’t have to grocery list what they had to deal with.
In 2015, Japan paid off the last surviving “comfort women” and in a “binding agreement” with South Korea, agreed to never mention them again. And they didn’t. At least until this statue, and its sister in Australia, popped up. Now Japan is diplomatically withdrawing because South Korea has broken its word. Can you say what the fuck? Sure. I knew you could.
Right now, Godwin’s law is being flogged about the internet like an 1800’s London cab horse every time the name Trump is mentioned, but let’s skip Herr Hitler for a moment and look at the horrific history of Japan.
It’s late 1930 in Japan, Hirohito Showa is Emperor, and Hideki Tojo is his General of the Imperial Army. A year before the birth of Hitler, a Gestapo like entity existed in the Japanese military, the Kempeitai. You hear about the 6 million that the Nazi regime killed, but not the 10 million that the Japanese killed. You know about Dr. Joseph Mengele and his horrific experiments, but not about Section 731, under Shiro Ishii. Section 731 conducted vivisection on prisoners, including Americans. If you’re not familiar with vivisection, it’s the practice of cutting a person open and examining their organs while they’re still alive.
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One of the favorite methods of executing prisoners were beheadings, which now outrages everyone everywhere. There was a competition between two Japanese officers to see who could behead 100 people the fastest. Total body count between the two officers: 211. They had a rematch, to see who could behead 150 the quickest.
The Japanese were bent on dominating the Pacific, including Australia, because it was their “Imperial Destiny” (as opposed to America’s “Manifest Destiny.” So ingrained was this “destiny” that when US troops approached Japan, to save their “honor”, women were throwing themselves, and their children, off of cliffs to avoid capture. Japan even had a thriving chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons development program when we starting fighting back.
But in the aftermath of our nuclear fallout guilt and interment camp angst, we now view them as the land of samurai, anime, giggling school girls, and occasionally some really kinky tentacle sex porn (yes, this is a real thing). Other than an honorable mention in “The Man In The High Castle,” and maybe the Bataan Death March, we don’t hear about it much.
They were monsters. They were a nation of brainwashed monsters that tortured those they captured without mercy, raped their way through the Pacific and would have nuked us in a red hot minute had they gotten there first. The Emperor Hirohito was allowed to remain as constitutional monarch and lived until 1989. Tojo was hung in 1948.
Why all this history? What does it have to do with Trump and now? With the words fascism , “alt-riech”, and “white supremacy” being bandied about, the laughable Trump/Hitler comparisons, we need to remember history, lest we be doomed to repeat the motherfucker. No, not the internment camps. Not the registries. American has been there, done that, more than once. If it weren’t for George Takei, we would have blissfully forgotten. We need to remember and perpetuate as many offending facts as Trump’s administration ascends the throne. We need to make people shift uncomfortably and look away, be angry and outraged. It is not enough to lampoon outrage, troll the fools, generate the memes. We must be activists and remind these new kings, “Your mistakes will never go away. Tread wisely.”
I saw a blurb in passing on a television show, I think it was “Full Frontal” with Samantha Bee. It showed an address on the screen and frantic interns trying to corral papers in the background. It’s a brilliant idea. Start flooding the offices of Paul Ryan with cards and letters of all sizes, over and over, with notices written in red, “If you fail our Healthcare system, you will be remembered as a butcher.” Put Godwin’s law in the round file. That was then. We need to fight the now. We must be comfort girl statues.