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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Film and Discussion "Against Coercion" Report

The first public screening of "Against Coercion" or Kimigayo Fukiritsu on November 3rd at the Vancouver Japanese Language School was a very successful event, with over 40 people in attendance.

Before the film, Tama Copithorne, one of the founding members of Vancouver Save Article 9, shared her experience with the hinomaru and kimigayo, or the Japanese national flag and the national anthem respectively, as a school child in Japan during the war. She also spoke of her time in China as the wife of a Canadian diplomat in China when Japan and China re-established the diplomatic relation in 1972. Tama said, from her experience it would be impossible to divorce hinomaru and kimigayo from the war-time Japanese militarism and imperialism.

We had a panel discussion after the film. First, Millie Creighton, Associate Professor of Anthropology at UBC talked about her experience on the hinomaru/kimigayo issue as a graduate student from U.S. in Japan. She mentioned a case in which a teacher in Massachusetts was disciplined for refusing the Pledge of Allegiance but was later vindicated as the treatment was considered a violation of his civil rights of freedom of thought and conscience. She also recited a Bertolt Brecht story and stressed on the importance of taking action towards problematic changes in society even if each change seemed minor.

The following speaker was Arc Zhen Han, an International Relations student at UBC, presented some perspectives as a young Chinese. He was impressed with how Kimiko Nezu, one of the teachers resisting kimigayo in the film, would provide sufficient information to her students so that they would make their own decisions, instead of imposing specific views or attitudes. Arc himself would like to be a teacher some day, so Nezu's teaching philosophy gave him hope, he said.

The last speaker was Misako Iwashita, a retired junior high school teacher of history who taught in Osaka for 35 years. We were very fortunate to have somebody like her who had been committed to peace education throughout her career, and had gone through very similar
experiences to those that the teachers in the film were undergoing. Here is the link to the full text of her speech.

The panel presentation was followed by a lively discussion by the whole audience. Tom Andrews, who grew up in North Vancouver shared his experience of being physically punished for not singing God Save the Queen at his school. Tatsuo Kage, another founding member of VSA9 suggested more discussion among the Japanese people for creation of a new national anthem and a new flag. Thekla Lit stressed how we should feel the pain of those who were victimized by the Japanese aggression in China, and how Chinese and Japanese should learn from each other for a peaceful future.

Here are the participants' comments to the event.

Many thanks to VSA9, all the guest speakers, and all the participants who made this event a special place for dialogue and mutual learning.

Love and peace,

Satoko

Peace Philosophy Centre

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