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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Report on the April 10th White Rock Meeting

I had the pleasure of attending my first White Rock Peace Philosophy Centre meeting, and I had the opportunity to see the completed Quilt for Peace. Although I was not one of the contributors to the Quilt, I felt that it was an extremely inspiring and heartfelt cry for love and peace now.

I felt that the design of the Quilt was extremely important. Everyone who had contributed to the Quilt had sewn in their individual demands for peace and love utilizing their own designs, and this was all centered around a paper crane, and surrounded by words meaning “Peace” in 22 languages. What was striking to me was the fact that people of all ages and nationalities had participated in the completion of this Quilt, which reminded me personally that peace is a universal concept that can be uttered in so many different languages and dialects.

I feel that “Peace” is not simply a word describing a state, but a natural force; an unquestionable, indisputable, and most of all an inevitable force of the human spirit. I believe that “Peace” is an unstoppable human force that can be equally demanded by all peoples, and that it is a universal spirit that can be shared by all peoples regardless of borders, religions, ethnicities, and genders.

In addition to celebrating the completion of the Quilt for Peace members of the Peace Philosophy Salon discussed the issues surrounding US military bases in Okinawa, especially the issue surrounding the devised plan to move US military facilities from Futenma to Henoko. Futenma Airbase is a massive US Air Force complex located in the middle of Naha. The base is surrounded on all sides by residential development, and US air force jets and helicopters fly out of the base on a regular basis to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Satoko-san showed us a brief video on the history of Okinawa and the presence of US military facilities in Okinawa. The film went over the Battle of Okinawa, the bloodiest battle in the Pacific War and possibly the most inhumane and gruesome, US forces for the first time in the war came into direct contact with Japanese civilians. Japanese civilians in Okinawa were often ordered by Imperial Army soldiers to commit mass suicides. The battle was won by the allied forces, and after the end of the war it was assumed that Okinawa would be reintegrated into Japan. However, Okinawa was cast away to become host to the largest US military facilities in East Asia.

We were also fortunate to have Katsuyo-san who was born and raised in Okinawa to give us a highly emotional personal account on her experiences as an Okinawan. Katsuyo-san mentioned that Okinawa had been treated like a “disposable stone,” and how Okinawa had been brutalized over and over again throughout history as a “disposable stone.” Katsuyo-san also mentioned how in Okinawan schools they were forced to speak in standardized Japanese, and never in their own native dialects, which reminded me of the Canadian Indian Residential Schools, but also the treatment of Ainu people in Hokkaido, which Satoko-san also pointed out.

Having personally visited Okinawa and the anti-base movements there, I was reminded of the emotions that whirl around the US military base issues in Okinawa. I was also reminded of the frustration the people of Okinawa feel when they are cast aside by the central government in Tokyo, and how they have constantly been treated like second class citizens in a disposable prefecture.

We were also fortunate to have Alexa, who had worked for the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in the Republic of Korea. Alexa shared with us a video about the committee and its functions as a force to rediscover past injustices and to bring to light the many horrible things that happened under Japanese colonial rule in Korea, and also under the military dictatorships of Park Chung-hee and Chun Doo-hwan.

Many people during the meeting exclaimed, “Why doesn’t Japan have something similar” or “has Japan responded to the findings of the Committee regarding the colonial era?” Everyone was also highly disappointed to hear that the Committee had effectively been abandoned by the party in power in Korea, and that it will be allowed to expire in a few months.

We ended the meeting discussing again the Henoko Relocation Plan, and we ended the meeting discussing the new nuclear deals coming together between the United States and Russia. The meeting turned out to be an extremely thick discussion going over not just Okinawa, but also the quest for truth, and nuclear non-proliferation and abolishment.

I felt that discussions on peace never tend to stay in one place, but it rotates from one person to another, and it simply never ends. We probably could have continued to discuss matters regarding Okinawa alone for another day, and I believe that is the nature of talking about peace. Everyone wants to contribute to the discussion, and everyone wants to hear everyone else and this harmony I felt was such a wonderfully exciting atmosphere that I did not want it to end.

All in all it was an extremely informative meeting for me, and also a wonderful chance to see the Quilt for Peace with many of the people who had contributed to its creation. I would like to thank Kyoko-san for having completed the Quilt, and I would also like to thank everyone who attended the meeting.

Thank you all,

By Dan Aizawa

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