Friday, February 24, 2012

Remembering the Important Things

I've written a number of times in the past about the need to forgive or forget things that happened in the past, and how the acts of forgetting and not forgetting can be something for either good or ill (you can read one of those posts here).

I thought about the dual subjects of remembering and forgetting again yesterday when I saw this article on CNN: Fury Over Japanese Politician's Nanjing Massacre Denial.

It seems that the mayor of the Japanese city of Nagoya set off a firestorm of rage in China when he made comments which downplayed the 1937 incident in which Japanese troops raped and murdered as many as 300,000 people in Nanjing. He was quoted as saying that "It is true that a considerable number of people died in the course of battle. However such a thing as so-called Nanjing Massacre is unlikely to have taken place."

A statement issued by the Nanjing information office said, "The historical facts of the Nanjing Massacre have been solidly proven. The claim by Kawamura [the mayor of Nagoya] is extremely irresponsible. We hope the mayor can admit the historical facts and draw lessons from the past." In its turn, the city government of Nagoya tried - somewhat ineptly, in my opinion - to repair the damage with a statement which read in part,

"What our mayor said is only his personal opinion. As a city government, we are to follow the national government's perception that the occurrence of [the] Nanjing Massacre can not be denied."

I don't know about you, but if I were Chinese, I probably wouldn't view that as a ringing denunciation of Mr Kawamura's comments.

The horrifying events at Nanjing in 1937 are well-documented and unquestioned by historians - they are not a "national government's perception"; nevertheless, many unrepentant Japanese nationalists continue to deny the historical reality of the Nanjing Massacre, just as many fervent anti-Semitic activists deny the Holocaust. A particularly good history of the Nanjing events can be found in Iris Chang's book The Rape of Nanjing: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II.

There's a danger in never forgetting trivial hurts, but an even greater danger in forgetting things that are important. Some things have to be remembered so that we draw the right lessons and redouble our efforts to prevent them from happening again. The Bible (Matthew 5:39) tells us,

"But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also."

Of course, you don't want to turn the other cheek just to get hit by the other fist.

I think the Chinese tend to be overly sensitive to some perceived slights or insults, but in this case, I think they're right. Mr Kawamura is clearly wrong, and his position needs to be denounced by all people of goodwill. And whoever drafted the Nagoya city government's statement needs to be taken to the historical woodshed as well.

Because there are some things we really need to remember.

Have a good day. Be here tomorrow for Cartoon Saturday.

More thoughts then.



eViL pOp TaRt said...

It's amazing how some people can maintain preconceived opinions despite overwhelming evidence.

Gilahi said...

It's a term that I find myself using more and more often these days; "cognitive dissonance". That's the continued belief in something despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, e.g. - Obama's nationality/religion, the Holocaust, flat earth, and apparently, this.

Mike said...

The 'say it enough and they'll believe it' crazies are everywhere.

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Some people with oddball beliefs avoid some of the dissonance from others regartding them by being relatively isolated in their sources of information and by having a small njumber that supports their strange views. It's a kind of folie a deux.