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Who’s Afraid of Shinzo Abe?
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By YOSHIHISA KOMORI
Published: September 30, 2006
LAST Tuesday, Japan’s Parliament elected Shinzo Abe as its youngest prime minister since World War II. Some critics in Japan have called him a “hawkish nationalist,” but in fact, he — like the nearly 80 percent of Japanese also born after the war — has merely been shaped by democracy.
Mr. Abe in particular was also influenced by the course of Japan’s alliance with America. In 1960, the 6-year-old Shinzo Abe sat on the lap of his grandfather, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, while thousands marched outside demonstrating against the first full-fledged security treaty between Japan and the United States. It was Nobusuke Kishi who guided Japan into the treaty, and opposition was fierce. Mr. Abe recalls that his grandfather remained calm while explaining to him that teaming up with America would be the best course for the Japanese people.
Forty-six years later, few Japanese would deny the wisdom of the alliance or the benefits it has brought Japan. The experience also taught Mr. Abe the value of having a long-term vision and the will to see it through.
Mr. Abe, as a junior politician, was catapulted from relative anonymity to national popularity by principled challenges to the status quo. In the early 1990’s he challenged the government by investigating the abduction of Japanese citizens by North Korea and supporting the efforts of their families to bring them home. Later, he was among the first Japanese political leaders to criticize China on issues of democracy and human rights.
In the wake of 9/11, Mr. Abe led the parliamentary effort to authorize cooperation with the United States’ war on terrorism. On all these issues, he initially encountered significant opposition within Japan, but ultimately won strong support from the majority of Japanese.
A significant part of Japan’s baggage over the last 61 years is related to its activities in China during the war. Although Japan accepted all judgments of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal and other regional war tribunals, and signed the San Francisco Peace Treaty, China in particular has aggressively pushed viewpoints that inflate and contradict those judgments. For years, Japan’s government stayed quiet to avoid denunciations of “whitewashing.”
Mr. Abe, while openly acknowledging and expressing remorse for Japan’s wartime mistakes and atrocities, was among the first politicians to question government silence on these escalating emotional and uncorroborated claims, and to point out that Japan’s postwar prime ministers have formally apologized to China more than 20 times for Japan’s wartime transgressions. Mr. Abe has said one of the new government’s priorities is improved relations with China, but noted that “it takes two to reconcile.” He looks forward to a China that can accept today’s democratic Japan.
For most of the postwar era, the Japanese sense of national identity was suppressed and condemned inside Japan. The flag and national anthem were kept out of schools and expressing pride in Japan was deemed “dangerous.” No one denies this was a result of the tragic and reckless war into which Japan’s misguided government had plunged the country.
But it went too far. Now, without forgetting the lessons of history, and with popular support, the government is swinging the pendulum from its post-war extreme toward the center.
The “hawkish nationalist” label has been adopted by some members of the Western press who seem uncomfortable leaving behind the 20th century and acknowledging Japan’s solid democracy, and likely derives from Mr. Abe’s willingness to tackle yet another postwar taboo: constitutional reform.
The Abe government’s plan to revise the Constitution is intended to fill gaping holes in national security. The postwar Constitution drafted by the American occupation authority imposed appropriate constraints meant to prevent Japan from rebuilding as a military power, but these constraints now impede legitimate national defense and peacekeeping activities.
Japan’s Self-Defense Forces, sent to Iraq as international peacekeepers, could not engage in combat under the Constitution; they had to be protected by Dutch and Australian forces. Nor could Japan help if America were attacked anywhere except on Japanese territory. North Korea’s recent missile launches over Japan, and China’s military expansion, including violations of Japan’s airspace and territorial waters, have only heightened the national feeling of vulnerability and now drive public support for constitutional revision.
Adhering to his grandfather’s advice, Mr. Abe will keep Japan’s future defense firmly within the framework of its alliance with the United States. Americans, Republicans and Democrats alike, will find the popular new prime minister thoroughly modern and straightforward, and a trustworthy friend.
Yoshihisa Komori is the Washington correspondent and editor at large for the Japanese daily Sankei Shimbun.
New York Times
September 30, 2006
Rhode Island Couple Wins Same-Sex Marriage Case
By KATIE ZEZIMA
BOSTON, Sept. 29 — Same-sex couples who live in Rhode Island can marry in Massachusetts, a Superior Court judge here ruled on Friday.
The judge, Thomas E. Connolly, ruled that because Rhode Island did not prohibit same-sex marriage by statute or in its Constitution, same-sex couples were allowed to marry in Massachusetts under state law.
“No evidence was introduced before this court of a constitutional amendment, statute or controlling appellate decision from Rhode Island that explicitly deems void or otherwise expressly forbids same-sex marriage,” Judge Connolly ruled.
The Massachusetts attorney general, Thomas F. Reilly, said he would not appeal the ruling. Rhode Island’s attorney general, Patrick Lynch, said the marriages would not be valid in his state.
“This ruling does not authorize same-sex marriages in Rhode island, and it does not mean that Rhode Island will recognize a same-sex marriage performed in Massachusetts,” Mr. Lynch said in a statement. “Only the Rhode Island legislature or a Rhode Island court can decide if same-sex marriage is valid in Rhode Island.”
Same-sex marriage was legalized here in 2004. But until Friday, only residents could be granted marriage licenses because of a 1913 law that prohibited the state from performing marriages that were not legal in the couple’s home state. The state’s highest court upheld that law last year after same-sex couples from six states challenged it.
The court ruled that same-sex couples from Connecticut, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire could not marry in Massachusetts because same-sex marriage was expressly prohibited by statute in those states.
The court left the door open for residents of New York and Rhode Island, but the New York State Court of Appeals ruled shortly after that that same-sex marriage was not allowed under state law. With Rhode Island being the only state with no express prohibition of same-sex marriage, two Providence residents, Wendy Becker and Mary Norton, appealed.
“After a very long engagement, we are thrilled to be able to marry and provide our family with the legal protection and social recognition we deserve,” Ms. Becker said Friday. “As the parents of two wonderful young children, our desire to marry has always been with them in mind. We want them to feel their family is as worthy as any other.”
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, which argued the case, applauded the ruling.
“At last the fence of discrimination has been removed at the border of Massachusetts and Rhode Island,” Michele Granda, the lawyer who argued the case, said in a statement. “Loving, committed Rhode Island couples can now affirm their relationships in the most public and respected way our society knows.”
Thousands march to demand better rights for gays, lesbians
More than 5,000 gay rights activists took to the streets of Taipei in a carnival-style parade Saturday to demand fair treatment for the island's estimated 1 million gay residents.
Shouting slogans and waving rainbow flags, the activists marched through downtown Taipei to a center where four lesbian couples were wed.
A pastor from Tong Kuang Light House Presbyterian Church conducted the ceremony, which Taiwan gay author Hsu You-shen and his U.S. partner Gray Harriman hailed as a great leap forward for gay rights on the island.
Hsu, 56, married Harriman in Taiwan's first gay wedding in 1996, which was attended by some 400 people.
"At that time only friends attended our wedding. But this time, there are not only friends and relatives, but also public figures like scholars, lawyers and legislators," he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
"This shows that the gay community is more united and homosexuals have less fear of exposure," he said.
Saturday's gay pride march was the fourth held in Taipei and was organized by gay rights groups with backing from the city government.
Activists from China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore took part in the parade.
Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Asia, where many people consider it an illness or abnormality, but in recent years Taiwan has shown greater acceptance.
In 2000, President Chen Shui-bian told two visiting US gay rights activists that being a homosexual was not a sin or an illness.
At Chen's instruction, Taiwan drafted a Human Rights Basic Law which abolishes the death penalty and legalizes gay marriage.
It the law is passed, it will make Taiwan the first country in Asia -- and the fifth in the world after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada -- where gays can marry.
© 2006 DPA - Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa
更新日期:2006/09/30 14:20 記者:記者邵冰如/台北報導
chicagotribune.com >> Editorials
Mozart and Islam
Published September 30, 2006
Earlier this week, a leading German opera house stirred a fuss by pulling the plug on its planned production of Mozart's "Idomeneo." Officials decided that a scene in which the severed head of the Prophet Muhammad is placed on a stool, along with those of Jesus and Buddha, was too risky. They'd received an anonymous threat last month and, fearing the wrath of insulted Muslims, yanked the opera from their schedule.
That decision angered many Germans--and not just opera fans. Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, the country's top security official, called the decision "crazy." German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned against "self-censorship out of fear." There were growing demands--including from some prominent German Muslim leaders--that the opera reinstate the performances.
Stung by the criticism, officials of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin announced Thursday that they may reinstate the production, if police can provide adequate security.
If there were some huge public event at stake--the Olympics, a political convention--the reaction would be swift and certain: We will not back down to terror threats. But it may be a series of smaller events--such as one scene in an opera in Germany--that determine if the modern world quietly buckles to the threat of terrorism.
No doubt the opera managers who made the decision were peering fearfully over their shoulders at what happened earlier this year, when some in the Muslim world reacted violently to a series of satirical and insulting cartoons first published in a Danish newspaper. More recently, Pope Benedict XVI ignited similar fury over a speech in which he cited a historical reference to Islam as "evil and inhuman." Maybe the opera managers recall that author Salman Rushdie had to live under an Islamic death threat for years because of a book he wrote.
In the face of a threat, they asked the director to cut the scene. He rightly refused. So the opera was canceled. That was a terrible mistake. The point of the scene, after all, was not gratuitous; it was that "all the founders of religions were figures that didn't bring peace to the world," a lawyer for the director said.
Self-censorship to mollify those who would practice violence in the name of Islam is self-defeating. Canceling an opera--or any other public event--bolsters the radicals' belief that the West can be intimidated and eventually defeated.
It's understandable that Deutsche Oper felt a threat to the safety of its players and patrons. It looks now that it will respond in the best way possible, by confronting that threat rather than succumbing to it.
Art offends some people. Books offend some people. Music offends some people. Newspapers offend some people. People choose to read or not, to listen or not, to go to the opera or not. Those choices cannot be made for them by those who are intent on doing battle with Western culture.