This past year brought us a number of firsts. Like, for instance, a dude who’s never held political office or a military command was elected POTUS. Or, the U.S. won a record 121 medals at the Rio Olympics. A private space company vertically landed a rocket. We also witnessed the first presidential visit to Hiroshima, Japan since World War II. And, while there, there was this flirty little moment where we all thought Obama was gonna say sorry for his nation melting a city in a country responsible for an encyclopedia of atrocities across East Asia and the Pacific the better part of a century ago.
But he didn’t. (Though he did come damn close.)
So, recently the prime minister for the same country (Japan, if you’re not tracking yet) visited the site of the attack that ultimately resulted in the aforementioned melting—Pearl Harbor. And…while there…he came damn close to apologizing for having launched the most successful and significant surprise attack in the history of warfare.
But he didn’t.
This is what the relationship between Japan and the United States has been reduced to: some sort of sick dry-hump version of apologizing for shit that happened before any of the ruling individuals were even alive. The rhetoric is there. A plethora of verbiage. But no one is using the one word that everyone is expecting them to use. (Which is fine. I get it. It’s politics. But like…shit or get off the pot, rockstars.)
Abe’s recent visit to Pearl Harbor was heralded on the east side of the Pacific as the moment we’ve all been waiting for. It was heralded on the west side of the Pacific as a dude who’s decided to head to Hawaii to pay respects to students who were killed in that freak sub accident several years back. (2001. Where a U.S. sub—showing off for VIPs—surfaced quickly, smashed squarely into a Japanese fishing vessel carrying students and teachers, killed nine of ’em, refused to respond in a timely manner, then refused to say sorry for it.)
See where everyone’s priorities are? We’re trying to play a guilt game with a society that does guilt better than Southern Baptists…and has been doing so for about as long as Christian baptism has even been a thing. And no one is saying uncle.
(That is even completely aside from two dynamic details: 1) Japan is an ally, and 2) like we don’t have bigger damn fish to fry…)
So…the news. (I’ve been holding off on this article a bit, because I wanted to see if anyone else covering this came even close to hitting the nail on the head. SPOILER ALERT: They didn’t.)
PM Abe landed in Hawaii, and after the customary glad-handing, headed over to the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific to pay his respects. He then headed over to the memorial for those sub accident victims. He attended a dinner, gave a speech, and the following day made his big visit to the Pearl Harbor Memorial with President Obama. (This marks the first time that’s ever happened. Though three other Japanese PMs visited the site in the ’50s, this is the first time a PM and POTUS have been there together.)
This also marks the last meeting between the J-Gov and Obama. Japan is still trying to retriangulate their miscalculation on who’d win the last U.S. election. As such, they’ve spent more time working out how they are going to approach—and be approached by—President-elect Trump.
Even before all this went down, the J-Gov was quoted as saying, “The purpose of the upcoming visit is to pay respects for the war dead and not to offer an apology.” That is exactly what happened. However, the media on this side of the pond has been pushing the “glass half full” angle on this visit, really playing up the almost-ness of the apology. They are spending a lot of pixels covering the PM-POTUS get-together, and using words like “hope,” which is just precious.
J-side, the angles are playing out a bit differently. While the media is covering all the basic details of the visit—the when and where and who—they are spending more time reminding every one of the sub wrecking the fishing boat. (What better way to keep people from having to engage the reality that their country prosecuted the single most effective pre-emptive act of war that this writer can think of, while simultaneously fomenting the eventuality of getting said country nuked [twice]?) I would say that the average news coverage J-side gave more details about the 2001 thing than they did the meeting that just happened.
My intent here isn’t to naysay dudes trying to get along. My intent is to illustrate that as these two nations continue into what should be a very close future, both sides are going to bring their respective selective memories to whatever negotiation(s) occur from here on out. And, like I said, politicians gonna politic. I get it. But if this kinda bullshit was happening in any teamroom, classroom, bedroom, or boardroom, intelligent, responsible adults would be all about bumpin’ fists and moving on—if they were on the same team. See?
The specific lack of particular rhetoric belies the reality of these bullshit meetings. Schoolyard tactics necessitate that a kid does not apologize first. We all know this. The kids in this schoolyard just happen to be First World nations failing to give in and say uncle. All the while, the real punks on the playground are running around building islands, hacking governments, running Jedi mind tricks on entire nations, and stealing sovereign territory. But sure, you dipshits keep eyeballin’ each other, flexing your nuts over something that, though we should never ever forget it, we should probably try to go on ahead and work out if we’re gonna be friends.
To me, the really good news is that some of the Pearl Harbor survivors have said stuff like, “War is war. I mean, they were doing what they were supposed to do and we were doing what we were supposed to do. I have no animosity at all toward them.”
That “nail” I mentioned up there—the one that never got hit by the other outlets covering this lane—is that the U.S. and Japan are engaged in those schoolyard tactics, and that is bullshit. That nail is going to be the nail in the coffin for the entire region if two nations who claim to be friends—and do a really great job (seriously) of acting like it—don’t get their shit together and start working against three clear common aggressors.
Featured image courtesy of cnn.com