Friday, August 24, 2007
Restoration of Human Dignity is Everyone's Business
Here's a comment I received from Karmela. She brought up some good questions that I thought I'd share with everyone. Here's her comment and my response:
While I fully support the Lolas and their fight for justice and recognition, I must question the methods being used. Why is this issue of concern to the United States government? They neither participated in nor were victimized by the atrocities. I don't believe that the U.S. political landscape is the correct forum to address this issue. While you may argue that the U.S. is already involved simply by the fact that so many of the Lolas now live here, let's all be realistic. This nation is much, much more concerned with other, more imminent issues such as the war on terror or the immigration issue that hits Americans closer to home.
I'm not saying let's just leave the Lolas' issues alone. What I'm saying is that why isn't this being addressed more on a world stage, i.e., the U.N.? If an apology from Japan is what the Lolas' ultimate goal is, that's the type of thing the United Nations was built to handle.
If this issue has already been brought in front of the U.N., I apologize for my ignorance. Let me just reiterate that I fully support the Lolas' cause; I merely question the tactics used to achieve the goal.
Posted by Karmela to FRIENDS OF LOLAS at August 23, 2007 2:24 PM
Thanks for your comment. The UN has made recommendations to Japan, and Japan has ignored them. If you read Philippine House Res. 124, also on this blog, you'll see a long line of international courts, including Japanese courts, have tried to make this recommendation: That the Japanese government apologize and take responsibility for crimes against humanity.
On July 30th, I sat in the U.S. House of Representatives' gallery and witnessed Congress discuss House Res. 121 as they passed the bill unanimously. I can tell you, from watching the discussion, that U.S. involvement, through House Resolution 121, was a message from one friendly nation to another. Many Congress persons, including my representative, Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen,the senior ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, stated that we are good friends with Japan, strong allies, and friends need to be honest with one another -- when we do something wrong or see our friends doing something wrong -- it is our obligation, as a good friend to point it out. A good friend receiving that advice might still be in denial, at first, but at some point, you hear your friend out and you respond. We are waiting for that response.
In addition to this gesture between friends, I witnessed our Congress state for the record, that Japanese Imperial Army abducted and enslaved over 200,000 women and girls during World War II. No matter how much the government of Japan denies this truth, we now have a historical record (and several Congress persons eloquently spoke about this) challenging Japan's denial. The women have been standing before the Japanese courts, before gates of their embassies and at conferences trying to set the record straight, but Japan has literally ignored them. Now the U.S. has gone on record about this human rights violation and many other nations are well on their way to contributing to this historical account so the women's experiences cannot be washed away.
Lastly, what passing House Resolution 121 in the U.S. Congress has done, is it has brought awareness and light to this subject matter, it is an avenue for educating those who have not heard of the plight of the former "Comfort Women." The story has been kept a secret by the women and their families -- sometimes out of shame, and at times it is because Japan has worked hard to deny and cover up the truth. But for the most part, this issue has not had a venue or reason to be taught outside of the small communities of activists like Gabriela Network, babae and Filipina for Rights and Empowerment. But U.S. involvement has brought this issue forward. Everyone should be involved. This is a human rights issue. It is about people and what we have done to and allowed to do to one another. The passing of House Resolution 121 has inspired other nations to make like resolutions -- among them Canada's Motion 291 and the Philippines House Resolution 124. I am grateful for the hard work of all U.S. citizens who took part in passing this bill -- Congress yes, but private citizens too -- Annabel Park, Chejin Park, Jonghwa Lee, Eric Byler, Mindy Kotler, OK Cha Soh, Rita Wong and others of the 121 Coalition -- my own students -- Elaine Ruda, Amberly Reynolds, Marra Wilcox, and Layla Dousany.
The plan is that we are all going back to the United Nations. Congressmen and women -- Representatives like Falmeomavaega, Honda, Lantos and Lee -- have publicly stated this resolution is only the first step. Next step, UN again, but this time more nations will be aware of the stories of the women and I am hoping it will be harder for Japan to ignore their recommendations.
I am so proud to be a FilAm woman and see this announcement by organizations like Gabriela Network, babae and Filipina for Rights and Empowerment (FIRE). I hope it is the first of many teach-ins. It is about time that we start educating one another, beyond our own communities. The lolas' stories are among the 200,000 stories of women and girls taken during that war. There are women in China, Korea, Indonesia, New Zealand and the Netherlands who have their own stories of WWII and the Japanese Imperial Army's actions against them. We all need to open our eyes.
I invite you all to join me with Friends of the Lolas.
Thanks again for your comment.
M. Evelina Galang