From Tue Aug 29 10:05:47 2000
Date: Mon, 28 Aug 2000 18:15:35 -0400
From: Teresa Williams <>
Subject: [BRC-NEWS] Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Militarization and Montgomery
Precedence: bulk

An Engaging Look at Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Militarization and Montgomery

By Teresa Williams <>, Black Radical Congress list, 28 August 2000

I have just returned from spending 5 days in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki areas to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bombs on these cities. I was in the presence of Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist Order (the same group that initiated The Interfaith Pilgrimage of the Middle Passage: Retracing the Journey of Slavery which I participated with in the U.S. in 1998-99) and had the chance to engage with them on this final leg of their peace march and ceremonies from Hiroshima to Nagasaki. There were Japanese men, women and children on this peace march as many had been walking and driving since May from Tokyo to end the journey in Nagasaki on August 9th. It was quite an experience for me to participate with Nipponzan Myohoji in Japan as my first peace walk with them was in the U.S.A. retracing slavery. I could also fully witness the movement of Japanese people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and their passion for demilitarization of U.S. bases in Japan, non-violence and all forms of nuclear testing and development in the world as throngs of people marched in both cities on August 6th and August 9th respectively.

This is one major piece of news that needs to be documented and reflected upon:

On August 8th, our group drove to the city of Sasebo in Nagasaki where we walked towards a huge U.S. military navy base. As a group that was committed to non-violence, social change and demilitarization in Japan and other countries, we were met at the front gate of the base by hostile U.S. military police (mostly African-American and other Asian-American males) who were refusing to allow the group to have a presence at the gate—telling us we had to go back near the main street (unseen and unheard). The Japanese Buddhist monks and group continued drumming and reciting the prayer mantra of ‘namu myo ho renge kyo’. The military police called for back-up and Japanese police and undercover officers were called in to the scene. The monks tried very hard to communicate their mission to the Japanese staff establishment that was working for the U.S. Navy Base which was an odd scenario as it illustrated the complicated web of Japanese people who condone, work for and support the U.S. military presence and their relationship to Japanese people who are opposed to this. How could they turn away or attempt to seek the arrest of their own people (Buddhist monks and nuns included) who were demonstrating in the spirit of Buddhism, demilitarization, peace, justice and non-violence?

The Japanese establishment were angry and hostile and called for more Japanese police from Sasebo City to the scene. They were all panicking as they had never been challenged so boldly by Buddhist monks, nuns, Japanese children and adults—and one black American woman who all appeared out of no where as a very organized, focused peaceful group with a clear message: they did not want American military forces in Japan as it represented violence, militarization, power and control of their land and resources and the American military personnel constantly wreaked havoc and rude behavior in Japan (and other countries where they are based). I was most disturbed by the hostile behavior and physical abruptness that was displayed by the black military police as several of them shoved the Buddhist monks and lay people. Being an African-American citizen (the only foreigner) participating in a peace march to denounce American militarization and aggressions in Japan placed me in a very precarious position as I came face to face with my own people standing on Japanese soil under the banner of American militarization and security.

The soldiers and other American citizens were equally baffled at my presence amongst the Japanese marchers and my support for the demilitarization of U.S. bases. These men in uniforms who proudly defended the front gates of the Sasebo Navy Base clearly represented the puppetry of the Pentagon around the world. Many did not possess the wherewithal or knowledge as to the concerns of the local people on whose land they are standing on. The American soldiers and military personnel in Sasebo clearly did NOT want to hear what Japanese people wanted to say or to know why they were at the main entrance gate as was exemplified in their behavior and reaction to the peace marchers. Some drove by with arrogant attitudes to and fro from the military base and others scoffed at the group. One white male Commanding Officer stormed out of an office onto the scene yelling to his Japanese subordinate I want these people off my property—NOW!!!.

I went to him and intercepted by telling him this was not HIS property and that he should not forget it. I reiterated to him that he was standing on Japanese soil. His statement clearly illustrated the mindset of American militarization and historical colonization in general: to stand on somebody else's land and call it your own on the premise of security and protection whilst doing your own thing and disregarding the people's culture and concerns on the land you are standing on. The C.O. wanted to engage in a verbal battle with me and demanded to know who I was which I did not bother to clarify. He was clearly 'the head master' with the mindset of keeping things under control and keeping 'these people' at a distance—far away from the many American children and base personnel who were watching this scenario. I questioned the character and behavior of this white head master as his tone was not only belligerent—it was down-right nasty. His authority over the Japanese police and staff of the military base clearly spoke for itself. This was one of many bases where many social concerns exist between U.S. military bases and residents living in the vicinity of the bases.

In the eyes of many military personnel and dependents, the local residents of the host country are viewed as non-important while the Americans can come to and fro from their huge fenced-in, barbed-wired communities with little or no interests in the culture around them—except for the surface and exotic representations of the people and their culture. This is not to generalize that all military personnel are guilty of such crude indifference. But based on the feedback I have received from Japanese people, my own personal observations of soldiers on trains and in public places in around Japan and situations pertaining to U.S. bases in Okinawa, South Korea and other areas, it is fair to say that American military personnel and dependents seem to exist in a distant vacuum of cultural and national patriotism to The United States of America which somehow exempts them from being more socially responsible and aware of the culture and people around them.

The head monk, Takeda Shonin from the Shibuya Dojo in Tokyo resisted the police and Japanese establishment supporting the U.S. Navy Base by proceeding with his prepared speech and prayers in Japanese with the microphone and he later read a passage from the teachings of his founder, Nichidatsu Fuji Gurujii Daishonin. They tried to disrupt his message while he was speaking.

Earlier, Senji Kanaeda Shonin had invited me to speak at this event and I was finally given the microphone to speak to the Americans who were watching. I explained to them that I represented those Americans who were committed to peace, non-violence, de-militarization of American bases in Japan and elsewhere and that what they were witnessing today was an important message by concerned Japanese citizens who had journeyed a long way to make a point about the U.S. military in their country. I told them they needed to understand what the U.S. military represented to many people who lived in Japan and around the world: a vestige of American power, imperialism and post-modern colonization under the guise of globalization and security. That the U.S. military presence in Japan was not in Japan's best interest but purely for America's economic interest to establish its economic and security agenda around the world. I told the American kids that there was a great deal they were not learning in school textbooks about American militarization and that they had a right to hear what the Japanese people and children were saying and feeling. I further explained to the observers that many Japanese people did not want U.S. bases on their land (or in Korea or anyplace else for that matter) due to the atrocities and disrespect many military personnel members commit on foreign lands and because Japanese people feel they have no control over their own security, personal safety, land or environment. In addition, having U.S. military bases in Japan contradicts Japan's current constitution that denounces military violence and the use of military weapons and machinery of any form. I think I drove my point uninterrupted.

In brief, the peace march was successful in that we maintained the commitment to non-violence and social action on the anniversary of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For me to be here in person this year to visit these sites of atomic bombings and to witness the many horrors of 1945 via photographs, stories from Hibakusha, videos and museums left a deepened impression in my psyche about militarism, slavery, colonization, aggression, arrogance, violence, murder, racism, male power and control and the gross loss of human and environmental life in the process.

I returned in the early hours of August 10th from Nagasaki to a horrifying email message from my friend Elaine Kenseth Abel in Massachusetts of a recent police beating/lynching of a black man (Mr. Sam Day) in custody in Montgomery, Alabama and the efforts of local Civil Rights activists (Civil Rights veterans Rev. John L. Alford, Sr. and Senator Charles Steele of Tuscaloosa County) to have a protest sit-in and bring national attention to this atrocity and other current police brutalities going down in Montgomery, Alabama. (see for more information about the incident of Mr. Sam Day's beating by police officers as well as the outrage of the local citizens who were planning to organize a national campaign of action). As images of the Montgomery police beating of this hand-cuffed and helpless 54 year old black man raced through my mind with his skull cracked in three places, his arm and wrist broken while in police custody, I felt an immense sense of grief coupled with revisited rage and horror at the rampant police brutality in American society. Institutionalized lynching continues to exist in the 21st century. I began to see a clear linkage between militarization and the equal strategic abuse of power in the current swift, institutionalized forms of police oppression and post-modern slavery.

America has 2 major industries at present: the military industrial complex whereby large numbers of minorities are recruited and dispatched around the world—(usually the first ones killed) and the prison industrial complex where the majority of prisoners across America have dark faces or are poor, homeless or working class. Both industries are lucrative and generate big bucks so it is natural for 'head masters' of each industry to protect their best interests by any means necessary. This Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Sasebo Navy Base experience has re-opened my eyes about the linkages of war, violence and human oppression.

We must know and learn how to make the connections and linkages with social reality. We are often discouraged from drawing linkages as to social systems and the strategic engineering of war, economics, domination and violence because this would require us to think critically about how we ourselves are often caught up into the machine and it would require us to ask questions and demand some answers, accountability and action for change. The process of drawing connections and linkages to social and global structures and issues also has a profound impact on how we perceive what is happening around us and in the world.

How can The United States protect somebody else's soil in the name of democracy, liberty, justice and freedom when their own police at home are battering the brains and life out of people in addition to throwing them in human cages for further violence and atrocities?

For me to exist and live within Japanese society at this present time demands of me a critical consciousness and a compassion to speak out on behalf of human justice, freedom and oppression. I cannot turn my eyes and heart away from the realities of what my own country is doing at home and abroad for in doing so I am denying a tremendous amount of myself as an African-American woman that is engaged in transformative education and cross-cultural understanding. Each of us has a small part to play in humanizing this scheme of things—regardless of our jobs or which country we are in. The 21st century is ours.

We cannot afford to continue to exist as a silent majority without some engagement in restructuring this world and our future towards a more humane and socially responsible one.

Think about it.