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To Not Retaliate Would Be True Courage
japanese i{)

Terrorism is an utterly cowardly, devious act. I wish to express my deepest condolences to all the people who have been affected by the terrorist attacks on September 11. I was shocked to the quick by this incident; it made me go weak in the knees. After hearing of the first attack, I couldn't sit still, so I grabbed my camera and went out into the street. In a daze, I watched the Word Trade Center towers in flames, a sight too surrealistic to believe, no matter how much I stared at it.

There were many doctors and nurses assembled in front of the large downtown hospital, and a huge group of people had gathered to give blood. Just then, a WTC tower that had been standing until that moment disappeared with a huge roar, leaving only a hanging, black smoke. The thought crossed my mind that the black smoke probably contained not only asbestos, but also large amounts of numerous hazardous chemicals, including dioxin.

On TV, President Bush said, This is a war. Then, Prime Minister Koizumi made a statement supporting that position. But if there is retaliation, the general population including children will be the ones to be hurt, with nowhere to run. As the representative of a country that has a pacifist constitution, Prime Minister Koizumi is not supposed to support any acts of war. Not to mention that he should not aid a war that doesn't renounce the harming of innocent civilians. And by declaring his support of the war, he has increased the possibility of similar terrorist attacks being made on Japan as well. I wonder if it is all right, as the leader of a country, to dare to expose its people to that sort of danger? Why aren't the citizens questioning this?

If the Prime Minister of Japan had expressed his opposition to a war on the grounds of the Japanese Constitution, and instead had offered to take on some sort of role as a go-between to achieve a peaceful resolution, this would have sent a big message to the world and would have spoken well of Japan. He has missed that splendid opportunity, but it is still not too late. This would not just be for Japan, but could also be a major contribution to the international community in the 21st century.

This is what I am thinking. Violence can only beget a chain of violence. Retaliation will only bring about new, atrocious acts of terrorism, directed not only at Americans but also at all the people of the world. The human race, which has come to possess huge destructive powers, must not open a Pandora's box. I feel that to not retaliate may be the true valor here. President Bush! Who more than you can demonstrate the wisdom and the courage of the human race? You who can, all by yourself, mobilize the strongest power in the world?

For three days following the incidents, no music came from anywhere. The only time I heard anything was when the members of Congress sang God Bless America. And then, at around the 72-hour point when the possibility of there being survivors became slim, I started to hear songs in the streets. In Union Square, downtown, I heard young people singing Yesterday, and for some reason it eased my mind just a little bit. But there was a huge conflict churning inside me. It's because the singing had started at the same time that resignation had set in. I had been observing its progress carefully. I absolutely disagree that music exists only to heal people; yet I am troubled by the question of whether, faced with someone who has been wounded, music can really do anything more than heal.

Reproduced from the column My Viewpoint that appeared on the Opinion page of the Asahi Shimbun on 9/22/2001

© 2001 Ryuichi Sakamoto

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