Sunday, February 28, 2010

Live theater performers from Iraq and Tunisia bring deep emotion, human connection to Tokyo stage

While living in Tokyo for nearly the past decade as a community peace activist, I have had several opportunities to interact with people from Iraq (human rights journalists, pediatricians, and visual artists, to be precise) during their visits to Japan on grassroots-level exchanges organized by local peace groups. Each time, I came away from the experience with marvelous memories and new friendships.

Last week, a fellow member of the Iraq Hope Network alerted members to two short theater acts taking place at Tiny Alice, a cozy theater in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district. The only available information was a short blurb including the names of the performers and the titles of their pieces: “Abu Ghraib Prison” from the Mustaheel-Alice theater troupe in Baghdad, Iraq; and “Woman Sindyan” from SINDYANA in Tunisia. Knowing from experience that this could be an opportunity for another interesting encounter, I headed together with one of my most engaged university students to check out the shows.

As we entered the diminutive theater, three foreign men who I assumed to be the Iraqi actors were standing in the doorway—one of them bedecked in all camouflage and wearing an extremely stern expression on his face. Still unsure of what to expect, my student and I took a seat in the only available spots, which were on the floor directly in front of the stage.

We soon learned from a pre-show announcement that the three men were in fact the play’s writer, director and musical composer, and that the show was inspired by the story of one of the writer’s friends—a musician who was jailed in Abu Ghraib Prison during the reign of Saddam Hussein. The play began shortly thereafter, immediately shocking the full range of our senses. The camouflaged man, who was clearly acting the part of the guard, cast a brutal gaze as the two prisoners writhed around on the ground, enshrouded alternately inside white sheets and silver tubing material. Also taking center stage were several musical instruments encased in chains and plastic wrap, which all three men took turns reaching for—and then violently throwing aside—to the backdrop of a screaming cacophony of dissonant music.

While the abstract, chaotic nature of the short work (as well as the fact that the only fleeting dialogue was in Arabic) precluded any fast conclusions about what precisely it might have been trying to convey, the general themes were hard to miss by virtue of their universal resonance: the pain and confusion of imprisonment; the resilience of the human spirit even in instances of severe repression; the blurred borders between captive and capturer.

The second work began after a brief intermission, when we were still reeling from the dramatic effects of the first. As it turns out, the Tunisian performance was in fact a one-woman show, with the actor embodying several personas—male in addition to female—and French phrases occasionally mixed in with the mostly Arabic dialogue. While the Japanese subtitles beamed above the stage were somewhat sporadic, we were able to understand that her various characters were expressing anger and indignation at certain times toward colonialist repression, and at others toward gender-based objectification. With a fire and passion that literally seemed to engulf the entire tiny theater house, the full range of characters and emotions embodied by this actor may as well have been those of an entire theater troupe.

The limits of language and theatrical understanding were finally transcended after the final curtain call, when all four performers immediately reassembled onstage for a fully interpreted discussion with the audience. We learned that the Iraqi prison guard had indeed been in character when greeting us at the door, as his previously steely expression had melted away to reveal an entirely different personage of warmth and friendliness. We also learned—as I had begun to suspect—that the Tunisian woman, Zahira Ben Ammar, was a well-respected, world famous performer.

“As actors, we serve as mirrors of society, expressing what is often left unsaid,” she told the audience. “As a female actor, I have the privilege of being able to express myself in ways that are normally not possible for women in other Arab countries. In addition, my show also tries to give voice to the profound pain that has touched all colonized peoples—whether in Tunisia, Gaza or Iraq. I suspect that some of these themes may also resonate with Japanese people, due for example to your painful history in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Anas Abdhul Sammad, the stage director for Mustaheel-Alice, continued, “The first time that I saw Zahira Ben Ammar perform, in Morocco, I was moved beyond words. I am not a person who cries much, but after seeing her I actually went back to my hotel room and wept. I knew that I wanted to bring her with me to Japan to share her work with audiences here, and I am so grateful that she took time out of her incredibly busy schedule to join us.

I would also add that at the same time as the theater allows us to express the deep pain of things like oppression and war, I also find it very disheartening that the television in other countries only shows things like bombs and violence. Of course this is happening and it’s real, but what the TV does not show is the reality of ordinary people living our day-to-day lives. We are one small acting company among countless others in Baghdad, and we try to use theatrical expression to portray various aspects of the human condition.”

Echoing Iraqi visual artist Qasim Sabti, he continued, “The profession of acting, which has been around since the age of Babylon, will long outlive technologies such as modern weaponry. It has always been there to provide support and comfort to people during difficult times—even though the historical contexts are different—and it will continue to do so into the future.”

“I would like to thank you all from the bottom of my heart for being here tonight, and for allowing me to express a part of myself,” Zahira Ben Ammar said at the close of the nearly hour-and-a-half long discussion session. “I felt a strong energy in this room tonight connecting me with all of you---and this is the reason why we continue to do what we do.”

Before leaving the theater, my student and I were able to have a friendly engaged conversation and e-mail exchange with all of the actors, which served to confirm what I already knew: that the real relationships which matter most are not the unhealthy and destructive ones perpetuated by governments and militaries—but the deep connections that take root in intimately engaged spaces such as the one we created in the theater that evening.

Zahira Ben Ammar and the Mustaheel Alice Theater Troupe
(Photo: Kimberly Hughes)

--Kimberly Hughes

Performance photos: Tsukasa Aoki

Saturday, February 27, 2010

“Mr. Truman Meets Hiroshima on the Future of Nuclear Weapons, 1945-2020" -- Live Global Videoconference/Webcast March 1 (US), March 2 (Japan)

From Satoko Norimatsu at the Peace Philosophy Centre blog:
“Mr. Truman Meets Hiroshima on the Future of Nuclear Weapons, 1945-2020" -- A Live Global Webcast and Open Forum Originating from The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum (Independence, MO, USA) and The Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (Japan)


Monday, March 1, 2010 7-9 PM (CST-Missouri)

March 1, 2010 8-10PM (EST - Toronto,Washington DC,New York)

March 1, 2010 5-7 PM (PST - Vancouver, San Francisco, LA)

Tuesday March 2, 2010 10AM - 12PM (Japan)

Originating from the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum (Independence, Missouri, USA) and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (Japan).

This historic webcast, presented by Webster University and the Holden Public Policy Forum, will be the first meeting between the museum representing the first head of state to use atomic bombs and the people in the city where the first atomic bomb was used. The live webcast and open channels for audience participation via Chat, Facebook and Twitter can be accessed at: this site or at other “watch party” locations.

The speakers and participants in this meeting discuss the basis for working toward a common vision about the future of nuclear weapons. For the world-wide citizen audience, this event is an awareness raising forum and opportunity to participate in working toward a secure, peaceful and sustainable future for humanity and the planet.


Introductory Video: "The Future of Nuclear Weapons: Voices and Images" (Webster University student video project)

Opening: Dr. Elizabeth (Beth) J. Stroble (President, Webster University)

Meeting Moderator: Governor Bob Holden (Holden Public Policy Forum)

"The Harry S. Truman Library and Museum and the Future of Nuclear Weapons" - Dr. Michael Devine (Director, Harry S. Truman Library & Museum)

Historical Context:

"Truman, Hiroshima and Nuclear Weapons" - Dr. John D. Chappell (Associate Professor of History, Webster University, and Author of Before the Bomb: How America Approached the End of the Pacific War (1997))

"Hiroshima’s Take on the Future of Nuclear Weapons" - Dr. Tadatoshi Akiba (Mayor of Hiroshima; and President, Mayors for Peace, NGO); Steven Leeper (Chairman, Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation); and Testimonials from "Hibakusha" (A-bomb witnesses)

Questions and Discussion

Online questions and comments moderated by Satoko Norimatsu
(Director, Peace Philosophy Centre, Vancouver, B.C.) and Dr. John Chappell

Conclusions and Next Steps

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

2010 International Year of the Dugong • Report from Save the Dugong Campaign Center

A Japanese NGO, Save the Dugong Campaign Center joined the 4th World Conservation Congress held by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

During the congress, the IUCN adopted a recommendation to protect the Okinawan Dugong during the UN 2010 International Year for Biodiversity.

The Japanese and the US governments has been planning to expand a US Marine base located at a biologically sensitive coral reef on the northwest coast of Okinawa, the last habitat of the Okinawa Dugong.

This video explains the situation in Okinawa; what Save the Dugong Campaign Center has done to appeal this situation in the other part of Japan, during the congress: and the meaning of this recommendation.

Related articles:

"US military base may wipe out unique mammal"Terra Viva)

"U.S. Judge Extends Act's Protections: New base must consider effects on dugong" (The Japan Times)

"Internationalizing the Okinawan Struggle: Implications of the 2006 Elections in Okinawa and the US" by Yoshikawa Hideki (The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus)

Monday, February 22, 2010

"If we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds--our prejudices, fears, and ignorance."

If we look deeply into the weapons, we see our own minds  our prejudices, fears, and ignorance.

Even if we transported all the bombs to the moon, the roots of war and the reasons for bombs would still be here, in our hearts and minds, and sooner or later we would make new bombs.

Seek to become more aware of what causes anger and separation, and what overcomes them.

Root out the violence in your life, and learn to live compassionately and mindfully.

Seek peace. When you have peace within, real peace with others will be possible.

--Thich Nhat Hanh

Thursday, February 18, 2010

15th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol

On February 16th, the15th anniversary for the coming into force of the Kyoto Protocol (2005), students of Hakodate La Salle Jr. and Sr. High School and citizens of Hakodatecame together to create a sand message at Ohmori Beach.

Their crossword of "KYOTO" and "350" signifies their importance of the Kyoto Protocol as a first step towards returning to a world where CO2 levels are below 350 parts per million in the atmosphere.

For more information about the importance of reducing C02 emissions to below 350, check out, an international organization building a movement to unite the world around solutions to the climate crisis. On October 24th, 2009 they organized what is considered "the most widespread day of political action in the planet's history," with more than 5200 events in 181 countries to raise awareness of climate change.

- Posted by Jen Teeter

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Andy Couturier: A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance

Head's up from KJ:  New book that explores the kind of quality of life that many people in Japan (especially eco-peacebuilders) already maintain and support:
Andy Couturier’s A Different Kind of Luxury: Japanese Lessons in Simple Living and Inner Abundance has just been published by Stone Bridge Press.

"Raised in the tumult of Japan’s industrial powerhouse, the eleven men and women profiled in A Different Kind of Luxury have all made the transition to sustainable, deeply fulfilling lives in the mountains of Japan.

Based on Andy Couturier's popular articles in The Japan Times, this lushly-designed volume is a treasure chest of stories about real people who have created an abundance of time for contemplation, connecting with nature, and contributing to their communities."
Read the great discussions between author and readers at the book blog here.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Is Your Valentine's Chocolate Child-Slavery-Free--thus supporting Positivity & Love?

From International Labor Rights Forum:
Is Your Valentine's Day Chocolate Bitter or Sweet?

While consumers buy chocolate for their sweethearts this Valentine's Day, child labor, trafficking and other abuses continue on cocoa farms throughout West Africa. Click here (Stop Child and Forced Labor--Cocoa Campaign) to read ILRF's new report on industry efforts to end child labor in the cocoa industry.
According to a 2009 story posted at Japan for Sustainability. 17.6 % of Japanese knew about "fair trade" in 2009.
Team Choco-Revo!!, the executive committee of Chocolate Revolution conducted a national survey on awareness of fair trade among Japanese in November 2008. The committee is a non-profit organization, and is engaged in campaign activities environment-friendly and labor-friendly chocolate. According to the survey, 17.6 percent of respondents knew the expression "fair trade", and also knew that it was a keyword relating to poverty and environment...

Fair trade is a system that supports producers in developing countries to improve their standard of living by continuously trading crops and products at fair prices. West African countries generate most of the world's cacao beans used for chocolate production; however, the reality is that many children work longer hours and surrounding forests are being cut down. To improve the situation, international fair trade organizations set restrictions on child labor and standards for environmental conservation.

With the current situation in mind, Team Choco-Revo!! is making efforts to deliver a message to consumers that choosing "environment-friendly and labor-friendly chocolate" brings about changes for a better world, while encouraging companies and organizations to further promote or introduce fair trade chocolate.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Posthumous justice awarded in Yokohama Incident Trial

The Japan Times reported on Feb. 5, that the Yokohama District Court ordered compensation to be paid to the families of five now deceased men who were wrongfully imprisoned during wartime Japan. According to the article:
The Yokohama District Court ordered the government Thursday to pay compensation to the relatives of five now-deceased men for falsely imprisoning them in the "Yokohama Incident," often described as Japan's worst case of repression of free speech during the war.

The three-judge panel ruled that the wartime "tokko" thought, or political, police launched a one-sided, speculative investigation that prosecutors and judges endorsed.

The police, the prosecution and the court all bear heavy responsibility for the outcome, it said. In the decision, (Presiding Judge) Oshima accused the political police of conducting an "illegal" investigation, including the torture of suspects.

The five defendants were convicted in August and September 1945 of procommunist activities based on the wartime Peace Preservation Law.
Another articleThe Japan Times published last year reported:
In the Yokohama Incident, the Kanagawa thought-control police arrested about 60 journalists on suspicion of spreading the idea of communism in violation of the Peace Preservation Law during the Pacific War; more than 30 were indicted. Torture was employed during interrogation and four died while in detention. Most of the defendants were given suspended sentences right after World War II ended. The former defendants are all dead.
A longer article at The Asia-Pacific Journal entitled "The Retrial of the 'Yokohama Incident': A Six Decade Battle for Human Dignity" may be read here.

- Posted by Kimberly Hughes

Abolition Flame to join Peace Walk from Tennessee to the United Nations--starts in Oak Ridge, Sat., Feb. 13 • Obama Ups Spending on Nukes

The International Peace Walk Towards a Nuclear Free Future, organized by Footprints for Peace begins a journey of more than 700 miles--stepping off from the Scarboro Road gate of the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on Saturday, February 13.

Over the next three months, walkers will follow a route through Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, arriving in New York City on May 1, 2010. The Abolition Flame--which travelled with the Global March for Peace and Non Violence--will continue its journey to the Nuclear Nonprolferation Treaty review conference that will begin on the 2nd of May at the United Nations..

Y12 enriched the uranium used in the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima, Japan, in August 1945. Y12 still being used-- upgrading and refurbishing the US nuclear arsenal.

Footprints for Peace, an Ohio based organization, has drawn together people from Australia, Japan and Europe, along with people from across the United States--including Indigenous peoples, religious leaders, Buddhist monks, students, artists and families—all joining to demonstrate their commitment to a nuclear-free world for future generations.

The Peace Walkers are carrying a letter from Tadatoshi Akiba, Mayor of Hiroshima and Director of Mayors for Peace, endorsing the walk and encouraging mayors along the walk’s route to become a part of Mayors for Peace campaign and join the effort to create a world free of nuclear weapons.

Footprints for Peace Australian organizer Marcus Atkinson:
While nuclear disarmament is something the world must achieve, we can only do it if we all work together to demand our leaders fulfill the promises made decades ago in the Nonproliferation Treaty.

We also need to use this time to look at the whole cycle of the nuclear industry. Nuclear weapons are the final product of an industry that has destroyed Indigenous people’s lands throughout the world, caused the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of people and left whole cities uninhabitable.

There is no “peaceful use” of nuclear power, as the process from the very beginning of the cycle is so destructive. This walk will bring attention to all aspects of the nuclear industry and will be demanding progress on negotiations to create a nuclear weapons free world, while also creating debate on the nuclear industry as a whole.
Related News:

DMZ Hawai'i: Obama talks about ‘disarmament’ but seeks increased spending on nukes

Friday, February 12, 2010

Christine Ahn & Gwyn Kirk: Democracy Thwarts U.S. Base Plans in Asia-Pacific

Two members of Women for Genuine Security, a US-based peace and justice NGO, Christine Ahn and Gwyn Kirk have written the article we've been waiting for--showing multiple linkages between democratic resistance to plans for a naval base in Jeju Island, South Korea and parallel plans for US military expansion in Okinawa and Guam.

They also demonstrate that a few more environmentally destructive bases will only damage, not enhance "genuine security" in the Asia-Pacific.

"Democracy Thwarts U.S. Base Plans"—posted at Foreign Policy in Focus:
This March, the Obamas will touch down in the U.S. territory of Guam, en route to Australia and Indonesia. It’s a big deal for this tiny Pacific island seven-and-a-half hours by plane from Hawaii and, according to airport placards, “where America’s day begins.” Two senators from Guam, Judith P. Guthertz and Rory J. Respicio, have already written to ask the president “to meet a few of your fellow Americans,” instead of the typical orchestrated “pit stop” behind the gates of Andersen Air Force Base.

Obama’s stop-over may be designed to smooth the difficult road ahead for the U.S. military. The Pentagon is shifting bases and soldiers in the Asia Pacific — not surprisingly, without consent of the residents of these countries. But it’s not just local people in Guam, South Korea, Okinawa, and elsewhere who are affected by the increased militarization of the region. The natural environment is at risk through military contamination and through the high military use of oil, an important factor in climate change.

Guam-Okinawa Connection

The Bush administration made plans to shift 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa (Japan) to Guam. In addition to support staff, contractors and family members, the total number will be closer to 50,000 people.

This overall deal between the United States and Japan is estimated to cost $26 billion, with the tab largely picked up by Japan. According to the agreement, the Japanese government must fund a new state-of-the-art Marines base to be built alongside an endangered coral reef in Nago (northern Okinawa). This new facility would replace Futenma Marine Corps Air Station, which is currently situated in a dense urban area. The land would then return to Okinawa — presumably after the cleanup of environmental contamination — and 8,000 Marines would go to Guam.

Okinawans have been campaigning for years to be rid of U.S. bases, which were established at the end of World War II. These bases have been the source of noise and environmental pollution, accidents, and crime committed by U.S. soldiers, including violence against women and girls. In a 1998 referendum, Nago voters opposed the new base. When Japanese authorities tried to go ahead with the plan, activists took to their kayaks and fishing boats to block construction, and ultimately disrupted exploratory drilling of the coral reef. The Japanese government tried to find another location in Okinawa or even mainland Japan, but no community agreed to have the new Marines base in their area.

Despite the efforts of the two governments, democracy continues to get in the way of this multi-billion dollar deal between Washington and Tokyo.

On August 30, 2009, the patient and determined campaigning by the Japanese peace movement paid off. The Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which promised to review the U.S.-Japan military alliance, defeated the ruling coalition that had been in power for over 50 years. Many of the newly elected representatives criticized Japanese acquiescence toward U.S. foreign policy; others resented U.S. “occupation mentality.” In response, both U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Obama made hasty visits to Tokyo, invoking the importance of the alliance and pressing the new government to keep the Okinawa-Guam deal afloat. But the tide of public opinion had turned; the Japanese media branded Gates a “bully” and bridled at such “high-handed treatment.”

The political momentum against the relocation of the U.S. Marines base has continued to build. At the end of January 2010, Nago voters elected a mayor who is also against the base. Japanese representatives came to Washington to meet with their congressional counterparts, while in Tokyo thousands protested the proposed Marines base, thus reopening what the military assumed was a done deal.

Resistance in Guam

Despite increasing opposition to the transfer of thousands of U.S. troops, the people of Guam are constrained in their ability to influence the political process. Since the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States has controlled Guam (or Guåhan in the Chamorro language). With a population of 173,456 represented by one non-voting delegate in the U.S. Congress, the island is one of 16 remaining non-self-governing territories listed by the United Nations. Residents are U.S. citizens, but they are not entitled to vote in presidential elections. Most federal-territorial affairs are made in Washington, nearly 8,000 miles away.

The voices of the Guam Chamber of Commerce and other business leaders have been elevated in this process. In their view, the militarization of the island is the only viable boost to Guam’s weak economy. Contractors, from Washington, DC and Hawaii to the Philippines and Japan, are jockeying for a piece of the action. "On Capitol Hill, the conversation has been restricted to whether the jobs expected from the military construction should go to the mainland Americans, foreign workers or Guam residents," says Democracy Now reporter Juan Gonzalez. "But we rarely hear the voices and concerns of the indigenous people of Guam, who constitute over a third of the island’s population."

The U.S. military already takes up a third of the island. The additional troops will bring this up to 40 percent. Formed from two volcanoes, Guam’s rocky core constitutes an unsinkable aircraft carrier, 30 miles long and eight miles wide. Not only is the economy geared toward servicing the military, the bases are now occupying once productive land. Prior to WWII, Guam was self-sufficient in agriculture. Today, the island imports 90 percent of its food.

Listen to the People

Following the Nago election, The Washington Post quoted Lt. Gen. Keith J. Stalder, commander of U.S. Marine forces in the Pacific as saying, "National security policy cannot be made in towns and villages."

Really? Do national security and military objectives trump democracy?

Obama is both commander-in-chief of the U.S. military and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. His experience growing up in Hawaii and working as a community organizer also uniquely qualify him to listen to Guam senators and community members such as We Are Guåhan, a grassroots organization. We Are Guåhan include the voices of people from diverse ethnic and professional backgrounds, who advocate for transparency and democratic participation in decisions regarding the future of their island. Obama should hear their deep concerns about the impact of 50,000 extra people on their already weak infrastructure, fragile ecosystem, and island culture. These have been much expressed in town-hall meetings and in community responses to the military’s 11,000-page environmental impact statement.

Obama should also listen to respected historians like Hope Cristobal, a former Guam senator, and to women professional and community leaders active in Fuetsen Famalao’an, who came together out of concern over the military buildup. He should visit the Hurao School that teaches young children Chamorro language and culture. He should hear the Chamorro people’s deep love for their land as they seek to honor their ancestors and provide for their children.

The president should do more than just listen, of course. The Obama administration should rethink the expansion of bases in Okinawa, Guam, and South Korea. Washington has repeatedly stated that the transfer of 8,000 Marines to Guam will “reduce the burden” on Okinawa. So then why does the military want a new Marines base in Nago?  The United States should stop the building of yet another base in Okinawa and not redirect Okinawa’s burden to Guam. 

The Obama administration should do more by allocating a small fraction of the $700 billion-plus Pentagon budget to underwrite job training across the entire nation, including Guam. This money could provide residents of Guam with needed medical facilities, clean up contaminated water supplies (Andersen AFB sits on top of an underground aquifer), and provide for sustainable projects.

The U.S. Congress can also play a positive role by amending the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act to include Guam on the list of “downwind” areas affected by atmospheric nuclear testing in Micronesia in the 1950s. At the same time, Congress should support the Republic of the Marshall Islands Changed Circumstances Petition for adequate compensation for personal injuries, property damage, medical care, and radiological monitoring related to nuclear testing conducted in the Marshall Islands. 

Elsewhere in the region, the United States should rethink the imminent plan to build a new U.S. Navy base on Jeju Island in the southern part of Korea. Villagers of Gangjeong have resisted this construction by blocking roads until their arrest by South Korean police in January 2010.  This proposed base would house Aegis destroyers, outfitted with missile defense systems to target China. It would also destroy local people’s way of life and coral reefs designated by UNESCO as world heritage environmental sites.

More generally, the United States must commit to policies that support sustainable use of resources, rather than using military means to secure oil supplies and other scarce resources. The U.S. military is the greatest consumer of oil worldwide. It makes no sense to fight for oil so that the military can guzzle even more of it. Such a new policy on sustainable use of resources also requires Washington to move beyond the stalemate of the Copenhagen summit.

Obama: Be the change you promised. Someone has to have the courage to initiate a paradigm shift, using the Earth’s resources and people’s skills to provide for genuine security.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Invasion of Guam by a Monstrous Fish — as seen by a young Chamorro artist

Some insightful and beautiful posts from a soulful young Chamorro artist's blog: Waiting for Wonderland:

"Found in Wonderland; the invasion of Guam?" comments on a wartime photograph that appears to ominously reveal the US government's real intent for Guam—not just liberation from the Japanese Imperial military and temporary use as an Allied base during the rest of the Pacific War—but also for use as a permanent site for US military bases.


I'm sorry, but I thought we were LIBERATED.

Now I'm just confused.
The second post: "Sleepless in Wonderland: The Real Big Fish:"
As a child growing up on Guam, I heard many legends. Some I learned at school and some my parents told me. One legend that has been on my mind this past month, is the legend of thebig fish that ate Guam. You remember the legend, don't you? It explains why Guam is so narrow in the middle. As I was told, many many years ago a very large fish was eating away at our island. Many strong men tried to stop the fish, but none succeeded. At this time, the young women of Guam had beautiful long hair. One day the women decided to weave their hair in to a net. With the net made from their hair the women caught the big fish and saved the land and people from the monstrous fish.

The reason this legend has been on my mind, is because I've been looking at many maps of Guam recently. Yes, our island is narrow in the middle, but I've also noticed that there are many parts of our island that is innaccessible to the people of Guam. It's as if the big fish has returned. This big fish is feasting on the graves of our ancestors and land that is lush and beautiful. Sometimes this big fish spits out the the land, returning it to us, but by that time much of the land is contaminated.

What will our island look like 4 years from now? How much of it will be contaminated by the big fish? Where will we be 20 years from now? Will we be telling our grandchildren the story of the fish that annhilated our island?

We must gather together, like the women in the original legend, to defend our home, before there is nothing left to defend.

This is an image of Guam, with the areas our new big fish has eaten photo shopped out, by Nella. Remember much of the "eaten land" is coastal. This was created from a map of Guam that showed DOD (US Dept. of Defense) land as of 1991. I had a hard time finding a more current map.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Martin Frid: Dali, Hiroshima, & Okinawa

Spanish artist Salvador Dali was deeply terrified by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and his exact, detailed style was very much suited to show the horror of the A-bomb, which the U.S. government tried to keep a secret by classifying photos and descriptions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki until the end of the U.S. military occupation of Japan in 1952. (The Bureau of Atomic Tourism has more details if you want to know more about the legacy of nuclear weapons in the U.S.)

Even today, do people understand the real horror of atomic bombs? If not, then, why not?

Dali's paintings are on display in Fukushima prefecture, where you can view Melancholy Atomic and Uranium Idyll and The Three Sphinxes of Bikini at the Morohashi Museum of Modern Art.

This video from the Nihon University (Nichidai) channel features an interview with Morohashi Eiji, the son of the founder of the unique museum, and scenes from the Morohashi Museum (29:20):#271美術館への誘い ダリの世界

Is there a hidden message in Dali's 1947 Bikini hydrogen bomb painting? Morohashi Eiji has the details in the video interview ( around 12:30-14:00).

Wishing to find out more about Dali's inspiration around this time: The Triangle offers this quote:
During the post World War II era, Dali found new inspiration in the person and the ideas of Werner Heisenberg and his Uncertainty Principle. Along with this came a renewed interest in spirituality for which Dali coined a new term: "Nuclear Mysticism". In his "Anti-Matter Manifesto" of 1958 Dali wrote: "In the Surrealist period I wanted to create the iconography of the interior world and the world of the marvelous, of my father Freud. Today the exterior world and that of physics, has transcended the one of psychology. My father today is Dr. Heisenberg."
Dali Planet notes:
The atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima in 1945 had an enormous impact on Dali’s way of looking at the world. He was certainly among the first artists to recognise that the arrival of the nuclear age had fundamentally altered man’s perception of nature. In the decades to come Dali immersed himself in physics and produced dozens of works depicting objects exploded into their component particles.

In the year of Hiroshima he painted “Melancholy Atomic and Uranium Idyll”... In a bombed bunker intermingling atoms and electrons seem to draw a connection between aerial assault and baseball, one critic noting that the New York Yankees were known as the Bronx Bombers.
Dali also sculpted a statue, 'The Sun God Rising In Okinawa," to express his wish for peace and healing for Okinawa

When it was loaned to Urasoe City Museum in Okinawa for a 2008 exhibition, people called upon the owner to give it to the prefecture permanently. (Photo from Okinawa daisuki na ningen)

Strange, but I cannot think of even a single American artist who compare to Salvador Dali. Is there even one man or woman who stood up and made a case against nuclear weapons?

Classified Hiroshima and Nagasaki, by Hiroko Takahashi (pdf)

Written by Martin J. Frid and originally posted at Kurashi News from Japan.

(Co-blogger and reader of Kurashi, Pandabonium responded that African American visual artist Jacob Lawrence did a series of prints entitled "Hiroshima" accompanied by text by John Hersey. )

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hafa Adai, Mr. President! Can we have Guam, Okinawa, Jeju Island, & Vicenza back, please?

At her blog at the The Insular Empire: America in the Marianas website, filmmaker Vanessa Warheit connects the dots between last weekend's huge protest against US military bases in Okinawa and Japan and resistance by Guamanians who don't want US military expansion on their island (1/3 of the island is already covered by US bases):
Marianas Variety just published an article on Obama's upcoming visit to Guam. The fact that the US President has decided to fly 9000 miles to visit the Marianas is HUGE news... and speaks to how vital these tiny islands are to America's global strategy.

On the same day, the Associated Press reported this story about thousands of protestors in Tokyo (not Okinawa - Tokyo), asking the US military to GO HOME.

Something tells me these two things are related.

The real question now is: how do we get Obama to watch The Insular Empire? I've read Obama's book Dreams From My Father, and I really believe that Obama understands, first-hand, what it means to be colonized. I'd like to believe that if he understood the Marianas' colonial history, he'd start doing something to help the people of Guam - and the Northern Marianaas - achieve true self-determination.
Meanwhile, there are more dots in this global picture of popular democratic resistance to the expansion of US military bases--there are already over 1,000 US military bases throughout the world.

At Jeju Island, a biodiverse World Heritage site south of the Korean peninsula, villagers at Gangjeong are now experiencing a month of respite after days and nights of protests protesting the confiscation and destruction of their tangerine groves and the coral reef off their pristine coastline.

They're waiting for a court decision on whether South Korea can proceed with the construction of a naval base intended to port U.S. and South Korean Aegis destroyers outfitted with missile defense systems that the villagers say will be used to surround China's coast--potentially making their once peaceful island a target if hostilities break out.

And at the same time--In northern Italy, local residents and their supporters are continuing protests against the expansion of the US military base in the historic city of Vicenza. New video footage at Bruce Gagnon's blog shows Italian protesters entering the Dal Molin site and hanging rainbow flags from cranes and other equipment. This nonviolent protest comes near the two-year anniversary of a march attended by tens of thousands of people to oppose US plans to double the size of the Vicenza base.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Update on Bat Nha Monastery by Velcrow Ripper

Filmmaker Velcrow Ripper made this beautiful short film to provide background and an update on the status of Bat Nha Monastery, created by Thich Nhat Hanh in the tradition of Plum Village--when the Zen master made his historic return to Vietnam in 2005.

The monastery flourished, until late 2008, when the Vietnamese government began a renewed attack on the freedom of religion (Christians are also being persecuted, along with Buddhists). Hired thugs brutalized and intimidated Bat Nha sangha members, forcing them to leave the monastery.

Throughout the world, supporters of human rights and the free expression of religion are encouraging the Vietnamese government to end its persecution of Christians and Buddhists.

The international spiritual leader introduces this short film at the Plum Village website:
Dear friends,

Let us continue to send our energy of practice, our peace and calm to the Bat Nha Brothers and Sisters who are still under surveillance and without a clear resolution to their situation.

Sangha Brother Velcrow Ripper has made this little film as a prayer to our BN Monastics.

Let us also send our energy to the Abbot of Phuoc Hue Temple and his Sangha who has compassionately taken our young brothers and sisters in for refuge; to the many lay friends and supporters of Bao Loc who are fearlessly bringing food and coming to help with cooking and bringing the sick to the hospital at the risk of persecution; and to our elder Brothers Phap Hoi, Phap Sy, and Phap Tu, who can not return to their Bat Nha Community of younger monks and nuns; and to all beings who are still covered in the cloud of misunderstanding and suspicion.

Love is born from understanding – understanding the suffering of the other person, his or her suffering and deep aspiration; and that understanding brings about true love. And in order to understand, we must have the time to look deeply and to listen deeply.

- Thich Nhat Hanh
The short film is taken from clips from (Velcrow Ripper's feature documentary, "Fierce Light: Where Spirit Meets Action" which tells more about Hahn's journey from Vietnam to Plum Village in France and his return visit to Vietnam, along with other stories of inspired nonviolent action.)