Sunday, January 26, 2014

Alexis Dudden: Will the U.S. practice the democratic values it preaches in Okinawa?

Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior, and 28 boats with local (mostly elder) activists from the "Save Life Society" stage a flotilla, with a large 'dugong' on top of Henoko reef where a proposed American military base
 would be built across important dugong habitat. With the planned construction of the airbase, dugongs, 
which are one of Japan's cultural icons and protected animals, are about to lose their habitat. 

Great article—"Democratic Values and US Bases in Okinawa Will the U.S. practice the democratic values it preaches in Okinawa?"—at The Diplomat by historian Alexis Dudden (one of the signatories of a statement by North American authors, scholars, filmmakers, in support of democracy and peace for Okinawa) overviews the history of local community opposition to the proposed destruction of the last habitat of the critically endangered Okinawa dugong and repeats a question Okinawans have been asking for a long time:
...Villagers who had never considered themselves politically active joined the cause.

The numbers remain small but consistently larger than the government-backed construction companies have anticipated; at one point, fearing confrontation, Japanese surveyors received special permission from the U.S. military command and launched their boats from nearby Camp Schwab instead of the public dock at Henoko. Protesters responded with a peaceful flotilla strategy: an “in water” sit-in made up of kayaks and other small craft. The struggle intensified with government-backed construction firms attempting to bore holes through the coral reefs to erect scaffolding on the one hand, while protesters tried everything in their power to stop them. In December 2004, several construction workers became reckless with their heavy equipment; a few members of the “Society for the Protection of Life” wound up in the hospital. News of their injuries outraged fishermen throughout Okinawa. In solidarity, they sailed to Oura Bay, expanding the resistance from protecting life in Henoko to protecting life in all of Okinawa.

No comments: