At the edge of the horizon

At the edge of the horizon
At the edge of Japan

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Okinawa's Future

I've been thinking about many things recently, not least the small mini-film series project I've been working diligently, albeit slowly on.  Because I've decided that I won't be on JET as of the end of July, I've been carefully (read: skillfully (one hopes)) putting together my job-hunting profiles and materials (with the help of my friend T.), resharpening the job-hunting knives, and getting ready to go into full employment seeking battle.  So I hope you can forgive me if I've seemed rather lackadaisical with my blog recently, especially after the New Year's fanfare.   Secretly, I've been writing numerous blog posts in my head, but haven't felt ready to put pen to paper, or keyboard to blog, I suppose.

But this past week two things happened that pushed me towards writing again.  I received a rather nice comments from several new readers, which actually answered a question I'd been posing to myself this past week (the question being "should I even bother continuing on with this blog?").  I felt that these comments were a nudge in the "yes, you should" direction.  The second thing was something that a fellow teacher at my school said to me in the copy room.  As I entered the copy machine room, she said to me, "did you hear that Ambassador Caroline Kennedy is here in Okinawa?"  I had already heard that she was on her way, so I wasn't surprised by this.  Then the teacher followed that up with, "She's visiting Shuri High School this morning."  Now, that made me green with envy. "Why aren't they coming here to our wonderful school?" I demanded playfully, though somewhat seriously.  My school has just as long of a history as Shuri's and we're in a more convenient location, plus I just feel that we're a cooler school (of course, I don't know Shuri that well).  Well, OK...I'm sure people at Shuri feel the same way I feel about my school.

This teacher laughed at my dismay and then jumped to the subject of the Naha Kokusai High School girls who had sent a letter to Obama asking for him to prevent the construction of a new super base in Northern Okinawa.  For those of you reading this who aren't living in Okinawa,  the USA and Japan have finally agreed to close the US Marine Corp base Futenma, located in a very urban area in central Okinawa (although, most of the bases are located in urban areas since there are far too many bases on this island and the island itself is relatively small).  The Governor of Okinawa, who had long held out against building another base in Okinawa, finally capitulated and signed an agreement to move the base to Henoko, a rural area in Northern Okinawa.  The mayor of Nago, Susumu Inamine, is strongly opposed to a base in his backyard, so we'll see if he can continue to delay it via bureaucratic tactics.  To be honest, I don't understand why, if the majority of Okinawans do not want another base on this island, the Japanese and American governments have the right to overrule the people's wishes here on this island?

I've been thinking about this issue quite a bit, since it's not a new one for any of us living on this island.  But now the decision seems to be inevitable, while as before, it seemed like there was potential to shift away from Henoko and downsize the amount of troops on this island, which would be a step in the right direction, I believe.  I am just going to admit that I oppose the building of a super base in an environmentally sensitive area (with a runway built on top of the coral reef -- the same reef that gives Okinawa its gorgeous ocean). I rarely get involved in anything political, and while I am barely involved, I do think it is wrong not to take a stand on this issue, especially since one can clearly see how it will affect the people here.  Having spent nearly 4 years here, I have come to care deeply about what happens in Okinawa.  It's clear that a majority of Okinawans (apart from those of the rentier/landlord class here who benefit from the SOFA agreement and make a ton of money off the rent charged to US troops) also oppose this.  It's bad for the future of Okinawa, bad for the environment, bad for Okinawa's youth, bad for the USA, and is unnecessary for the world (that's right, I don't believe that anything "preemptive" actually supports peace). There are so many other options that could be chosen as a way forward, and yet what is always chosen for us is the one that benefits only a small portion of the world and leaves everyone else to suffer.

If you're interested in learning more about the ongoing socio-political situation in Okinawa, I suggest you read the links I've included.  Additionally, you can sign the petition against Henoko, if you're so inclined.

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