So, We Americans who are privileged enough to live in Okinawa feel just that…privileged; at least most of us do. Our families went through a lengthy screening process to get here and we are reminded regularly to “mind our manners” and to always remember that we are a guest of this land. Unfortunately there are always those that just can’t seem to play by the rules. Those that are “above the law” and those that are far to irresponsible to keep control of themselves. The foundation of this country’s culture is based on HONOR and RESPECT and PRIDE. Those few Americans who don’t play by the rules ruin it for all of the rest of us who are just happy to be here.
In 1995 a couple of marines raped a young girl here in Okinawa. This horrible act had serious repercussions on the American Forces here in Japan. This disgusting crime is very bad in our culture but incomprehensible for the Okinawans. In Okinawa, when a crime is committed against a person (especially a child) that crime is perceived to have been committed against the country. The Okinawans were outraged and rightly so. It has taken YEARS, until now really, for that crime to have dimmed at all in their memories. Well, you guessed it, it happened again just two weeks ago. A marine picked up a young 14 year old girl and ruined her life. This is bad, very very bad. Protests are happening, local and national governments are angry and we (the decent Americans living here) are nervous. What will happen now? You may have seen the story on CNN. What was a short story for the media is very serious here.
Two weeks have gone by since the crime, we hadn’t heard much as far as a punishment for the criminal or how it would affect all of us, until last night. Dana gets a phone call saying that we are now on base lock-down. Basically, that means that if you live on base, you are to stay on base. If you live off base, you now are confined to your house. No sight-seeing, no restaurants, no walks to the park. You can drive onto base for work, church and school but then you are to return directly to your home afterward. In my opinion, do we deserve this? Yes, we do. I think far too many “forget” that we are a guest. Let me give you a simple “for instance” that I see everyday.
There are signs EVERYWHERE about keeping your dog on a leash and to clean up after it. These signs are not for the locals; they of course would not do it any other way; the signs are for the Americans. But do the Americans follow it? Some do-many don’t (at least in my neighborhood). It is embarrassing and disgusting. The streets are littered with it. Why do so many disregard the simple act of cleaning up after and being responsible for their pet? Well, they are “above the law” of course. Eventually the Japanese government will have enough and not allow Americans living off base to have pets, and it will serve us right. It is their country, remember? This is just ONE SMALL example of not obeying a simple law. Don’t even get me started on drunk driving.
So back to what is happening to us now. One has committed a serious crime, so we all have to pay. I don’t know how many of us would like to string this guy up but undoubtedly it is many. I read an article in a local paper (JapanUpdate.com) about the Japanese officials being very disappointed and feeling that America must be “slack” with their criminals. I am starting to agree. I truly hope that sometime soon, our governments can come to whatever agreements must be made in order to restore our “freedom” here to explore and enjoy this beautiful island and culture. It didn’t take long for Dana and I to be here and to see that this culture and these people are wonderful. They do things differently than the Americans and they do it beautifully. The American dream seems to now incorporate to much of “get all you can, as fast as you can and squash the little guy along the way.” This culture here has honor. Do we? Some do, I suppose but not very many. Let me share another quick story. One morning while driving Logan to pre-school, I saw a homeless woman pushing her cart down the street. A well dressed business man came out of a building just a head of her to, I assume, wait for a bus or taxi. As she walked by, he pulled some money out of his pocket to give to her. She refused and he bowed. She had honor and he respected her. I was shocked! Here was a woman that clearly had nothing, yet she refused a hand-out. I, of course, wouldn’t have faulted her for taking the money…who would? But, this culture is different. I have thought of that moment many times. This culture impresses me. I want my sons to learn from it. Japanese service providers in any working situation (waitress, workman, cashier etc) are happy to help you. They go above and beyond to make sure you as the customer are happy and do you want to know why? It is their job. It is not to get a generous tip, but rather just to do a great job. Wow, what a concept!
I realize that I have rambled on too long. I guess that is what happens when you are sick and have LOTS of time on your hands to think.
I truly hope that amends can be made and life can go on for all of us here in Okinawa. But if not, I hope that lessons are learned and whatever needs to change can do so, so that we Americans can once again be a welcome guest instead of an uninvited housemate.