It is VE Day and, as such, I would be remiss in not promoting my book here. My mother features prominently in the book, so I guess it is fitting to promote it this Mother’s Day, too. (She would be all in favour of trying to push sales, but I must admit, I find it rather cringe, as the kids say.) I would also like to share this song, so get out your Kleenex. I can’t listen to it without thinking of mum – both my parents, actually.
I had always read that Maurice Chevalier was a weasel during the war. According to this article – from almost three years ago, but I just found and read it – things were a bit more complicated than that. As they so often are…
Now we have Biden and Justin. (See below.)
On this 80th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, I think back to my time in Japan. There was so much I loved and a few things I didn’t like all that much. One of the latter was the belief of many of my students (Japanese adults) that not only were they (Japanese people) merely victims – not perpetrators – of the war, but that they were the war’s primary victims. Of course, some of them were victims, but they did not see their country as being in the wrong, or as being an aggressor, or as having been the driving force behind the laying waste to at least one continent.
There was much we could not discuss with them – it was not verboten, but it wasn’t worth the tension it caused and it potentially could have given us grief with our bosses, both Japanese and Canadian. The Japanese didn’t seem to have achieved German levels of ownership on the matter. (A post on the Japanese surrender here.) Why discuss such things? Good question, and for the most part I tried to avoid it, but adults love talking politics and, of course, on certain anniversaries it would be a natural topic. This was in the 1990s, but I have friends still in Japan who say it remains a touchy matter.
A post for both, which you can find at my other site.
Full text of Hirohito’s speech of August 14, 1945 accepting the Potsdam Declaration. To consider: many Japanese people were unaware of the extent of their country’s predicament and, surprised by the speech, had difficulty agreeing with the Emperor’s orders; the Japanese he spoke was “court Japanese” and very unlike the street language non-royals would have used; he specifically mentions the atom bombs as part of his decision. Revisionists can say what they like, but President Truman’s decision shortened the war and saved lives, both Japanese lives and Allied lives.
To our good and loyal subjects: After pondering deeply the general trends of the world and the actual conditions obtaining in our empire today, we have decided to effect a settlement of the present situation by resorting to an extraordinary measure.
We have ordered our Government to communicate to the Governments of the United States, Great Britain, China and the Soviet Union that our empire accepts the provisions of their joint declaration.
To strive for the common prosperity and happiness of all nations as well as the security and well-being of our subjects is the solemn obligation which has been handed down by our imperial ancestors and which we lay close to the heart.
Indeed, we declared war on America and Britain out of our sincere desire to insure Japan’s self-preservation and the stabilization of East Asia, it being far from our thought either to infringe upon the sovereignty of other nations or to embark upon territorial aggrandizement.
But now the war has lasted for nearly four years. Despite the best that has been done by everyone–the gallant fighting of our military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of out servants of the State and the devoted service of our 100,000,000 people--the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan’s advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.
Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.
Such being the case, how are we to save the millions of our subjects, nor to atone ourselves before the hallowed spirits of our imperial ancestors? This is the reason why we have ordered the acceptance of the provisions of the joint declaration of the powers.
We cannot but express the deepest sense of regret to our allied nations of East Asia, who have consistently cooperated with the Empire toward the emancipation of East Asia.
The thought of those officers and men as well as others who have fallen in the fields of battle, those who died at their posts of duty, or those who met death [otherwise] and all their bereaved families, pains our heart night and day.
The welfare of the wounded and the war sufferers and of those who lost their homes and livelihood is the object of our profound solicitude. The hardships and sufferings to which our nation is to be subjected hereafter will be certainly great.
We are keenly aware of the inmost feelings of all of you, our subjects. However, it is according to the dictates of time and fate that we have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable. Having been able to save *** and maintain the structure of the Imperial State, we are always with you, our good and loyal subjects, relying upon your sincerity and integrity.
Beware most strictly of any outbursts of emotion that may engender needless complications, of any fraternal contention and strife that may create confusion, lead you astray and cause you to lose the confidence of the world.
Let the entire nation continue as one family from generation to generation, ever firm in its faith of the imperishableness of its divine land, and mindful of its heavy burden of responsibilities, and the long road before it. Unite your total strength to be devoted to the construction for the future. Cultivate the ways of rectitude, nobility of spirit, and work with resolution so that you may enhance the innate glory of the Imperial State and keep pace with the progress of the world.
Emphasis mine – I love the use of understatement. I also quite like the line about enduring the unendurable.
Today is Bastille Day, which gives me an excuse to post this scene from Casablanca.
Dear readers, I am currently in the thick of this amazing book, Hope and Memory: Lessons from the Twentieth Century, by Tzvetan Todorov. Here’s an eminently sane Romain Gary quote from the book:
The bombs I dropped on Germany between 1940 and 1944 maybe killed a Rilke or a Goethe or a Holderin in his cradle. And yes, if it had to be done over, I would do it again. Hitler had condemned us to kill. Not even the most just causes are ever innocent.