Thursday, August 27, 2015

Miscamble's Most Miserable Morality

Wilson D. Miscamble, C.S.C., The Most Controversial Decision: Truman, the Atomic Bombs, and the Defeat of Japan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 174 pp., $94.99, Hardcover.

Reviewed by David A. Wemhoff

Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan, dressed in somber hues walked behind a Shinto priest to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo where in late December 2013 he "paid his respects" as Time magazine reported.[1] The Yasukuni Shrine contains the Book of Souls which has the names of nearly two and a half million Japanese, to include more than 1,000 Japanese convicted of war crimes after World War II.[2] The American reaction was swift and severe. In the words of the Wall Street Journal, "a rare admonition" issued from the U.S. "'The United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors,' said the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo on its website, in an unusual direct criticism of Japan's leader by its main ally."[3] Abe's actions were something less than an unqualified denunciation of fellow Japanese the Americans deemed to be bad, something the conquerors still expected from the conquered nearly seventy years after Japanese surrender. But there was another and related problem with Abe's actions in the eyes of the Americans. By walking behind a priest of the Shinto religion, which had been the state religion of Japan until 1945 when the American occupiers disestablished it, Abe made clear the importance of Shintoism to the Japanese people and the Japanese state. His actions bore witness to the subordination of the material to the spiritual which is a principle of the natural law, something rejected by the ideology which defines America.

The social re-engineering put in place after the Japanese surrender and at the point of a bayonet, or the American equivalent of a bayonet, was starting to unravel. Japanese national, or ethnic, identity and pride was starting to manifest itself again, and just in time because Japan was suffering a national malaise that even its enemies noted. With a declining birthrate, symptomatic of severe social ills, the Japanese, by some accounts, were on their way to extinction. The seeds of this malaise were in the social re-engineering practiced on the Japanese by the Americans after the unconditional surrender of the Japanese government aboard a U.S. warship. The nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki lead to the Japanese total capitulation, but as new life sprang up unexpected, lush, and verdant in the atomic ash-heaps of Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortly after the attacks, new life was stirring the Japanese soul about seventy years later, and there really was nothing the Americans could do about it. The actions of Abe, imperfect as they may be, evince a desire of the Japanese leadership to have their people live, life comes from on high, and saying yes to life is cooperating with the Almighty. New life is creation, it is love, it is all part of the order of the universe, or, as the editor of this magazine and the Evangelist St. John might put it, part of Logos.  (more...)

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