What Does It Mean To “Honor” War Dead?

終戦記念日式典

 

Most people who fought in WWII, had to do so. They had been drafted or swept up in the rah-rah surrounding their nation’s defense and so found themselves on a field of war shooting and killing others because they were either told to do so or felt that if they didn’t shoot first, they would be killed.

Are people in this situation honorable? Only if you accept that fighting and dying for one’s country no matter what the cause, is worthy of honor.

I find this odd. Why should I consider a young boy honorable who is drafted and ends up killing for a cause that is not honorable? Isn’t it more appropriate to pity him? Is he honorable because he did his best no matter the reason he did so? Is he honorable simply because he died while a soldier no matter how he died? The military itself deems some of its soldiers more worthy than others by awarding medals of honor to some and not all.

Still, there is this notion in the public at large that ALL soldiers are honorable. That citizens must respect them, must thank them for their service, and that not to do so, is treasonous. This is sad to me and one of the reasons I dislike the whole idea of nations on whose behalf so much blood has been and will continue to be spilled.

I am brought to these thoughts upon reading what Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is reported to have said in reference to his sending of a ritual offering to Yasukuni Shrine.

“I had a token of my respect offered to the shrine with gratitude and respect to the souls of the war dead, who fought for the sake of this nation and sacrificed their precious lives.”

I am dumbfounded and deeply disturbed by these comments. He respects Tojo Hideki whose many decisions led to acts of utter idiocy? He says “Thanks” to Tojo Hideki who he feels sacrificed his life for the sake of the nation?

These robotic statements should scare anyone. I personally don’t care what China or S. Korea thinks about this, nor about bully America. I care what Abe thinks about the people who led Japan into WWII. If he feels that we must respect and honor them no matter what, he is dangerous and I worry about our future.