March 16: Osaka Arrival  |  March 18: Tokyo  |  March 19: Hiroshima  |  Text of Speech

Peace Mission to Japan
Day 2: March 17, 2002

Osaka Grassroots Peace Conference:
"Advance with Berkeley To Create Peaceful Communities"

The primary purpose of my visit to Japan was originally to give the major speech at today's peace-and-justice conference in Osaka. After the initial discussion, I was invited to visit for eight days, to meet with activists in several cities; then the invitation was extended to eleven days as more meetings and events were added to the schedule.

The Osaka conference was impressive in many respects: The number of organizations and range of issues represented; the sophisticated level of knowledge among the activists; the impressive parade of people to whom I was introduced in a makeshift reception room outside of the main hall; and the inclusion of cultural performances and skits as well as speeches.

The day was not without its uncomfortable moments for me. While I was onstage as part of a panel, a skit was presented in which the United States was placed on trial for terrorism. The first "witness" was the father of a victim of the September 11 attacks; the next "witness" was Nicaragua, testifying that the U.S. support of the contras amounted to terrorism. While I agree with that point, the presentation made me squirm for several reasons. I took the criticism a bit personally: Much as the performers didn't intended it that way, I am, after all, an American, and it feels very different to hear the criticism from people outside of my country. Second, it felt dismissive of the terrible nature of the September 11 attacks. I have no doubt that the people of Nicaragua suffered mightily, many died cruelly, and they continue to suffer today from the U.S. usurpation of their democratic choice of government. However, I cannot bring myself to equate the Reagan-era policies with the attacks of last September. This is not to say one or the other is more or less evil, but perhaps they are of a qualitatively different sort, and it may be inapt to lump them together.

Of course, not speaking Japanese, I have only the barest understanding of the skit. I've requested a copy of the script so that I may have it translated into English.

Another difficult moment came at the dinner following the conference. A Muslim activist who was selling books about the U.S. use of depleted uranium weapons during the Iraq war spoke at some length about her understanding of the treatment of Al Qaida captives at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Her perspective seemed to be unquestioningly pro-Muslim/anti-U.S., and some of the claims she made about torture of the captives and other matters seem pretty unlikely to be true. I felt it necessary to respond publicly to the impromptu speech she gave at the dinner, struggling to dispute some of her statements without being rude, in a country where disagreements must often be voiced in the most diplomatic of terms. As one who cannot be relied upon to hew to an America's-always-wrong line or to draw my politics primarily from anger, perhaps some will say I'm not the most appropriate representative of "the People's Republic of Berkeley," but there you have it.

Attendees entering peace conference

Attendees entering Osaka grassroots peace conference entitled "Advance with Berkeley To Create Peaceful Communities," March 17, 2002.
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Signs at peace conference entrance

Signs at entrance to conference.

Tables at Osaka peace conference

Organizations promoting a wide range of peace, justice, and environmental causes had tables at the Osaka peace conference. Among their issues: Saving the endangered dugong sea mammal off the coast of Osaka, threatened by U.S. military base expansion plans; opposing a proposed set of emergency laws to give the national government more war powers; promoting aid to civilian victims of the bombing of Afghanistan; and ending sanctions against Iraq.
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Selling food at peace conference

Organizations sold food at the conference to raise funds for their work.
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Another organization sells food

Another organization sells food.

Me signing a petition

I sign a petition at one of the organizations' tables. Signature-gathering is a major strategy of Japanese grassroots groups.
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Japanese Muslim activist with books

Japanese Muslim activist holds books about U.S. forces' use of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq.


Signs adorn stage at Osaka peace conference.

Signs adorning the stage at the Osaka peace conference.
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Musicians at peace conference.

Musicians perform at Osaka peace conference. Note logo of Berkeley at right side of banner.

Tall Women perform at Osaka peace conference.

Feminist "Tall Women" perform skit at Osaka peace conference.
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I speak

I deliver address at peace conference.

Another image of me speaking

Another picture of me speaking.
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Presenting gift to Japanese peace activist

I present a gift to Misao Inoue, the organizer of my visit to Japan: A copy of the Berkeley Commissioners' Manual. The Japanese activists are fascinated by Berkeley's system of citizen commissions, lacking any comparable system for citizen input into government decision-making in their country.

Peace activists sing We Shall Overcome.

Activists link arms and sing "We Shall Overcome" at the end of the peace conference. The American civil-rights spiritual is a favorite of Japanese activists, and many of their meetings end with this song, in English. (I'm fourth from right.)

Dinner party

Activists after dinner party following conference. I'm in the center, wearing a tie.

Muslim and Korean Japanese activists.

Japanese Muslim activist Jamila Takahashi (L), and Japanese Korean activist Chin Son Te. According to my hosts, there is substantial discrimination against Japanese Koreans in Japan.

March 16: Osaka Arrival  |  March 18: Tokyo  |  March 19: Hiroshima

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