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Hither and Yon

No, Time magazine, it’s not yet time to forgive as threat of WMD terror looms large

Special to WorldTribune.com
By Donald Kirk, EastAsiaIntel.com
This week’s Asia edition of Time magazine features the cover line, “What It Takes to Forgive a Killer.”
Thinking the editors had had time to do a cover on the massacres in Paris, I discovered cloying, patronizing interviews with friends and relatives of the nine African-Americans shot and killed at random on June 17 in Charleston, S.C., by a 21-year-old white racist. An editor’s note signals what’s coming with a condescending message on “the quality of mercy” in which she says, “The philosopher Ernest Renan said that nations must forget the past in order to forgive and move forward.”
One article tells us “forgiveness describes the state of mind of the forgiver: you have harmed me, but I refuse to respond in kind.”
Oh sure ― ask the Jews, Poles, Russians, gypsies and others if they’ve forgiven the Nazis for the slaughter of more than 12 million people in death camps in World War II; or the Chinese about forgiving the Japanese for the rape of Nanking, in which 200,000 people died; or ask the few remaining “comfort women” if they’ve “forgotten” all the Japanese did and ever really moved on in their lives.
It will be a long, long time before relatives of the scores who were shot, bombed and murdered in Paris will want to hear or read Time-style malarkey about forgetting the past or patting the killers and plotters on their demented heads and saying, “All is forgiven.”
Actually, the killings raise the specter of two challenges that may be impossible to surmount. First, the temptation to wreak vengeance on Muslims in general is overwhelming.
The average French person, like people faced with similar offenses anywhere, are likely to view all Muslims in their midst as suspects, would-be killers. The danger is they will isolate, pursue, and persecute the innocent along with the guilty.
The second problem is how to deal with the masses of refugees from Islamic countries, notably Syria, in search of safety in Europe when so many are seen as saboteurs and terrorists, enemies of whatever society in which they embed themselves. Tens of thousands of refugees, dispersed all over Europe, will be consigned for many years in their own encampments and communities sharing memories of the suffering they’ve endured and the difficulties of life in a new world.
Most will simply want to survive, but a few are sure to dedicate themselves to terrorizing those perceived as enemies, including their host countries.
In Asia, we hear a lot about the problems of integrating newcomers into new environments. North Koreans, arriving as defectors and refugees in the South, often feel rejected and dejected even though they’re all Korean. And the descendants of Koreans who migrated to Japan, willingly or by force, face discrimination and isolation inside Japan.
In China, the Uighur, among other minorities, are at odds with mainstream Han Chinese. Tribal people everywhere are treated at best as “different,” at worst as low-life outcasts even if their ancestors were subjugated by those whose forefathers arrived centuries later.
At the nexus of clashing cultures and nations in Northeast Asia, South Koreans are largely spared the fear of terrorism. That seems absurd to say against the backdrop of the Korean War, the fear of North Korean missiles and nuclear weapons and occasional bloody incidents such as the sinking of the Cheonan in 2010 in which 46 sailors died.
The standoff between the two Koreas, sandwiched between much larger opposing forces, means that South Koreans exist in relative safety while thousands in the North survive in a gulag system that calls to mind the worst of the Nazi era. It’s hard to convince people in the South of their good fortune, however, when hundreds of thousands of young men have to serve in the military, facing a numerically larger army on the northern side of the North-South line.
Should we be thankful that China, Japan, and the two Koreas have formed a kind of balance of terror? Maybe so, but that existence is fraught with terrible risks too awful to contemplate realistically. Memories of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 come to mind as we consider North Korea’s nuclear program and the nuclear war that could destroy all that the nations in the region have built in the past half century ― none more dramatically than South Korea.
Seen that way, the massacres in Paris, after the worse tragedy of 9/11 in the U.S., seem like a foretaste of terrorism spreading from Europe through the Middle East to Asia.
We can think of many ways to guard against the black plague of weapons of mass destruction but none provides a total, ultimate guarantee. That nightmare forces all of us to identify with the victims of the latest massacres in a renewed quest for freedom from terror.
Donald Kirk has been covering mayhem in Asia and the Middle East for decades. He’s at kirkdon4343@gmail.com.
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