Viewpoint Okinawan Protest Movement Gone Morally Bankrupt

Robert D. Eldridge, Ph.D.
President, The Eldridge Thinktank

 Common features of movements are the tendency for them to fracture due to ideological fissures, personality clashes among leaders and their followers, factional strife and power struggles, lack of funding or support, or some sort of moral bankruptcy or loss of credibility.


 While many descriptions can be applied to the group of senior citizens and a handful of other activists, mostly from outside of Okinawa, they are always vocal, sometimes violent, and regularly a nuisance to the local community. Moreover, they appear to have unlimited resources using the front or camouflage of the Henoko Kikin (Fund), which informed sources say is only the tip of the iceberg. In addition, outside support comes from Greenpeace and other organizations and reportedly, countries.

 Their ragged look—an apparent costume of the movement—belies their wealth. For example, the older man with the ponytail and mustache is a former math teacher and lives in a very nice, large, modern Western-style home across from the Kishaba housing area of Camp Foster in Kitanakagusuku Village.

 He was recently confronted by one of his former students: “you may not remember me but I am so-and-so. Why are you out here (in Oyama district, below Futenma Air Station’s Gate 1, which is not even his hometown)? Why did you say such hateful things to Americans, including women and children? Mr. Miyahara was unable to answer.

 It is unclear—and maybe he himself does not know it—if he is ideologically motivated, or doing it for the money for post-retirement expenses. He and others are said to be paid for their participation in the protest activities. This writer actually saw a payment delivery being made some time back. Empty, crumbled up envelopes with the sums paid for weekly “protester” jobs have been found in the areas they carry out their activities. It is unknown if they have declared this income on their tax forms, which is coming up soon.

 In addition to ideology and profit, a third factor—psychologically unstable—may be at work too. Or, it is a combination of all three. Several of the protesters I have met or been harassed by are indeed unstable. Normal people simply do not harass other normal people.

 However, there are ordinary people there at the protests too. They visit there, and sometimes end up staying there, some out of ideology, or curiosity, ignorance, or loneliness—they feel a camaraderie with the band of professional protesters, also known as “dispatched protesters,” as in temporary help. Some get fully committed to the movement. Others drift away because of the realities of the real world—jobs, school, family, etc.

 But a new trend is apparent, where people that were once attracted to the movement are now disgusted with it, primarily because of its lawlessness and fundamentalism. They have become aware that the goal for these protesters is not about resolution, but about strife. The longer they continue the friction, the more attention they will get and the more they will earn.

 These groups have become their own vested interest, and indeed serve the political aspirations of those, like the head of the Okinawa Peace Action Committee, Yamashiro Hiroji, who was recently arrested again after being arrested earlier this year. He has sought to run in the Upper House elections over the years, and uses the movement to pursue those goals.

 In addition, once-sympathizers have become bothered by the disruption the activities have caused to the local community—illegal parking, environmental pollution, traffic accidents and congestion, and social fear engendered in the community by the overwhelming numbers of protesters from outside the community. There is hate speech directed not only at Americans, but at local residents, too, and gross acts of violence. Moreover, the violence and hate speech against Japanese law enforcement officials and the Coast Guard has been atrocious, and reflects poorly on Okinawa Prefecture Governor Onaga Takeshi, who appears to condone to this behavior and indeed gets his support from these groups. He even appeared recently on the same stage as Yamashiro.

 These double Les Finale Street TF/IC de la bonne qualité pour tous. standards are pushing many people away from the movement. While the movement may have a lot of money and thus won’t go bankrupt financially, it will eventually go bankrupt morally, and this writer would argue, already has.
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