The Japanese Peace Constitution, with its Article 9 renouncing war
and the possession of military forces, is a treasure for the Japanese
people. It ought to be retained for the sake of the Japanese people as
well as for all of humanity. The present effort to revise it must be
resisted. Beyond that, its message must be exported around the world.
When it takes root in many other countries, it will bring this rich
legacy to all of humanity. Already it has influenced Japan's foreign
policy and role within the United Nations. This influence can certainly
be expanded. Obviously when Article 9 is under threat, as at present,
it is the primary responsibility of the Japanese people to ensure that
it is re-tained. This is a responsibility with worldwide consequences.
I think one of the strongest challenges is to enlist a sufficient
proportion of the Japanese public, and especially of young people, in
the retention movement. Those of us outside Japan in the peace and
religious communities wish to provide our support in all possible ways.
This exploration of the reasons for retention is one such effort. There
are both idealistic and practical reasons that we can put forward.
There is ample documentation for the roots of Article 9 in the Peace
Constitution. To those of us outside Japan, the atomic destruction of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be reason enough. Definitely this was a
factor. Within Japan, there was the additional clear awareness of the
firebombed cities. That devastation affected a far greater proportion
of the Japanese people, and there was more destruction throughout the
Japanese islands. Also the loss of soldiers, another effect of war,
resulted in the continuing sorrow that the absence of loved ones
brought to so many families. All of these horrors of war became sources
for the crafting of Article 9, and they remain today as compelling
reasons for its retention.
As supporters, we are challenged to mobilize public opinion for
retention. Among the attitudes to be overcome is one that the passage
of time has brought. Memories of the horrors of World War II have faded
from the minds of even some of the dwindling number of survivors who
experienced them. Successive generations do not possess such personal
memories--only secondhand ones at best. For our youth, those horrors
are buried deep in the past. We must find ways to make the lessons of
these memories fresh again. Reflection upon the atomic bombings of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, with their consequences for all of humanity, is
an essential element of the argument for retention of Article 9. The
world has been fortunate that no country has used nuclear weapons since
1945, but it would be foolhardy to assume that no country will in the
future. As we develop our arguments in support of Article 9, we should
not depend alone on the valuable lessons of sixty years ago but must
also draw lessons from the conflicts that are causing deadly damage in
the present. The loss of human life in wars and conflicts in the
twentieth century was a staggering 110 million men, women, and
children. This loss continues today and will continue until we abandon
war as an instrument of policy.
While Japanese supporters of retention know best the strategies that
might prove successful in retaining the Peace Constitution and Article
9, I think there might be value in convening a conference of supporters
from the religious and peace sectors of the country. Such a gathering
could develop multifaceted strategies for enlisting the broader
population, perhaps targeting different segments separately in building
a coalition. In this effort, all of the informal contacts with
political leaders that religious and peace organizations may have could
be utilized as well. I would expect that generating massive publicity
favorable to retention is a necessary component of this effort. No
doubt that would accompany any major campaign envisioned to counteract
pressure for revision.
My own belief that retention is vital springs from my heartfelt
religious convictions, from the early training I received from my
parents, and from the shock and horror I felt when the atomic bombs
were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This was nurtured by my
theological studies and especially by one of my professors, Dr. Amiya
Chakravarty, who had worked with Gandhi in India and was long active in
the international peace movement. It has been expanded by my activities
within the nongovernmental organization community at the United
Nations. It has been bolstered by my participation in several memorable
August commemoration ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Hermann Hagedorn's poem "The Bomb That Fell on America" had a
profound impact upon me that still resonates powerfully. He described
the unparalleled effect of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and
Nagasaki. Then he went on to speak of the spiritual repercussions upon
the United States, as the perpetrator, that he believed were also
tremendous (1946; rev. 1950 [New York, Association Press, 1951]).
A bomb fell on Hiroshima.
And the cloud mushroomed so high and spread so far
It put out the sun partly, and half the stars. . . .
Hagedorn's description included the spreading effect of radiation
with its persisting influence. He implored God's mercy on both the
victims and the perpetrators of the bombing. The effect of the bombing
on America, while not physical, was profound in other, spiritual, ways
that he recounts. Then he concludes, after describing the power of
individual redemptive acts:
THERE IS POWER IN THE HUMAN SOUL
WHEN YOU BREAK THROUGH AND SET IT FREE.
LIKE THE POWER OF THE ATOM,
MORE POWERFUL THAN THE ATOM,
IT CAN CONTROL THE ATOM,
THE ONLY THING IN THE WORLD THAT CAN.
The human soul and human hope are the elements we appeal to now as
we seek Japan's retention of the Peace Constitution and its Article 9.
"Having hope," writes Daniel Goleman in his study of emotional
intelligence, "means that one will not give in to overwhelming anxiety,
a defeatist attitude, or depression in the face of difficult challenges
or setbacks." Hope is "more than the sunny view that everything will
turn out all right"; "it is believing you have the will and the way to
accomplish your goals" (Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence [Bantam Books: New York, 1995]).
Force has too long been the resort of people and nations in their
attempts to resolve problems. It has not worked and does not work. It
only sows the seeds of the next conflicts. We need to embrace another
kind of power. This is the power of the human soul, or spirit. This can
control even the most powerful forms of force we have created. Religion
has taught this truth in myriad ways. The majority of people have been
slow to understand and reluctant to accept these teachings, but "a
saving remnant" in generations past and present has done so and has
sought to spread them. I think such an understanding is part of what
Teilhard de Chardin has called the next step in human evolution. This
is not to imply that we must wait for another age to dawn, but rather
that those of us with such convictions already share this next
evolutionary step. Our responsibility is to share our convictions in
compelling ways that will draw into our ranks more and more people.
They too will join in the thought and actions that will secure the
retention of Article 9. We must maintain the human hope that our cause
is right and will succeed.
Violence is destructive, and its consequences reverberate down the
centuries. All violence in society is linked. Peace begins in the
hearts of individuals, and it must be practiced in the home, the
school, the workplace, the community, the nation, and the world. Martin
Luther King Jr. wrote in Strength to Love (1963):
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence,
and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending
spiral of destruction. . . . The chain reaction of evil--hate begetting hate,
wars producing more wars--must be broken, or we shall be plunged
into the dark abyss of annihilation.
At the heart of personal and communal morality lies the conviction
that killing is wrong. This principle does not change with state
sanction. It has roots in all of the major religious teachings and in
many philosophical positions. Human life is of the highest value. Might
does not make right. Other life is to be valued as well. This has been
taught through the centuries. We have progressed painfully in our
understanding that we are all one. Many still need to be convinced of
this truth. Cooperation is more fundamental than competition in the
human experience. The nation-state is not at the pinnacle of
governance. We struggled in the twentieth century to bring into being
the United Nations. As imperfect as it still is in its functioning, it
embodies the proud ideals of humanity. The preamble to the UN Charter
begins with these familiar words:
We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save
succeeding generations from the scourge of war, . . . and for these
ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another
as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international
peace and security, . . .
Article 9 is firmly aligned with these intentions. This opens the
way for Japan to act internationally in peacekeeping and in
peacebuilding through the United Nations. Both of these actions are of
increasing importance. Japan's Disarmament Policy states:
"Japan resolved not to possess any nuclear weapons, and . . . strongly
believes that this is the path it should follow to achieve prosperity
and to establish an honorable position through making a positive
contribution to international affairs." Later, in answering the
question "Why do we need disarmament?" it states: "War threatens
people's lives and properties, destroys their lives and societies, and
brings many tragedies to the world. Japan's diplomacy must be conducted
on the Japanese people's deep-rooted desire for peace and security both
regionally and internationally. The genesis of disarmament is based on
the idea that 'the best solution is the total elimination of
armaments,' while maintaining peace and stability" (Directorate
General, Arms Control and Scientific Affairs, Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, Japan's Disarmament Policy [n.p.: Center for the Promotion of Disarmament, Japan Institute of International Affairs, 2003], preface, p. 1).
Many of the resolutions introduced by Japan in the UN General
Assembly have elaborated on specific issues in the light of these
objectives. Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura stated at the United
Nations General Assembly's high-level debate on September 28, 2007,
that Japan is committed to bolstering global efforts for the
elimination of nuclear weapons. He went on to say that Japan "will
again submit a draft resolution at this session of the General Assembly
to map out concrete measures toward the total elimination of nuclear
Japan can continue to be an even stronger example and can increase
its leadership role. It shares responsibility with other countries for
past military aggression committed in the name of empire, but after the
end of World War II it embarked, in 1947, upon a different path with
the Peace Constitution. This has increased the respect of its
neighbors. It is one of the sources of the prosperity it has enjoyed.
Still, there have been governmental actions that have eroded Article 9.
These need to be resisted. Japan has been generous in providing
humanitarian aid around the world. Reduction of defense expenditures
could permit more such aid. Nor do I think it is a breach of Article 9
to participate in UN peacekeeping. Foreign Minister Komura also said,
as chair of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) established last year
to help prevent countries emerging from conflict from slipping back
into violence, that Japan "is resolved to making a significant
contribution to international efforts" through such means as the launch
of the Hiroshima Peacebuilders Center to increase Asian civilian
experts' abilities to respond to events on the ground.
It may be argued by some that Japan's Peace Constitution was not a
fully independent action under political conditions in 1947. This is
not a reason for revision; indeed, it lends weight to its retention now
as an independent act and in resistance to pressure, especially from
the United States, to take a stronger defense role. The positive
influence of Article 9 must be upheld. Under its control, Japan has not
been directly involved in war. Other countries can be urged to follow
this example, benefiting as societies and increasing international
security. History has shown that large standing armies and military
forces facing one another across frontiers dramatically increase the
likelihood of erupting conflict.
Just as I agree with Hagedorn that the human soul is the only force
capable of controlling the atom, I believe it is the only force that
can ensure retention of the Peace Constitution with its Article 9. Our
challenge is to mobilize that force. Both religious and peace
organizations are in an advantageous position to do this, operating out
of strong moral convictions. But a great amount of hard work is
required to accomplish this goal. Both Japan's example in retaining
Article 9 and its opportunity for international leadership that this
provides are powerful reasons for retention.
The prayer expressed in his poem by the Bengali poet Rabindranath
Tagore conveys my hope for Japan in its retention of the Peace
Constitution with its Article 9, and for all countries.
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls;
Where the words come out from the depth of truth;
Where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection;
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action--
Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake.
Vernon C. Nichols was president of the NGO
Committee on Disarmament, Peace, and Security for twelve years and
served as co-president for the last three years. A retired Unitarian
Universalist minister, he served congregations in Manhasset, NY;
Ottawa, ONT; West Hartford, CT; and Southfield, MI. He and his wife,
Susan, were co-executive directors of the Unitarian Universalist United
Nations Office from 1986 to 1993. He has also been active in the
International Association for Religious Freedom.
This article was originally published in the January-March 2008 issue of Dharma World.