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Take Your Time, Mr. Hatoyama: Slowly, That’s Just Fine

May 16, 2010

by Megumu Ogata/Shinsuke Uno

“We need no base in Okinawa!  We need no base nowhere!” voices of some 460 people echoed outside of the Prime Minister’s residence on May 14.

During the Lower House election campaign last summer, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama promised Okinawans to move the Futenma U.S. Marine Crops base outside the prefecture or even out of the country.  However, negotiation with the U.S. government and finding relocation site have not been easy to say the least.  In the media, this slowness has been criticized as the incompetence of the current government or Mr. Hatoyama.  The pressure is mounting as the May 31 deadline approaches and as the government considers delaying the deadline.

Among the May 14 demonstrators were members of the Sloth Club, an environmental NGO, and its executive office, Naoko Baba said “We are here today because working toward peace is also necessary to protect environment, and we believe that giving Mr. Hatoyama enough time to find the best answer is more important than just criticizing him.  We want to let him know that ‘slowly’ is ok.”  While the Sloth Club promotes taking time in doing things and finding ways to protect and live with the environment through such slowness, they were quick to mobilize.

“At least, Out of Okinawa!  At best?  Out of the atmosphere!” was the message on the boards the Sloth Club members were carrying at the demonstration.  “At least out of Okinawa!  At best?” is the NGO’s latest campaign, which developed very quickly over the last few days.  Its co-founder Shinichi Tsuji (a.k.a Keibo Oiwa) wrote on its member mailing list “The hype over the Okinawan base is our chance to reframe this issue as an issue for all Japanese people, to reconsider the current Japanese-U.S. security alliance…  It’s only natural that such a great task takes time and what is really concerning is what is behind this huge pressure to make a quick decision.”  In his message, he proposed to support Mr. Hatoyama and consider what is the “best.”  That was May 11, and members responded very quickly in large number with creative, playful words.

“At least, Out of Okinawa!  At best?  Out of the atmosphere!” was an example of such member voices.  Others included,

Make all bases history;

Build it nowhere;

Move it to Wall Street;

Reconsider, but slowly;

Turn it into a beautiful park;

Make Okinawa a World Heritage site (which entails removal of all military installations).

These words are positive messages for peace.  As an Indian peace activist Satish Kumar says “Sending a positive message is a step toward peace,” and with each step, we build new visions of peace.  To make them reality, we don’t have to relay only on politicians, but we can start to move toward the envisioned peace ourselves, doing what we can, slowly but surely.

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