Thursday, August 31

sins of the fathers

When the recent Isreal-Lebanon conflict (12 July - 14 August 2006) was going on, there was an article in BBC about debates in Germany over involvement of Germans in a Lebanon peace force, before steps were taken to create one. The article is about the debates in German Media on the ethical questions faced by a German soldier, if he is needed to fight an Israeli soldier.

"History is the past, but the history of the Holocaust belongs to the German present," said the Frankfurter Rundschau. No German soldier should, even theoretically, "be brought into a situation where he has to aim his weapon at an Israeli", it added. [...]

[...] Austria's Der Standard said it was "unthinkable" that the grandchildren of Holocaust perpetrators might find themselves shooting at the grandchildren of victims.

Germany is a country with a dark period of history during the reign of Hitler, leading to the second world war. When it all ended, there were trials, especially the famous Nuremberg Trials, incriminating the war criminals of Second World War. But the punishment for the sins of Third Reich didn't end there. The most unfortunate were not those who were tried (deservedly so), but the sons and grandsons of the Nazi generation. That regime has left such a deep stain in the German history, that its descendants carry that even today.

In contrast, the way the Japanese handle their history is... well, not quite the same. There have always been questions about the accuracy of Japanese history textbooks, and the accusations that they "justify and glorify the wrongs committed in the past" (especially the Nanjing massacre. Wikipedia entry is here). Even after protests, those textbooks were never changed. Recently, there have been protests over the Japanese prime minister visiting the Yasukuni shrine, where war criminals are venerated. By such attempts, Japanese try to paint a different picture of history to their younger generation. Though their objectives on re-writing Japanese history are political, it probably would make the future Japanese generations carry less burden of the past. Unlike the Germans.

The question is how nations (and its people) choose to handle the sins of their history - either let it burden them for generations OR glorify the sins to make them proud. I couldn't do an ethical analysis of the Japanese stand on its history OR the reasons why Germans has to confront their history head on (I don't have access to a good library and, I am no historian. We can't miss the cultural angle(east vs west) too).

Bringing the same line of questioning towards ancestral histories, I think, our parents, grand parents, uncles, and aunts had the same two choices. When they had to tell us the inconvenient truths of the past, they either choose to bury them down or pass those burdens over. Of course, they would rather bury them, than do the dad-son karma-transfer. So... I wonder, Do I really believe in everything of what I am told about my family ? (or my country ?) And, Am I going say everything, most importantly every sin of my life to my next generation ?(if by an accident or some act of God, a next generation happens to me!!!)

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