Okinawa 2018: Second Dispatch

May 01, 2018

Tarak Kauff writes the second dispatch from Okinawa sent on April 25th.


In Okinawa with Bruce Gagnon and Dud Hendrick, two long-time solid activists who have been here before with VFP delegations. I am taking pictures, since Ellen could not come. Bruce's blog tells the story which you can read now. The pictures and more will be out when I get back.

Bruce and Dud arrived two days before me, but we have been together for 3 days now. We spend full days at the Camp Schwab gates with more than 500 protesters resolutely blocking the gates and the long line of construction trucks even before they arrive at the gates.

Bruce and Dud have been carried off struggling, as the Okinawans and others, some from mainland Japan do a number of times. It is not easy work for the Japanese police to untangle the interlocked arms and legs, and in other cases, five that I have counted, of paraplegics in wheelchairs, who resist as much as they can and to carry them and their heavy motorized wheelchairs. I have to give the police some credit, they are not generally or intentionally abusive, although one woman had three ribs and a collar bone broken the other day, but what impresses me is their physicality. Many of them are obviously very fit and some are quite large. I understand many of them have blackbelts. They also look like many lift weights. Big backs and strong ams are noticeable through the long sleeve uniform shirts they wear and sweat in.

Bruce said yesterday about Japan, that it wasn't too long ago that they were a fascist nation and with Abe, it looks like they are heading, with U.S. encouragement, in that direction again. The well trained, very fit police, doing their job efficiently and very methodically seem to fit that analysis. I imagine that some of them however, as they stand witness, will take in for later thought some of the powerful thoughts and emotions expressed by the people.

The people, those at the gates day after day, resolute in their determination to protect Oura Bay and to affirm their democratic rights as free people, are awe inspiring. One of the reasons, I am drawn back here, (this is my forth time) besides the need and responsibility to be part of the struggle to close U.S. Foreign Military Bases, is because I can't help falling in love with the Okinawan people as they struggle to rid themselves of the U.S. and Japanese military yoke choking their land and their inalienable rights of self-determination. Yet they accept us, we who are from the U.S. a country that has militarily occupied them for 73 years, with graciousness and love. Every day, they offer us the opportunity to speak, and we do so to receptive faces as Doug Lummis translates our English to Japanese in his own, often humorous and also sometimes very serious way as I know he takes the liberty as a dear friend and comrade to expand, emphasize and, if needed, re-enforce what we say.

The days are long and somewhat tiring but Dud, Bruce and I are having a great time, often with Makishisan and Tomasan leaders from VFP ROCK along with Doug. Dud, Bruce and I laugh a lot, crack jokes at each others expense and I haven't yet heard one word of complaint from any of us. It's called friendship and deep solidarity. What an uplifting time it is for me to be with these two dedicated and very intensely human activists for peace and justice. The pictures, taken by me channeling Ellen, hopefully will tell more of the story when you see them.

Yesterday started with a short ride on a glass bottom boat to see some of the corral which will be destroyed along with much of the marine life as a good portion of Oura Bay is filled over with millions of tons of rocks and gravel being brought in by the trucks. And what for? To accommodate yet more weapons of war, to build runways into this pristine bay for war planes to take off and land.

Last night we were invited to a barbecue where a young woman's Japanese rock band who has been at the Camp Schwab gates sang and among their songs, the highlight was an absolutely beautiful rendition of Bridge Over Troubled Waters, in English (mostly). Even though we didn't have Doug or anyone at the barbecue to translate, we felt welcome and enjoyed ourselves. If you are perceptive, you can notice a very natural and charming humility and warmth the people have that we only see rarely among U.S. Americans. It is refreshing to be among such people. I have seen a similar phenomenon among the people in Palestine.

Something that has pleased me greatly is the people who have asked me about Mike Hanes. How fondly he is thought of here. People do not forget how he spoke from his heart and apologized for being an occupying Marine when he was stationed here. There is a love they have for Mike which I find very moving. I have promised that the next time we return we will do our best to have Mike with us. One of those who remembered Mike was Akino Miyagi, the naturalist woman from Takae who led us through Yaburu forest. She lit up when I mentioned Mike as she remembered Mike very fondly from when he went back there with Henayo and Miho to do a clean up of the regular garbage the jungle warfare training Marines leave there. Here's the video from that day