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November Edition: “Freedom”


Greetings & Salutations,


I was confronted the other day by a student over the question of "Freedom."   So, I had asked her to ask herself that same question instead of asking me.  She told me that freedom, in the sense that Japanese understand the meaning means, to her,  is when everybody gets along and when people can do whatever they want to do, whenever they want.     She goes on to say that the free flow of ideas and peoples opinions are more outspoken in America than they are in Japan and that this is what constituted what freedom is as a whole.   But I ask  myself, couldn’t  she do all of those things right here in Japan,too?


I have always questioned the notions of Japanese people about freedom in America, and I have yet to find someone with a rational and logical understanding of freedom.  Personally, I think the term is vague.  I think that freedom as a "principle" is a better way to understand what freedom is to millions of Americans rather than some premature notion of peace loving people who just love everybody regardless of race, religion, or creed.


I mean, let's face it, you cannot do whatever you want to do in America whenever you want to do it.  I may have the constitutional right to bare arms and the right to use lethal force in order to protect myself and my property, as long as I am in/on my own property, that is.   I may have the right to free speech and the right to appeal a court judgment and the right to legal representation in a court of law.   I may also have the right to be treated fairly and equally.  These are all basic and fundamental human rights that even the Japanese can enjoy right here at home under their own present day constitution, of which contains half of the U.S. Bill of Rights. 


Freedoms and Rights in the broader sense are often times juxtaposed to mean the same thing, in other words you cannot have Rights without Freedoms and visa-verse.  America is a society that was built off of the notion of equality, liberty, and justice for all.   I have a right to be heard, which means I am free to express myself!   I have a right to vote and to choose my own state and federal representatives, even the president, I’m free to stand in line and sign a ballot.   Are these Rights and Freedoms  not guaranteed under the present day constitution of Japan also?  I believe they are. 


What is freedom from the context of the American Constitution?  According to FDR, there are Four Freedoms guaranteed by the American constitution:

1) Freedom of speech and expression

2) Freedom of religion

3) Freedom from want

4) Freedom from fear


Japan is the only country in the world where a male foreigner  can wear a dress, if he so chooses to, and not be insulted, not even once by any Japanese person on any given day of the week.  He may even become popular for being so different and unique in that regard.  No Japanese will ever directly criticize a foreigner for being a misfit, a nerd or a geek.  A foreigner can be fat and relatively unhealthy and never be bullied and laughed at; maybe teased a little, but never to the extent where teasing becomes harmful to ones mental state...i.e. nobody is going to throw rocks at you for being overweight.   They probably would in America, though, or either that, they’d probably burn your house down.  


Even the Japanese media glorifies Japanese and Western misfits, gays, and geeks whereas in America it is still too controversial to show scenes   where two men are  kissing each other, which reminds of a time when I was at an onsen, and these two grown Japanese men were openly tonguing  each other and in the presence of children, too.  It is this freedom to be and do what you want to “be” and “do” that’s the question.   The Japanese have held too many misconception about America for far too long.  Japan has always been the Sodom and Gomorrah of East, and in many ways has surpassed America in terms of carnality.

In many ways I feel freer in Japan than I did when I was living in America, simply because nobody gives a damn.   Societies in America have unspoken rules and those rules must be obeyed, or , you’ll fall into a type of category where people will label you and treat you either like garbage, or someone deserving of respect.  Here in Japan nobody really cares about who and what a foreigner is or was as long as he/she is kind to Japanese.


Here in Japan, one can choose his/her own religious affiliation freely and without public scorn.  They can stand on a street corner and freely express themselves just like they do in America.


If I want to bathe naked in an onsen full of women I can do so freely and without public scorn or prohibition as long as there’s a sign that says mixed bathing.


In Japan, drunkards are not considered bums, just working class salary men on there way home from a night out on the town.  In America,  public drunkenness  equals either a person being a bum or a homeless person according to our vernacular.


The Japanese should know better.

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