Battle Lines Drawn Over World War II Statue

Marines Memorial, by flickr user Jim Bowen, licensed by Creative Commons.

Healing Old Wounds

Residents of Southern California have filed a lawsuit against the city of Glendale over a controversial World War II statue. The $30,000 “Comfort Women” memorial is in honor of those Chinese and Korean women who were allegedly forced into prostitution by Imperial Japan in the 1930′s and 1940′s. The plaintiffs claim that the city is violating the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which is also referred to as “the law of the land”. Supporters of the statue are active in spreading word about the comfort women issue, while the Japanese government has never officially apologized on the record. While no dollar amount has been mentioned, many believe the plaintiffs are strictly interested in removing the statue altogether.

According to reports, 100,000-200,000 women were essentially strong-armed into working across various brothels. While many “comfort women” have come forward to tell their stories, oppositions still refuse to believe that the Japanese military had any involvement in forcing these women into selling themselves for sex. Michiko Shiota Gingery, the lawsuit’s main plaintiff, claims she feels anger and unrest over the statue as she believes there is no purpose to it. She claims that the city of Glendale has no right to place a controversial statue in public as it essentially draws attention to a disputed racial and historical issue. A foundation started to educate the public about the World War II comfort women claims Japan is still in the wrong about their lack of acknowledgment and downplaying of what they refer to as “crimes against humanity” and seeks formal apologies “as the Germans did”.

While younger generations imagine World War II as this far-off, distant event, the truth is that 75 years ago seems like yesterday for a lot of the people who were directly involved.  War crimes were committed not only in the European theater by Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany, but also in The Pacific. Evidence points to Japanese military involvement in this prostitution ring, however Japan’s denial and wish to seemingly sweep it under the rug are certainly offensive to those involved. If a simple statue is enough to cause uproar over the issue, it is obviously a sensitive issue. Here’s hoping the government in Southern California treads lightly and finds a resolution.

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