by Joe Scarry
Barack Obama is in South Korea, as part of his Asia tour, and probably more than any part of his trip, it is this stop that most Americans understand to be relevant to “national security” and the alleged need for ever greater amounts of U.S. firepower in Asia.
That’s because Americans are fed a fairly constant diet of scare news about those “unhinged” North Koreans — “just crazy enough” to start the next nuclear war.
Several weeks ago I attended a presentation that, for me at least, turned this interpretation of events on its head. Professor Jae-Jung Suh gave a presentation entitled, “War or Peace in Korea? The 20 Years’ and the 70 Years’ Crisis” during the Ending the Korean War: Prospects for a Just, Durable and Lasting Peace session at the Ecumenical Advocacy Days 2014.
As I watched Prof. Suh’s presentation, which documented the uninterrupted string of American interventions and threats of intervention on the Korean peninsula since 1950, the vast majority of which contained a nuclear component, the wheels in my brain slowly started to turn. Finally, I realized, “Korea has been designated by the U.S. as a place to demonstrate the constant threat of nuclear catastrophe. Somehow, the U.S. manages the trick of being the one doing the threatening, but making it seem as if it is somehow some inherent characteristic of Korea itself that calls forth these terrifying threats.”
Nuclear threats? Oh, it’s a “Korea thing” . . .
So there are these terrible things called nuclear weapons, and it just turns out that they hover around the Korean peninsula, as if “Korea” and “crazy nuclear terror” belonged together. And I thought to myself, “Where have I heard this before?”
And this being a conference of faith-based organizations, and me being in a Gospel state of mind, it came to me. I remembered the story of the Gerasene demoniac:
Rev. Erik Christensen explains “[A]s the story comes to its conclusion, the Gerasenes, the people who had chained this demon-possessed man up in their graveyard have asked Jesus to leave them. Jesus, by casting out their demons, has disrupted their social order. They’d had a system for handling their demons, namely by scapegoating a man they kept chained up like a slave. Now that he’d been set free, they were afraid.”
In other words, the status quo liked having a scapegoat just fine. It distracted attention from the culpability of the “upstanding” citizens. The moral of the story: don’t expect anyone to thank you for calling out this arrangement, and freeing the scapegoat from that thankless role. (You can read a longer treatment of the scapegoating in the Gerasene demoniac story in the article “Jesus and the Demoniac” by Jim Warren.)
It is in the context of the story of the Gerasene demoniac that I have come to see how cynical and mean the behavior of the U.S. is towards Korea. Under the guise of “security,” it has subjected the Korean peninsula to the role of being the poor, addled, trouble spot for the past 70 years — all in the name of demonstrating to the rest of the world the real ability of the U.S. to bring nuclear annihilation to anyone who thwarts it.
And it is in this context that I have come to understand the importance of the call for a nuclear-free zone on the Korean Peninsula. This is a call for nothing less than the U.S. to stop scapegoating others and to accept its own responsibility for fostering nuclear terror.
PEACE VIGIL AND MARCH: Ending the Korean War + Waging Peace
61st Anniversary of the Korean War
Friday, July 25, 2014
10am to 4pm: Ecumenical Rountable
6pm: Banquet, Viewing of “Memory of Forgotten War,”
Korea Peace Forum
Saturday, July 26, 2014
10am: Peace March/ 11am: Vigil at White House/Lafayette Sq.
Foundry United Methodist Church
1500 16th St NW, Washington, DC
Holiday Inn, DC-Central
1501 Rhode Island Ave NW, Washington, DC
Sponsored by the Committee on Reunification of Korean American Assembly of the UMC, General Board of Church and Society of the UMC, General Board of Global Ministries of the UMC Korean Ministry Plan of the UMC, NCC of Korea, the United Methodist Women
For more information and registration, please contact We Chang at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-491-9581
We have had a window of opportunity — nearly 70 years in which the constitution of Japan has explicitly renounced war, pointing the way for the rest of us. What have we imaginedwe were supposed to do?
(See Renouncing War: An Opportunity Not To Be Missed )
With the New York Times publishing “analysis” like this, is it any wonder that Americans can say things like . . . “It won’t be a war. We’re just going to drop a few well placed bombs on them” . . . “the object of fighting a war is to ’cause devastation'” . . . “my finger is on the button. Run back to your mud hut or I am going to press it!” . . . “when war is devastating, then people will do everything possible not to get into it!” . . . as some of my high school classmates wrote on Facebook today?
(See The Bankruptcy of U.S. Nuclear Doctrine )
Advocates for human rights in the Philippines, including the Ecumenical Advocacy Network on the Philippines, are asking us to speak out publicly on the need for the U.S. government to “own” its responsibility for human rights violations in the Philippines, and to take affirmative action to halt them. As President Obama begins his trip to Asia — underlining the much-touted “pivot to Asia” — it is an especially important time to draw attention to what is really happening in the Philippines.
(See Needed: Less Military Force, More Human Rights in the Philippines )