Japan has decided it will henceforth stop all non-Japanese people except for Koreans born in Japan (who are not Japanese citizens by birth, remember) each time they enter the country. And fingerprint them. (See link below.)
It is not news that Japanese bureaucrats frequently act for the sake of appearances, rather than on a carefully reasoned basis. This bit of nonsense is small potatoes in comparison with some of the things governments do to their people. It amounts to inconvenience for travellers, and not much more.
Still, it gets under the skin of longterm residents of Japan, because they are singled out on the basis of their race, rather than because they provide evidence they are a threat to Japanese national security. No doubt the robotic Japanese bureaucracy is trying to impress the Bush Administration by copying their anti-terrorism tactics. Evidently they have not figured out the Bush people have other motives for generating fear; in the U.S., it's not about catching bad guys so much as it is making sure Americans feel the need for aggressive leadership, as opposed to what the wussy democrats have to offer.
Fingerprinting everybody has a purpose for criminal detection. It will not stop a terrorist attack, but it may speed up tracking someone down, if the terrorist is stupid enough not to wear gloves when committing a crime. Seen in that light, keeping millions of travellers getting off ten or twelve hour flights a couple extra hours at the airport, before they board their trains for a three hour ride home, makes sense.
But only if none of these terrorist acts are committed by Japanese. Or South Koreans. Or North Koreans. But by French people. Luxemburgers. Next Finn who comes in with evil intent, man we're on your ass!
Anyway, one lights a candle or one curses the darkness. Here’s my substitute for the day for “Goddam son of a bitchin’ stupid world!”
General Affairs Division, Immigration Bureau, Ministry of Justice
1-1-1 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku,
November 3, 2007
Dear Immigration Bureau Officers:
I am writing you to protest the implementation of new airport security laws on November 20, 2007, which will discriminate against residents of Japan while doing nothing to enhance security on any rational basis.
I am a permanent resident of Japan. I travel frequently in and out of the country, and your new airport security laws concern me directly and personally. I think you are making a terrible mistake, and here are my reasons:
1. Permanent and other long-term residents of Japan have been through a careful vetting in the visa application process – far more careful than can be done at even the most thorough of airport checks, and repeat this process at regular intervals. If I am not mistaken, every terrorist incident in Japan since 1945 has been caused by a Japanese citizen, not a foreigner. They are, in other words, as a class of people, safer than the Japanese people as a whole. You are targeting the wrong people. To apply new security measures against all foreigners, regardless of their similarity, in civic terms, to Japanese, shows you to be thinking in racist categories as opposed to effective ones.
2. If, nonetheless, you insist on creating a suspicious class of people on the basis of national origin, one would assume you would target people of North Korean heritage and provenance. Yet you specifically exclude these people. This suggests you are responding to political pressure rather than making a sincere effort to be effective.
3. You are following in the path of the United States in substituting the spread of fear, rather than implementing careful and effective policy, and stretching, possibly even breaking, your own laws to do so. I refer to the 2003 Personal Information Law, in effect since April 1, 2005.
To impose such conspicuously ineffective measures only makes you look like someone who would argue, “To keep the house safe from burglars, we cannot lock all the doors and windows. So let’s do what we can. Let’s lock the ones in the kitchen. And make the maid come in the front door.”
Government measures to enhance security must be effective. Please, I urge you, do more than simply look busy. Keep Japan safe!
Thank you for your attention.
Alan J. McCornick