From the Japan Times.
The new ambassador to Japan is going to be Caroline Kennedy. I think it’s an intriguing pick.
The Japanese usually interpret the value of the pick based on how weighty an individual gets selected. As I’ve posted before, it’s usually some high ranking former government official. Once, (under another Kennedy), it was an esteemed Harvard professor. So who are the Japanese receiving now?
Well, in short, they are getting a figure of historical significance. In the story of our country, there are few so emotional and memorable as the killing of our beloved young President by a murderous Southerner in Dallas, Texas, a year or so before I was born.
John Kennedy’s killing was so shocking to the everyday people of America that it’s about all I can remember people talking about, when they discussed politics in the Johnson-Nixon era. The People wondered who really was behind the Kennedy assassination. I think old timers still wonder.
There was an emotional funeral on television, I learned. And the bad guy, himself, was shot dead. Live on television. A few days later. (That made people wonder more.)
In short, the Japanese are being sent a historical figure, not of her own choosing: the Little Girl in our story of the revered President who was cut down, much too early, by someone, some evil guy, some evil force, in the shadows.
Now, I wonder why Obama choose Kennedy. I get the sense that the hard politics interpretation of it is that Obama has difficult topics to share with Japan. In Japanese, ambassador is “taishi” 大使 , and you see the second kanki is the symbol for “use”. For example, “tenshi” 天使 or angel, is the existence or entity that is “used” by heaven. It’s this idea that the individual has a use 使, and that is to deliver the message of the government that sends the person.
I wonder that the sending of someone who is really so much part of our history by tragic accident, and beloved by so many who remember and those who were told the story, is not also a way to say to Japan that it is time to talk about them and us. In a heartfelt way. I feel . . . no, I suspect, that this sort of thing has not been done between our two governments since the early days after the War was ended on our terms.
I really can’t know. Like you, I just read the headlines. But, it seems to me consistent with the Obama Administration that a lot of thought and legwork goes into decisions before they come to be–if they have control. Obama’s is an administration where there are a LOT of issues to address, and only so many resources and only so much time. There are many issues between Japan and America, maybe as many as the mid 1980s.
It will be interesting to see Ambassador Kennedy in action.