The thinking that seems to lie behind statements like this one, by the father of murdered English teacher Lindsay Hawker, disturbs me:
The killing of a British language teacher whose naked and battered body was found outside Tokyo has “brought shame” to Japan, her father said Sunday, as the British Ambassador urged the public to help the police investigation.
“My daughter loved this country. She loved meeting Japanese people and thought of Japan as an honorable society,” William Hawker said in a statement read out Sunday by British Ambassador to Japan Graham Fry.
“My daughter’s killer has now brought shame on your country. He must be caught,” Hawker was quoted as saying.
I realize that he’s grieving for his lost daughter, and if he’d made the “shame” comment during an emotional outburst under stress, it would have been very understandable. But this was a prepared statement, and it seems to hold Japan to a standard of safety that one can’t imagine Hawker would dream of imposing on, say, Greater London.
Lindsay Hawker was not snatched off a busy midday street while no bystanders responded to her cries; that would be shameful. She went, alone, to the apartment of a man who’d already exhibited decidedly odd behavior:
The suspect first approached Hawker near a train station March 21, saying he wanted to learn English, and followed her to her apartment, according to police. Hawker let him in because she had a roommate and he seemed eager to learn.
The suspect drew a picture of Hawker and wrote down his name and phone number before leaving her apartment. Hawker agreed to give him an English lesson the following Sunday.
Hawker is not to blame for her own death, and her killer (it’s looking as certain as it can be at this point that it was, indeed, Tatsuya Ichihashi) deserves the harshest punishment the law allows. But sometimes citizens exercise poor individual judgment, and it’s no “shame” on society’s part that it can’t protect them from what may happen when they isolate themselves from the police or from honest citizens who might help them. Parents can, in general, feel good about their young adult children’s coming to Japan to teach or study; most of the sorts of crime we worry about in Western cities–street crime and burglary–are rare. That doesn’t change the fact that vigilance against nut cases is part of the price of living unmonitored in a free society, even one with a low murder rate such as Japan.