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    Shame

    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.

    5 Responses to “Shame”

    1. Robohobo says:

      Exactly. The guy sounds like a stalker. Just assuming that because Japan has a low rate of murder, street crime, etc does not abrogate the individuals responsibility for their own safety.

      Kind of why us US based conservatives like the 2nd amendment so much. “An armed society is a polite society.” Japan used to be armed but that was taken from them. May be time to re-arm that society.

      JMHO

      The Hobo

    2. Sean Kinsell says:

      Well, to be fair, he sounds like a stalker now because we’re pretty sure he murdered a woman and buried her under a load of sand in his bathtub. Given what Hawker could have known of his behavior, it was overwhelmingly likely that he was just a slightly odd guy who had little sense of basic social boundaries and got a little over-enthusiastic around pretty women. But it’s unwise to encourage such people by meeting them on intimate turf even if they have no evil designs on you.

    3. Zak says:

      Even ASSUMING that Hawker had zero responsibility in the matter (she was knocked off out of the blue on the way to work, say), it is still a bizarre double-standard that her father sets.

    4. Sean Kinsell says:

      Yeah, and as I say, it wasn’t just a tossed-off comment. He was also quoted as saying something like, “She didn’t come here to be murdered; she came here to teach.” As if she were a teenager off to summer camp.

      When I was in Bangkok in February, I was talking to a few friends who frequently have to hire native English language and test prep teachers to work in Asia, and one of them said something very interesting. It was an obvious point, but not something you really think about much. She said [paraphrasing], “Today, it doesn’t really register with kids that they’ve left home. Plane tickets are affordable; Skype and e-mail and your cell phone let you keep in daily contact with your parents and friends from across the world if you wish; satellite and the Internet provide TV shows from home. A lot of people don’t seem to get that they’re in a faraway place where, if they misread things or offend local sensibilities, they can get themselves into trouble that Mom and Dad actually are NOT close by enough to get them out of.”

      Now, she was talking about mundane stuff like blithely neglecting to pay the electric bill, not to being murdered, but I think the point is potentially relevant. You’re safer here in the general statistical sense than you are at home, but all those dark rules about human nature that Granny taught you apply to the (generally statistically) upstanding Japanese as much as they do to everyone else.

    5. Sean Kinsell says:

      Okay, this BBC.com article has the statement I was referring to above:

      “I believe my daughter was tricked into going to this man’s apartment under the pretext of giving English lessons,” he said.

      “It was because she would help anybody, she is where she is now. My daughter didn’t come here to be murdered… she came here to teach.”

      Miss Hawker’s sister Lisa, 25, said in a statement that her sister had felt safer in Japan than in the UK.

      “Thousands of young people go abroad each year and for some reason the dangers of home seem to be forgotten,” she said.

      “If Lindsay’s death can make at least one young person abroad be more vigilant then perhaps one more family can be spared the pain, the devastation, and the despair we are all experiencing.”

      Yes. The low crime rate in Japan is of little meaning if you find you’ve become the rare individual trapped in an apartment with a psycho. Vigilance, not benign intentions, is the best protection against malefactors.

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