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Nakasone remarks do not represent Japanese society

The Tech's article ["Nakasone pulls out of 1989 Compton Lecture," Mar. 3] reflects insufficient understanding of the circumstances surrounding the former Prime Minister's decision to cancel his appearance at the 1989 Compton Lecture. The article states that according to the Japanese Consulate in Boston, Nakasone chose to remain in Japan to participate in Diet deliberations, and according to the Boston Globe, he may also be forced to appear before the Diet to explain his involvement in the Recruit scandal. The rest of the article is devoted to Reverend Stith and his associates, who had plans to protest statements made by the former Prime Minister that implied that minorities in the United States lowered the general educational level of the country.

Although Stith's views are given prominence in this article, the statements which he is criticizing are never satisfactorily explained or quoted in full. Stith is referring to a statement made by Nakasone in September of 1986 at a conference of junior Liberal Democratic Party members of the Diet. He said, "Japan is a highly educated and fairly intelligent society. Much more so than America, on the average. In America there are quite a few black people, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans. On average it is still very low. I know there are many black people who still cannot read their letters." After being criticized for this statement, he apologized and said that his comments were taken out of context, and that he was not referring to the intelligence level, but to the general literacy level.

Stith is quoted saying that he considered the cancellation of the trip "a victory" and "MIT should not be a forum for men with Nakasone's views." Since most of the article is devoted to Stith, one might get the wrong impression that one important reason for the cancellation was Nakasone's fear of being confronted by protesters. The former Prime Minister had been scheduled to talk at MIT and Yale University, and then proceed to Washington to meet with politicians there. Nakasone was looking forward to this trip and was fully aware of the great resentment that many people feel about his comments. However, a member of the Diet cannot travel overseas for more than seven days while the Diet is in session without permission from fellow parliamentarians. Since the trip was scheduled to last for more than seven days, he was planning to ask for this permission.

Although there is some truth to the Consulate's statement that Nakasone wants to participate in parliamentary deliberations, it is almost like asserting that a cancer patient died because he stopped breathing. A cancer patient, like anybody else, would indeed stop breathing at the time of death, but this would not be considered the cause of death.But Nakasone cannot travel to the United States because he is under political attack and opposition parties are boycotting Diet deliberations, demanding that he explain his role in various aspects of the Recruit scandal during his tenure. If the opposition parties are boycotting the Diet, Nakasone cannot get permission to travel abroad.

The article states that Stith sees "far reaching implications in Nakasone's remarks." He says: "With Japan investing $100 billion in the US economy, minority hiring by US corporations is going to be affected."

This statement grossly exaggerates the weight of Japanese investment in the US economy (the country with the most investments in the United States is the Netherlands) and ignores the discriminatory hiring practices that have been practiced by US businesses for hundreds of years. In addition, the implication that one public statement by a leader can shape Japanese investment and hiring practices in the United States is an insult to a strong political democracy with a very wide political and ideological spectrum, ranging from the conservative Liberal Democratic Party to the Communists, which routinely captures around 30 of the 511 seats in the House of Representatives. Such pluralism cannot be seen in the US Congress.

Stith's statement epitomizes his simplistic understanding of the Japanese political system and the assumption that a public statement by a stupid politician shapes a monolithic Japanese labor policy. If Revered Stith is really interested in addressing minority hiring and economic issues and the potential impact on them from Japanese corporate investment in the United States, he should concentrate on studying Japanese business practices in the United States, which have a direct impact on economic issues.

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