ANPO: Art X War
By Linda Hoaglund
New Day Films.
89 min., 2010
No more bases! Out of Okinawa!” I shouted along with the other protesters. In 1999, when I joined this march, I was visiting family in my birthplace, Okinawa—although I’ve lived in the United States since I was 7. We were marching along Route 58 in opposition to the longtime American military presence in Japan, and especially in Okinawa. The demonstration ended, as it always does, with thousands of locals linking arms to form a human chain around the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Futenma in Ginowan City—singing songs of resistance and calling for peace, an end to war.
Barbed wire fences lined the right side of Route 58 as far as I could see, drawing the base boundary. On the left side, houses and small stores sat close to the busy road—remnants of the bulldozing of the residential area when the bases were created years ago. A grandmother in her 90s came out of her house, walking carefully. She stood with her hands folded gently in front of her, and bowed repeatedly as we marched. I felt my heart squeeze. My friend and I veered away from the group and walked over to her, wanting her to stop bowing and yet not knowing what to say. She grabbed our hands and squeezed tightly. “Ganbarinasaiyo,” she said. (Don’t give up. Keep going.) She let go of our hands and smiled, then began to bow again to the marchers passing by. We bowed back to her and returned to the march. She continued to bow to row after row of marchers until we couldn’t see her anymore.
Later that day, I shared this story with another friend of mine, a U.S. marine stationed in Okinawa. Fresh out of high school from Atlanta, he had joined the Marine Corps with hopes that it would help him out of poverty and into college. He was surprised at my marching with the protesters. “But you guys wanted us here. We’re here to protect you,” he said, unaware of both Japanese history and its domination of Okinawa.