I was all set up to write a perky piece about my weekend. I had a phenomenal weekend! I got to translate on stage for three of the stars of the original Ultraman TV series; Susumu Kurobe, who played Hayata, the man who transforms into Ultraman, Hiroko Sakurai, who played Agent Fuji, the cute girl on the team of monster fighters in the show and Satoshi “Bin” Furuya, who was inside the Ultraman costume. The event took place at Monsterpalooza held this weekend in Burbank.
I’ve known Hiroko Sakurai for several years now. She was the only Ultraman cast member who went on to become an employee of Tsuburaya Productions, where I worked in Tokyo for over a decade. So I used to see her fairly often. She was my first big celebrity crush back when I was about eight years old. So it was pretty awesome to get to know her as a real person. I had met Susumu Kurobe a couple of times and, weirdly enough, he even remembered me. I’d never met Satoshi Furuya before last Saturday. But he was a very cool guy.
I didn’t expect such a large crowd to show up for the Q&A with the Ultraman stars. I figured American audiences wouldn’t really be that into them. And since Monsterpalooza is not specifically geared to Japanese stuff, I also thought that would cut down the crowds.
Much to my shock, there were a couple hundred people in the room. Maybe more! I hadn’t done any Japanese to English translation since at least 2008 and even when I was doing it regularly, I rarely did it in front of an audience. I was sweating up on stage! I kept praying the next question wouldn’t be something I couldn’t translate. But it was all fine. My friend Bob video taped the whole thing, so I hope I’ll get a copy and can upload it here. An edited version will be on a future episode of Sci Fi Japan TV.
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That’s what I wanted to write about.And about how much I love those people, and how great it was to be among all the monster-loving crazies this weekend.
But I was eating at the cheap-o Indian buffet around the corner from the place where I’m cat-sitting this week when they broke into the cricket match they were watching on TV with news of two bombs going off at the Boston Marathon.
As is typical when these kinds of things happen, the news guys didn’t really know much. They just kept repeating the three facts they did know over and over. Two bombs went off near the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Two people were killed. An unknown number of others were injured. Nobody has claimed responsibility. And that was pretty much all anyone really knew the last time I checked in.
I remember after the gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system happened, Nishijima Roshi said that those who perpetrated the deed should be found and “removed from society.” He said this very forcefully. It was unmistakable in his tone that “removed from society” meant anything from being jailed to being executed. He made it clear that he thought that a society was in the right to take the life of someone who did such an act.
My reaction at the time was kind of typical of people who are relatively new to Zen. I was pretty shocked that a Buddhist master would condone killing people. Doesn’t the first precept say, in effect, “Thou shalt not kill”? How can a Buddhist master think it’s OK to kill even those who kill others? Isn’t it all about peace, love and understanding?
Well, yes. It is. But it’s also about facts.
One very significant fact is that Buddhism has only ever flourished in stable societies that had powerful militaries and police forces to defend their citizen’s ability to practice. Stephen Batchelor famously said something like this in response to 9/11. You cannot meditate in a war zone. Well, I suppose you can. But it’s not easy and you’ll probably be killed while you sit.
Our societies have to be stable before we can engage in our practice. This is an absolutely necessary prerequisite. That means we have to be able and willing to defend our societies against those who would disrupt them. There have to be very strong penalties against doing things like blowing up the Boston Marathon. In his comedy special broadcast this weekend, Louis C.K. made jokes about how great it is that there are laws against murder. “Because if there weren’t, everybody would murder at least one person.” Those who hadn’t murdered anyone, he said, would be seen as weirdos in a society where murder was legal. It was funnier when he said it.
So I, for one, hope they find the piece of shit who did this and rip him to shreds. He deserves it. Whether they find him or not, his own actions will be his undoing. It can’t happen any other way. And yes, this news makes me angry. I wouldn’t be a real human being if it didn’t.
Still, society needs to make efforts to resolve matters like this without anger. Because an angry response leads to further tragedies, like the angry response of the people West Memphis, Arkansas that led to the wrongful conviction of the “West Memphis Three.” Still, one can expect anger as a response to something like this. I suppose the worthless motherfucker who perpetrated this bombing intended it that way. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Society has every right to remove him from its midst in any way it sees fit.
So even while I pray for the well-being and safety of those affected by this incident, I’ll also be hoping that whoever did it is caught and punished. Not only out of anger, but out of a conviction that the smooth functioning of human society is one of our greatest challenges and duties to each other.
Horror movies serve an important function in society. They allow us to externalize that which disgusts us the most about ourselves and to deal with it in a sane way. I’d rather see more people making zombie movies and sculptures of one-eyed ape monsters and fewer people bombing big cities.
Not that I think that’s the ultimate solution. But it’s been on my mind as events unfolded today.
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I just paid my taxes, like you folks did too I’m sure. So I’ll understand if donations are a little slow. But every little bit is still appreciated especially right about now.