|An aerial view of the scene at Tsukui Yamayuri-en|
However, if you live overseas--or even if you live in Japan but are unaware of current events--there's a good chance that reading this blog post may be the first time that you're hearing of this.
|Only the ages and genders of the victims were released|
As I explored this question further, it became clear that I had stumbled upon a complex topic--and this blog post thus took a completely different direction than what I had initially visualized. While socially conscious Americans understand that the disabled in our country are often ridiculed, used, or overlooked, they're often also viewed as lesser, perhaps thanks in part to deep-rooted views about work stemming from the Industrial Era. During this time, Americans were encouraged to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become self-made men or women by taking on whatever sort of work they could find. As Daniel T. Rodgers wrote in "The Work Ethic in Industrial America, 1850-1920," work became "the core of the moral life."
|College students on the job hunt (source: NHK World)|
|A panel discusses disability in Japan in "19 Lives That Matter"|
|"Barrier-free" is a buzzword in Japan,|
and バリバラ celebrates barrier-free diversity
As Matsui explained in "19 Lives That Matter," NHK saw that not releasing the victims' names was doing an injustice to their lives and memory. To that end, NHK created the website 19のいのち (jyukyuu no inochi - the nineteen lives) in January. Featuring watercolor images of their favorite things--and illustrated portraits of those whose families gave consent--alongside personal stories from friends and family, the website hopes to honor the victims' memories by painting a picture of their humanity, driving home the fact that while these people may have been differently abled, they were still people. Exploring the website, you begin to put the pieces together: this 60-year-old woman loved to collect stuffed animals; this 55-year-old man enjoyed sweet canned coffee. The website is in Japanese but it can easily be read in other languages with Google Chrome's Translate feature.
|19のいのち: NHK's touching tribute to the 19 lives lost in the Sagamihara massacre|
|The portrait of the 70-year-old female victim on 19のいのち|
Journalists and media outlets also need to be mindful of the manner in which they report stories of mass killings. Growing up in America, I remember the names and faces of so many convicted mass murderers, but I remember so few of the victims. For whatever reason--and whether it was real or imagined--I sensed a change in American news coverage when the Pulse nightclub shooting happened in Orlando in June 2016: many news outlets, from local (Orlando Sentinel) to national (CNN), seemed to take a genuine interest in sharing the victims' stories rather than focusing solely on the shooter. While the shooter naturally received media coverage as well, it seems that celebrating victims' lives is a better way to cope with tragedies like this--and concurrently takes the spotlight away from disturbed individuals craving attention.
|Associate Professor Shinichiro Kumagaya: inclusivity is key|
This blog post is dedicated to my friend Kimi, who has taught me about disabled erasure and rights in modern American society.