Hisashi Inoue (1934-2010), a novelist and playwright, once discussed in a humorous essay how many crimes one commits in one’s lifetime.
His own first real offense, he recalled, was snipping off the whiskers of a neighbor’s cat when he was a toddler. As he got older, he “graduated” to lifting up unsuspecting girls’ skirts, and then on to cheating on train fares, and so on and so forth.
Inoue noted with mock horror that his combined prison term for all these offenses would have exceeded 50 years.
I was reminded of Inoue’s essay by the media brouhaha over an incident that occurred about 30 years ago involving Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee for U.S. president.
While traveling with his family by car from the United States to Canada, Romney reportedly kept their pet dog in a crate fastened to the roof of his car throughout the 12-hour drive. Confronted by irate dog lovers around the nation, the former Massachusetts governor had a lot of explaining to do.
But the Romney campaign also went on the offensive against President Barack Obama, who noted in his autobiography that he once ate dog meat as a youngster in Indonesia. There is apparently no “statute of limitations” when it comes to exposing an opponent’s past “offenses.”
The media also uncovered Romney’s bullying of a gay underclassman when he was in high school. This was much more serious, and Romney apologized in public to put out the fire.
U.S. presidential candidates are exposed to thorough public scrutiny, not only with respect to their beliefs and policies, but also regarding their past words and actions--and even private matters such as what their spouses are like.
The long and fierce race for the White House has less than six months to go before election day in November. Every quadrennial presidential election season is supposed to represent a “celebration of democracy,” but the current race is reportedly colored more heavily than ever by smear campaigns.
I understand that there are offices of campaign staffers set up specifically to dig up dirt on opponents and circulate rumors. I think this is typically American.
Who will be the winner in this tough race? Once elected by popular mandate, the winner is assured of four years in office. This is considerably different from how the top political leader is chosen in Japan, where prime ministers are essentially disposable.
--The Asahi Shimbun, May 25
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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