hamada56_Samuel CorumGetty Images_uscapitolriot Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Barbarians at Democracy’s Gates

The conventional wisdom, particularly in liberal circles, is that the arc of history always bends toward peace, tolerance, equality, justice, and democracy. But recent political violence – not least the Capitol riot in the US – has made clear that there is no room for complacency.

NEW HAVEN – The United States has a much higher crime rate than Japan. While the US population is about 2.6 times larger, it recorded 17.2 times more murders in 2019 – 16,425 compared to 950. Needless to say, Japanese tend to enjoy a sense of safety that undoubtedly contributes to our national happiness. So, on July 8, 2022, when former Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzō was assassinated at a campaign rally, our world was shaken.

But such violence and lawlessness are incompatible not only with Japanese society; they are anathema to any healthy democracy. And it fits into a wider trend. In January 2021, the US witnessed its own shocking act of political violence, when supporters of then-President Donald Trump – at Trump’s urging – stormed the US Capitol, in an effort to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s election victory the previous November. There could be no more blatant attack on US democracy.

One might be tempted to dismiss the Capitol riot as a radical act by a relatively small group of extremists – a few thousand out of a population of 300 million. It would be even easier to minimize Abe’s assassination. After all, it was committed by a single gunman with a highly personal motivation: he blamed Abe, who had ties to the Unification Church, for his mother’s financial ruin. His mother was a devout member of the Church, and she had continued to donate to it – donations that the gunman claims were forced – until the family went bankrupt.

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