Sunday, November 30, 2008


I just finished reading an article in the New York Times asking for readers' opinions about how lavish the inaugural cermony and parties ought to be. Glancing through the 250 responses, it seems like the majority of people favor a subdued affair in these sober times.

Of course, my mind wandered to the age-0ld question, WWJD? Not, What Would Jesus Do...that's obvious. But What Would the Japanese Do?

They would do absolutely nothing, that's what.

The Japanese political system is a cousin of ours (we helped set it up after WWII) but with some very odd genes from the other side of the family. The Congress (or Diet) is bi-cameral and elected by popular vote just like in the United States. However,there is a slight difference in protocol: the Congress chooses the Prime Minister. The Japanese do not popularly elect a president, which I personally consider to be liberating and bewildering at the same time; Liberating because this society skips two years of tedious, I-Want-to-Put-My-Head-In-An-Oven campaigning. Bewildering because you never know who is steering this mighty ship.

Since living in Japan the last 3 years, we have witnessed three different Prime Ministers. One morning you wake up and flip on the Japanese news and there is a swarm of reporters around the capitol building. Hmmm. Perhaps a momentous law has been passed?

No. No. That's not it. The leader of the second largest economy in the world has just decided to quit because of his "nerves". This has happened twice. Two different guys with "nerve" issues have folded in under a year of leading this great nation. The third man, Mr. Aso, seems sturdy enough but I won't be surprised if he decides, "to hell with it", and runs away to Bermuda.

Obviously, one never knows the real, devious inner-workings of politics. It seems logical that these poor men might have been sacrificial lambs for their political parties, but still...

Can you imagine the President of the United States calling a press conference to state, "Nevermind. This office is entirely too stressful. I quit."

When this happens here, the Japanese seem irritated but kind of shrug their shoulders like What can you do?

Well, might I suggest two plus years of dirty, expensive campaigning that drives the common folk to drink, followed by plenty of over-the-top, lavish parties celebrating the winner and all the rich folk to whom he is now indebted?

If that won't steady those frightful nerves, I don't know what will.

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