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21 August 2022

Novel: "Henoko Bar, Stars and Stripes" Chapter 8 "We Shall Overcome"

In Henoko, Nago City, Okinawa Prefecture, shaken by the issue of the construction of a new U.S. military base, a female singer time slips to the time in the midst of the Vietnam War. What is the Henoko New Base Problem? What is the Vietnam War? What is America? What is Okinawa?

 

A short story in 9 chapters. Each chapter features famous songs from Japan, the United States and Okinawa.

Please read from Chapter 1.

 

That evening, Naomi was standing in front of the Stars and Stripes wall building with her guitar strapped on her shoulders. This building seemed to symbolize the "American world" of Okinawa during the period of American rule. She wondered what she could do.

She sang several times in this building. She wondered what kind of song she was going to sing this time. If she didn't come by herself, the entrance door of this building would not be open. Naomi waited patiently on the road of the quiet village until something could be heard from inside like before. But nothing was heard. 

She glared at the door, and decided to approach the door, thinking that she would put her hand on the knob of the door anyway and try to open it anyway, but the door opened from inside as she approached. 

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Music was heard from inside. It's an oldies song on the jukebox. It's not "oldies" in the world inside.

Naomi immediately walked into the bar. The inside was as crowded as ever. It was a stark contrast to the silence outside that she’d been in for a while. Kenny was at the counter. Naomi headed for the counter.

"Kenny, good evening," Naomi called out over the counter. She pulled her guitar down her shoulder and leaned against the side of the counter.

"Hi, Sister," Kenny said. She could see that his expression was a little harder than usual.

"How are you doing?" asked Naomi.

"Well, I've decided to quit here, I worked here right after graduating from junior high school, but a relative in the mainland asked me if I wanted to go to high school there," Kenny said with a wry face.

"Oh, that’s nice," Naomi said.

"It's hard for me to leave Okinawa, but I just don't know if working in this bar all the time would open up my life. I felt that I had to study properly and get to know the world well. Hey, you sang Amazing Grace last week. I thought Tony cried for his brother killed in battle and he said he was going to the battlefield like his brother.

They're nasty guys for us but I realized they're just helpless people in front of the state. They think they are doing something good by being submissive to the state," Kenny said.

Naomi also remembered Tony. What kind of thoughts will Tony have when he goes to the battlefield? Is he going to take revenge on his brother on the battlefield? Will that hatred be enough to make him want to fight?

Can’t imagine how he would treat the Vietnamese people. Naomi thought that the Vietnam War was the wrong war in the first place, and that she should not let anyone go. As a future person who knew the consequence of the war, she wanted to convey that.

"Kenny, then I would like you to study hard in the mainland and come back to Okinawa as a respectable person. Yes, if you become a politician. I want you to become a member of the Diet representing Okinawa or even a prefectural governor," she encouraged Kenny.

"I can't be such a good person, let alone a member of Parliament or a prefectural governor, I'm a child of Blacks. No one is going to vote for me," Kenny said with a laugh.

Naomi said.

"You should have a dream. Like ”I have a dream.” Let’s have dreams," Naomi recalled of a phrase she learned in high school English class.

"Dreams?" But Dr. King was killed because he said that," Kenny said.

"But the spirit is inherited, he passed the Civil Rights Act to eliminate discrimination and he won the Nobel Peace Prize. It has greatly changed the world where Blacks were not allowed to use the same facilities as whites. He did not use violence. He guided many people with speech and non-violent disobedience and contributed to the realization of the dreams. You can be like Dr. King. I know," Naomi said.

"Why?" asked Kenny.

"I know the future, and in the future, Black man will be the president of America," Naomi said confidently.

Kenny smiled widely.

"Hey, are you from the future?" Kenny asked Naomi.

"Yes, sir," she replied emphatically.

Kenny said, stunned.

"Hmmm, I believe it, Sister you look different from people of today. I mean, in the future, will you see me if I become such a great person?"

"I hope to see you again," Naomi said with a smile.

"Oh, by the way, I have to give back the Sanshin instrument claw that I forgot to give back," Kenny said.

"It's OK. Hold on to it. So that you don't forget Okinawa and me," Naomi said.

"OK, then I'll take care of it," Kenny said happily.

Suddenly, she noticed Jimmy beside her drinking a glass of liquor.

"Kenny, one more drink," he said, holding out his glass to Kenny. Jimmy looked very nervous and his face was blushing. He looked pretty drunk.

"Hi, Jimmy," Naomi called out.

"Hey, Naomi, did you come to sing again? Last week's Amazing Grace was awesome. I'm glad to hear you sing again," he said in a rather drunken manner.

Naomi said to Jimmy, worring about last night incident for her.

"How's Tony doing?" It was painful to see how sad he was because of his brother’s death," Naomi said.

"He left for Vietnam yesterday. After the death of the serviceman’s family member, he could be given a reprieve, but he went to the battlefield immediately because he wanted” Jimmy said.

Naomi was horrified to hear that. So what would Tony do in Vietnam? And what would happen to Tony?

"Now I've been ordered to be dispatched the day after tomorrow, and tonight is the last time I can have a drink here" said Jimmy.

"I see," Naomi said.

Jimmy walked over the counter and headed for the jukebox, tossing coins in. Music played. A song that Naomi also knew, "Will you still love me tomorrow?" by Shrells?

Jimmy approached Naomi and offered her a hand, saying, "Dance with me." Naomi involuntarily took Jimmy's hand and then he pulled her tightly, starting their dance. Naomi was good at singing, but not so much dancing. Somehow, Jimmy hooked her up to dance like a blues or jilba to the tempo of the song.


The lyrics are a mixture of the joy of love and the anxiety ahead: "You love me kindly and with all your strength tonight, but will you love me the same way tomorrow?" Jimmy's expression was hardened. Yes, it could be the last dance of his life.

When the song ended, Jimmy said "Thank you" and went back to the counter and continued drinking. Naomi was somewhat curious, "How long is the flight from Okinawa to Vietnam?"

"This time, I'm not going to go directly to Vietnam from Okinawa. I'm going to stop at Yokota Air Base in Tokyo and join another unit and go to Vietnam. It's a weird detour, but I get an extra two days off. I can take a look at your city," Jimmy said to Naomi with an awkward smile.

Naomi was taken aback by the word "Yokota Base." She looked at Kenny and said.

"Kenny, I wonder if there's somewhere in this bar where I can be alone with Jimmy," Naomi said, looking around the bar's space.

"Oh, there's a private room in the back there, we don't usually use it," said Kenny. She saw a curtain hanging in the direction he was pointing. It was in the corner of the bar.

"Jimmy, can we just talk alone?" said Naomi.

"Why, is there something special?" Jimmy said, looking at Naomi with a crease between his eyebrows.

"I have a very important story to tell," Naomi said, taking Jimmy's hand and pulling it towards the curtain. Jimmy casually followed suit.

Once they were inside, Naomi closed the curtains. In the private room, a sofa and chairs were placed across the table. Naomi sat down in a chair and Jimmy sat on the couch and faced each other at the table.

"Jimmy, you may not believe what I'm about to say, but listen, I'm from the future," Naomi said with a serious expression.

"Oh, what are you saying? From the future? When did you come from?" Jimmy said.

"It's 2018, fifty years from now. From the future where the Vietnam war you are fighting in is long over," Naomi said.

"You're kidding, I don't know if I'm drunk or if you're drunk, but this is the first time I've ever been told this. Time machines were in science fiction novels, are you kidding me?" said Jimmy.

This reaction was expected. Naomi pulled her phone out of her pocket.

"Look at this," she said as she showed Jimmy the screen of her smartphone. A flat screen with lights and icons lined up was displayed.

"What is this?" asked Jimmy with a look of surprise.

"It's the phone of the future," Naomi said.

"Phone, is this it? It doesn’t have a cord," Jimmy said.

"It's wireless," Naomi said.

"But you can't use it in this day and age, because you don't have a radio wave that you can use. But visual things can be done. Like this," Naomi said, playing the downloaded video.

The video begins with the title "The Vietnam War" and the theme song.

"Wow, is it a color TV in this flimsy machine?" said Jimmy.

"Yes, in the future, this little machine can contain images and music that you can listen to and watch wherever you are," Naomi said.

"It's like a 007 movie, isn't it a special spy gear?" I know a movie where there is a TV on a radio walkie-talkie."

"It's something that everybody has in the future, and unlike movies, it's not something with combined fictional images. It has a camera and you can take photos and videos."

Naomi said, stopping the documentary, activating the camera and filmed Jimmy.

Then she immediately played back and showed a video of Jimmy moving his face.

"You just shot me now?" There's an eight-millimeter film in it and developed it right away? It is also very clear. It's amazing," Jimmy said, his eyes wide open and he couldn’t hide his surprise.

"Next time, watch this video, this is a TV show that summarizes the history of the war you are involved in now. You can see how people of the future came to record this war," Naomi said.

Jimmy watched the video on her smartphone screen with interest.


The documentary begins with the so-called "Indochina War" after World War II, when the Southeast Asian country of Vietnam campaigned for independence in order to be liberated from its colonies from France. Narration is covered in past photographs and film footage.

Vietnam had been colonized by France after a dynasty collapsed in the nineteenth century, and the national independence movement flourished after the second world war. As a result, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam led by Ho Chi Minh was established in the north, but the Republic of Vietnam was established in the south with the support of the United States and Godin Jem as president.

The United States, in order to succeed France, which had lost its colonies, decided to establish a puppet state for fear of the spread of communism from the north. There was an intention to prevent the spread of communism, so-called domino theory countermeasure.

However, the political situation in South Vietnam was unstable, and Godin Jem suppressed the people with a dictatorship. Monks who were oppressed by the Catholic establishment sometimes set themselves on fire on the streets. In South Vietnam, a force called the "South Vietnamese Liberation Front" commonly known as the "Viet Cong" who aimed to unify with North Vietnam arose.

The Viet Cong shook Saigon, the then capital of South Vietnam, with bombings. U.S. military bases in South Vietnam were also attacked.

In 1964, the U.S. Navy launched retaliatory bombing on the grounds that it had been attacked by North Vietnamese forces on the high seas off Vietnam. This is later revealed to be a lie, but this triggerd the start of the Northern bombings, which attack military bases in North Vietnam. With the approval of Congress, then-U.S. President Johnson began full-scale military intervention in Vietnam.

From the following year, more than 100,000 land troops were deployed to South Vietnam. The land force's strategy was "Search and Destroy", which was to find villages with Viet Cong forces in South Vietnam, rob villagers of food, and burn down their homes.

In Vietnam, which had a lot of dense rainforests, the Viet Cong, who were good at guerrilla warfare, had an overwhelming advantage. In addition, under circumstances where it was difficult to distinguish which villages were connected to the Viet Cong, they had no choice but to carry out sabotage activities at random. US military tried to gain an advantage in jungle warfare, spraying large amounts of defoliants containing toxic dioxins from the air to destroy Viet Cong strongholds and village farmland.

Although the U.S. military used overwhelming military power and the latest weapons, the Viet Cong and the North Vietnamese People's Army forced them to struggle with persistent resistance, and in January 1968 the Tet Offensive that occurred on the Lunar New Year in Vietnam began.

In particular, the Viet Cong's occupation of the U.S. Embassy in Saigon has made the disadvantages of the U.S. military clear. The Tet Offensive was suppressed, but the U.S. Embassy Occupation was broadcast live to American homes via television broadcasts.

Footage of Viet Cong soldiers with their hands tied up being shot dead by South Vietnamese troops on the streets was also broadcast, raising questions about the reality of South Vietnam, where the U.S. was on its side.

In the United States, the anti-war movement flourished, and young people took action to refuse conscription. In October 1967, tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators gathered in Washington, D.C., eventually storming the Pentagon building and clashing with police officers.

Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. also expressed his anti-Vietnam War views. Dr. King said.

"We cannot turn a blind eye to the unreasonableness of a young white man and a Black man who are not even allowed to be in the same classroom in schools in their home country but die together on the battlefield."

Dr. King's close relationship with President Johnson, who passed the Civil Rights Act, allowed him to enter and leave the White House freely, but he was locked out at the same time as he joined anti-war movement.

Dr. King was assassinated by a white man in April 1968.

Later, President Johnson, whose support had fallen due to the plight of the U.S. military in Vietnam, announced that he would not run in that year's presidential election. The ruling Democratic Party was divided. Robert Kennedy, the younger brother of the assassinated former President Kennedy, ran for president on a promise of an honorable withdrawal from Vietnam, but he was assassinated during the election campaign.

So far, so good, is a historical facts that Jimmy had known already.

 

And from here, it was a fact that only future people could know.

In 1968, U.S. troops to Vietnam increased to more than 500,000 troops.

On August 29 of the same year, a peace march by 10,000 young people in Chicago was stopped from walking by a large number of Chicago police on its way to the site of the convention of the ruling Democratic Party, which was promoting the Vietnam War, and eventually developed into an incident of police officers beating citizens. It was remembered in history as the Chicago riots.

Participants crowded into police officers.

"We just want to have a peaceful march, why not?"

"No. I can’t permit you to march like that," the middle-aged policeman replied.



Still, as the protesters advance, the police waved batons and other weapons to block their way. Many people were seriously injured. Police dragged the participants into a police convoy. Activists imprisoned in convoys sang "We Shall Overcome." The song was originally gospel sung in church, but was changed to a pop tone to boost the morale of participants at anti-racism civil rights rallies.

It was also to be sung in the anti-war movement of the Vietnam War.

In the presidential election of the same year, there was a change of government, and President Nixon, a Republican Party, was elected. Nixon had pledged an honorable withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam. He then went on a policy of gradually reducing the number of U.S. troops, but the fighting continued.

At that time, it was discovered that a massacre occurred in a place called Mi Lai Village in Vietnam, which was considered to be a Viet Cong village by U.S. troops and became the target of an attack, and it was taken up by the media. More than 500 villagers, including women and children, who had nothing to do with the fighting, were slaughtered and shocked American society.

The convicts were accused of killing large numbers of innocent civilians as part of an annihilation operation to kill all the enemy, according to accompanying soldiers who witnessed the scene. This further intensified anti-war public opinion.

In 1970, a whistleblower complaint by a U.S. government official exposed a classified document called the "Pentagon Papers" to influential newspapers such as the New York Times and the Washington Post. The contents of the report were analyzed as covert operations against Vietnam that have been hidden until now and the fact that the U.S. military was at a disadvantage from the beginning, and it turned out that if the analysis had been followed, it may have been possible to prevent the quagmire in Vietnam, and then publice demand for the withdrawal of the American people from Vietnam became stronger and stronger.

In 1972, the U.S. military withdrew from Vietnam for the most part, leaving the role to the remaining South Vietnamese National Armed Forces.

In April 1975, Saigon fell. As a symbolic image, North Vietnamese People's Army tanks broke into the presidential palace and occupied the place. At the same time, the U.S. Embassy was closed, and Vietnamese who had been cooperating with the South Vietnamese government rushed to the embassy for fear of a purge by the North Vietnamese. A black helicopter takes off from the embassy and takes refuge on an aircraft carrier at sea.

They landed on the deck, but many people boarded the carrier, and the helicopter lost its place and was dumped in the sea.

Vietnam achieved the long-awaited national reunification, and North and South Korea unified and became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. It took twenty years that Vietnam and the United States restored diplomatic relations.

From then on, Vietnam became a symbol of America's frustration and failure. It will also be a big scar. Footage of a deformed child born to a former soldier who were physically disabled by defoliants sprayed in Vietnam was shown. The situation of the Vietnamese people were worse than the American soldiers. Even in the generation born after the war, the effects of defoliants continued to remain in the environment. There are no limbs, the skeleton of the face collapsed, and all the images are unbearable to watch.

Later, the history of the Vietnam War became a movie. "Apocalypse Now" (1979) depicts a former U.S. military officer who hid in the jungles of Vietnam, created his own kingdom with the natives, and viewed the U.S. soldiers as enemies.


"Platoon" (1986) depicts young U.S. soldiers who joined the unit of the Viet Cong extermination operation killing and raping civilians, as well as the extreme situation in which friends kill each other.


"Born on the Fourth of July" (1989)


Ron Kovic, a volunteer soldier to Vietnam born on National Day of the US Independence, killed his comrades in a false scuffle in Vietnam, got severely injured to a wheelchair. When he returned home, he was in the midst of the anti-war movement, and he himself reconsidered the war and got himself into the anti-war movement.


There was a scene where he stormed into the presidential convention on a wheelchair and appealed to the media about the ridiculousness of the Vietnam War, and there was a scene where he confessed to the family of the soldier whom he killed accidently in a fight. The dead soldier's sister told Ron Kovic:

"I can never forgive you, but the Lord does."

The video was about twenty minutes long, and although Jimmy was drunk, he continued to watch the video with serious eyes. He was silent for a while after he finished watching, but suddenly smiled.

"Wow, that's the toy of the future. Are you an anti-war activist? What do you want me to do by making this film and showing it?" said.

"It's hard to believe it, I know, it's such a bizarre thing. But right now, even in your country, many people are wondering about this war. Dr. King objected, and there are anti-war movements happening all over the place and some people refuse to be drafted," Naomi said.

"I think I should do my duty, as an American citizen," Jimmy said.

"But it's painful to think that you're going to be hurt in a war or killed like Tony's brother, and you're not the kind of person who can hurt people. And a man of justice. I don't want you to kill an innocent person on the battlefield," Naomi said, forming a few tears from her eyes.

"What do you want me to do?" Jimmy asked.

"There's a bar called RUNAWAY near Yokota Air Base, about a five-minute walk away, and there's a guy named Hara there. If you talk to him, you don't have to go to the battlefield," Naomi said timidly.

"Oh, are you telling me to be a deserter, that's a crime act," Jimmy said.

"If you go to the battlefield, you might commit a worse crime," Naomi said.

"I won't disobey the orders of the state," Jimmy said.

"But if America is a democratic country, shouldn't you also use the power of the citizens to correct the government from doing the wrong thing?" said Naomi.

"I don't want to be seen as a coward, I'm not going to run away," Jimmy said.

"It may be considered courageous to fight in the war, but I think you should have the courage not to fight in the wrong war," said Naomi.

There was silence for a moment.

"Hey, show me the film again," Jimmy said.

Naomi replayed the video on the smartphone.

"Can you skip the first half of this film" said Jimmy. 

"Sure, I can" said Naomi. 

He asked her to fast-forward the video until a scene where the participants of the peace march in Chicago and the police team were talking face to face.

"Stop it," Jimmy said.

"Again," he asked her to repeat the scene.

"Thanks, the toys of the future are really amazing. Was this developed by NASA? Or the Soviet KGB? Is it an electrical manufacturer somewhere in Japan? I don't know, but you showed me something interesting," Jimmy said.

"Jimmy, please, think about it, for your sake. For your country. And for the world," Naomi became very sentimental.

"Sing a good song, will you," Jimmy said, opening the curtain and walked out of the private room and towards the counter. He ordered whiskey from the master who was standing beside Kenny at the counter. It's like he can't help but drink a lot.

Naomi picked up her guitar and headed for the stage. Then she started playing guitar and sing.


We Shall Overcome, We Shall Overcome,

We Shall Overcome some day

Oh, Deep in my heart, I do believe.

We Shall Overcome some day,

 

We are not afraid, We are not afraid,

We are not afraid today

Oh, Deep in my heart, I do believe.

We Shall Overcome some day,

 

We Shall Live in Peace, We Shall Live in Peace

We Shall Live in Peace some day,

Oh, Deep in my heart, I do believe.

We Shall Overcome some day,

 

The American soldiers in the audience had mixed reactions. Some simply fell in love with Naomi's beautiful voice, while others felt resistance to it because it was an anti-war song. Perhaps because of that, the inside of the bar has become quiet. There were many young people, but the atmosphere has changed to one that one does not feel bustling.

Jimmy stared at Naomi as he approached the board with the dollar bills on it, pulled a bill out of his pocket, wrote his name by the pen on the counter, and pinned it down. It was the same board that Tony pinned down.

Naomi shouted desperately.

"Comeback, alive, Do the Right thing!"

She thought she told Jimmy what she had to say. She had no intention of persuading him. She did it because she thought it was her duty to tell him that.

The bar master approached her on the stage.

"You do it again, why are you doing this? You are breaking the mood, now get out1" Naomi glared at the master and followed Jimmy out of the bar door with her guitar strapped on her shoulders.

Outside was a quiet August 2018 night in the village of Henoko.

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To be continued to Last Chapter.

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