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July 2016 in Sagamihara

By Nicolas Turner For The North American Post

Early Tuesday morning, police received a call from an employee at Tsukui Yamayuri-en, a facility for the handicapped located in Sagamihara, which accommodated roughly 150 adult residents with mental disabilities. The employee said something horrible was happening. A man had entered a residential building at the facility by breaking a glass window. Police cars showed up around 3:30 a.m., but by then they were too late. The intruder had used a knife to kill more than 19 people and injure about 20. The man presumably responsible for the attack turned himself in to the police after about two hours. Officials in Kanazawa identified him to be Satoshi Uematsu, a 26-year-old who had been working at the facility until February. Japanese broadcaster NTV reported that Uematsu was upset because he had been fired. The Associated Press said it could be the worst mass killing in the country since World War II.

Japan is no stranger to violence. The nerve gas attack in a Tokyo subway, for example, happened in 1995–a year before I was born. A cult member named Aum Shinrikyo released sarin gas in the Tokyo subway system, killing 13 people and hospitalizing more than five thousand others. After people were evacuated and rushed to nearby hospitals, an eyewitness told reporters that they saw one of the suspected terrorists kick a bag onto the platform, at which point gas began to billow out and fill the train station. The incident traumatized the entire country. Former New York Times reporter Nicholas Kristof was able to capture the fear that Japanese people felt in the wake of the attack.

“Two days after the subway incidents, Tokyo remains edgy,” Kristof wrote on March 22, 1995, two days after the event. “Jittery commuters returned to the subways this morning after a national holiday on Tuesday, but some sniffed train cars before entering them. Commuters who had seats eyed each other cautiously, instead of immediately collapsing into a somnolent stupor as is normally the case.”

For better or worse, tragic events have an adverse effect on a nation’s future. It is regrettable—and disturbingly ironic—that often the loss of lives can lead to unity, the death of innocent people can lead to revelation and violence can lead to a better world. You may take offense to what you just read—I understand that—but ask yourself: what else can we do? Can you think of a better way to reconcile this nightmare? And that is exactly what it was—the attack in Sagamihara was a nightmare.

We cannot forget that Japan is one of the safest countries in the world. The New York Times wrote that murder rates have been declining steadily for half a century due to “decades of prosperity and relatively low economic inequality, strict gun laws, a tough criminal justice system with a good record of solving homicides, a postwar rejection of violence, and the social stigma connected to criminality.”

And Japan is not alone. In the last few weeks alone, people all over the world have suffered a steady onslaught of attacks, shootings and killings. Each day I wake up to see headlines detailing new ways in which innocent lives are lost. These acts of violence leave behind wives and husbands, girlfriends and boyfriends, sons and daughters, family and friends.

I have spent hours upon hours trying to think of a more cheery topic to write about, but I found none. I wanted to write about the silver lining that we can find in these tragic events, but I found none. And even if I did, a few hundred words in a newspaper column is no way to pay my respects to the lives lost or to deliver my resentment to the people who ended them. But I did come up with something that might be of use: I have created this delusional theory that, maybe, the best way forward is to admit that there is no silver lining, that there is no positive spin on what happened in Sagamihara, or purpose in understanding what the murderer was thinking when he did what he did. We are good, rational, kind, loving people, and we have no need to steep ourselves in such dark thoughts.