Letters to the Editor for the March 11, 2013 weekly print issue: It is the young people of Japan who really deserve the credit for a decrease in suicides – not the government; Large numbers of citizens carrying a gun for self-defense shifts America from the 'land of the free, home of the brave' to 'land of the restricted, home of the fearful.'
Seattle and New Milford, N.J.
The Feb. 4 One Week dispatch "Suicides fall in Japan" reported some good news: The number of suicides there fell below 30,000 for the first time in 15 years. But the analysts' references in the article give too much credit to the government for the decrease – noting its efforts to fund suicide prevention programs.
It is the young people of Japan who really deserve the credit. The suicide rate among the young has been high because Japan is a homogeneous society with one path to success. If high school graduates fail to pass their college entrance examinations, they are labeled failures. Self-reproach sometimes leads them to suicide. But now they are talking to each other on the Internet. They are beginning to set their own standards of success. Fewer of them are living to please others. They are thinking for themselves. They are more experimental in the way they act and dress.
Government has little to do with that. Incidentally, the suicide rate in Sweden is also very high, and that country is one of the most socialized and government-intrusive democracies there is.
While I understand the rationale of gun ownership for hunters and target shooters and a few other gun enthusiasts, I think a very basic trend is being missed. The large number of people who now feel they have to "carry" for self-defense actually represents a shift from "land of the free, home of the brave" to "land of the restricted, home of the fearful." We should rethink this.
Personally, I refuse to walk around in my own country afraid of what is around every corner. It is true, what we have to fear is fear itself. I urge my fellow Americans to stand tall and stop giving in to fear.