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Is Iris Chang a Hero?

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message 1: by Monty J (last edited Sep 10, 2012 10:53AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying I consider Iris a hero for devoting her life to exposing criminal wartime atrocities, according thereby some level of justice to voiceless victims when justice, long denied, was otherwise beyond their reach.

After more than a decade of researching and writing about unspeakable acts of cruelty, Iris Chang took her life in 2004. She was researching the Bataan March when she died. She was alone in a car on a rural road. I wish I'd known her and been her friend, someone she could have called. I would have told her to take some time off work to relax and have fun and take care of herself.

When our passion for justice becomes too entwined with our sense of self, we lose sight of the fundamental requirements for health and happiness. We forget that a healthy and happy mind will extend the depth and breadth of our contribution to whatever cause we have chosen.

But that can be easier said that done when we shoulder the load of other people's pain and sorrow. From her writing it was clear that Iris was aware that the people whose justice she pursued were dying and there wasn't much time.

May all who pursue such causes take a lesson from Iris and devote some time to nourish our selves.

But what if it weren’t a suicide? Chang had powerful enemies in a social hierarchy that has been known for ruthlessness. She was dedicated to exposing their horrific misdeeds and had received death threats. It would be simple for a ninja master to slip Iris an hallucinogenic drug to give her the appearance of a mental breakdown and then coerce her into writing suicide notes. Is everyone who writes about Japanese war atrocities at risk of such a fate, even today? When will it end?

These are the thoughts people will have until Japan comes clean.

message 2: by Nik (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nik It depends what you mean by 'hero' of course, but she was evidently a thorough and detailed investigator and a skilled writer.

While Iris's 'The Chinese in America' also includes some harrowing details, it's a much more positive and celebratory account of how Chinese migrants to the US helped build the country. The account of the Chinese railroad engineers quite literally moving mountains is quite remarkable.

But as to whether or not she was murdered ... when someone you admire dies, it can be so frustrating that you feel there must have been some other reason or cause for it. Especially when it comes to the suicide of a mother of a two or three year-old boy. But the fact is, she was bipolar and depressive and this had been recognised in the late 1990s (her parents of course realised it much earlier).

The medication she was prescribed was said to have worsened her condition.

John Alt Ironically, her bipolarity explains the excellence of the book, for in her "up" phase it fostered the drive and energy for this, a large undertaking. I was horrified with the scale of Japanese atrocities she exposed, although not surprised that the Japanese government denies them to this day. I was also touched by the good Nazi, Rabe, who saved countless lives. Good and evil are never far apart in this book and after I learned of her suicide I wondered if she was not eventually overwhelmingly depressed by the evil in the world made real by her research.

message 4: by Monty J (last edited Mar 14, 2014 08:41AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Monty J Heying John wrote: "I wondered if she was not eventually overwhelmingly depressed by the evil in the world made real by her research. "

Speaking from my own experience, I can attest that if precautions are not taken, there can be a risk of a mental breakdown for anyone who routinely subjects their mind to traumatic events, be they first or second-hand horrors. The subconscious rebels against wave after unrelenting wave of the adrenalin bio-chemical spectrum of hormones and enzymes, particularly cortisol. A good therapist is essential, along with spiritual support, good friends and a good health plan. It is hard to remember to have fun when you are chasing an 800-pound gorilla, but it is essential.

John Alt That's a good reminder, Monty. The unrecognized and therefore uncontrollable demons inside can be worse than the demons outside.

Steve Merrick The Rape Of Nanking was an atrocity so vast and dark that it should inhabit its own dimension of time and space. Anyone who can objectify that event and apply methodology to it, in the way Iris Chang did, does deserve the title of hero, without doubt, and as my own reactions to this subject are an overwhelming urge to run away and hide, as it is deeply horrific, then the writer that can do what Iris Chang did with this book, also deserves every respect.

message 7: by John (last edited Mar 20, 2014 06:21AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

John Alt An eloquent comment. You gave expression to what I felt on reading the book. As for what I thought, while reading I also returned to a single idea: If there is a God, how could such evil be allowed? The atheist Camus said something to the effect that the only way evil can prevail is for good men to do nothing. The good man John Rabe, a Nazi member, did something. Good can be hiding where you least expect it. As the theme of this discussion has to with Chang and heroism, I agree she was a hero, but Rabe was another.

Steve Merrick Actually as an atheist I find that human ego tends to blur our own shock at events like this and god inevitably comes into the frame, more as a coping mechanism than anything else.

Judith Kerr Steve`s comment was right on the mark. Having read this book some time ago, I often think of Iris Chang and her message. I had never considered the possibility that she might not have died from suicide.

Monty J Heying Steve wrote: "The Rape Of Nanking was an atrocity so vast and dark that it should inhabit its own dimension of time and space. Anyone who can objectify that event and apply methodology to it, in the way Iris Ch..."

Well said, Steve.

C. G. Telcontar to research this kind of material and speak to victims must be draining. Even keeping a distance from it emotionally, after long exposure to these stories again and again, it has to get to you. Chang went up against Japanese spokespeople on TV to tell the story of the Rape, also. That could not have been a positive experience, to have former perpetrators or gov't flacks deny the event straight to your face on television.

message 12: by Edwin (last edited May 13, 2016 07:59PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Edwin Stratton-Mackay Iris Chang was indeed a hero who was courageous and dedicated well beyond the call of duty. Ms. Chang deserves our eternal love, gratitude and respect. May her memory never fade. x

message 13: by Michelle (last edited Oct 02, 2021 10:34AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Michelle Yes unequivocally. She's a champion for the most oppressed people of humanity- forgotten genocide victims. She taught the world- the power of one by living it. She was a very rare breed. She is one of my heroes. Memory eternal.

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