Ideas to ponder for book-club and classroom discussions
1. Cliff Forster traveled an interesting emotional pathway in relationship to the Japanese people and General Masaharu Homma: from captive teenager who reviled the conquering general responsible for his plight, to glee at the prospect of “justice being served” by the military war-crimes tribunal, through three decades of living and working in Japan and with the Japanese. The latter resulted in enduring respect and warm friendships, as well as a desire to learn about, better understand, and write about the life and nature of General Homma. How did such a transition in viewpoint come about?
2. As a child and teenager, Cliff Forster was exposed to a humanitarian and service-oriented outlook on life by his parents and grew up in a cosmopolitan international environment. How did these experiences play out in his adult life? How can a youngster who does not have such a family and home environment still become an international-minded citizen?
3. During Cliff’s Foreign Service career in the second half of the 20th century, the Cold War was waged worldwide between conflicting ideologies. In the 21st century, another intense struggle between conflicting beliefs and governance rages across borders. What “weapons” are most effective for winning such ideological conflicts? How does one define victory? Are the underlying causes of these problems ones that can be solved? Are international peace and mutual understanding across frontiers attainable in a multifaceted global society?
4. Men and women who have been wrenched from the comfort and safety of their daily lives–whether by war, natural disaster, criminal violence, or devastating accident—react in different ways, both at the time and long after the danger has passed. What are some examples of these different reactions and the resources people use to deal with tragedy, turmoil, and reversal of fortune? What are the similarities and differences between the battles/wars of the past and the present?