The hallowed waters that surround the sunken U.S.S. Arizona murmur gently like eternal witnesses to history. There lie 1,102 American crewmen who lost their lives during the Dec. 7, 1941, air raid on Pearl Harbor. Above the ship, like a floating tombstone, rests a stark white memorial structure with the names of the dead carved in marble.
I visited this site off the shores of Oahu a few years ago. You cannot leave it without being filled with patriotism and respect for the sacrifices made by one generation to future generations unknown. An eerie tranquility in the sun-drenched Shrine Room of the memorial hearkens back to the Sunday morning peace shattered 60 years ago by bloodthirsty Japanese dive bombers. Black, white, brown or yellow, first generation or tenth, all Americans remain indebted to the veterans in Hawaii who defended our land against foreign attack.
Those who died at Pearl Harbor would be appalled to discover that patriotism is a dirty word these days among some ethnic political activists whose livelihoods depend on drumming up fear. A new Disney movie set during the Pearl Harbor attack has leading Asian-American groups once again crying foul about the evils of American racism -- never mind the evils of Japanese wartime aggression.
"Pearl Harbor," billed as a wartime love story starring Ben Affleck, opens nationwide this Memorial Day weekend. But instead of welcoming the movie as an opportunity to teach young Americans about the colorblind values of honor, valor and duty to country, Asian-American leaders are stirring up racial paranoia to garner publicity, raise funds and fatten their membership rolls.
"This movie may fuel certain xenophobic feelings against Japanese Americans and Asian Americans," Philip Ting, San Francisco Bay chapter president of the Organization of Chinese Americans, told the San Francisco Chronicle last week. John Tateishi, president of the Japanese American Citizens League and a diversity consultant to Disney studios on the script for "Pearl Harbor," said: "The audience will watch the movie and react emotionally. This movie is designed to do that."
What movie isn't?
"My concern is that the reaction from the combat scene will be a them-versus-us mentality, and, if it is, Japanese Americans and Asian Americans will be the odd person (sic) out," Tateishi explained. Yes, fellow Americans, he is actually suggesting that a mere fictional depiction of the Pearl Harbor attack may incite violence. "No matter how much we look to the future," Tateishi carped, "we keep getting dragged back to Dec. 7. This movie does that -- pulls us back to that attack."
And what's wrong with that? It's groups like Tateishi's that constantly remind us about being doomed to repeat history if we forget it. Does Tateishi also oppose the Pearl Harbor memorial, which "drags" millions of tourists every year back to the Dec. 7 attack? It, too, was designed to elicit an emotional "reaction." To date, there have been no known "hate crimes" against Asian-Americans caused by the memorial. If there were, we would have heard about it by now -- endlessly -- from Tateishi and Company.
We are not a perfect nation, as these grievance-hungry groups remind us repeatedly. But why does this small group of Americans expend a disproportionate amount of resources attacking perceived insults by their fellow citizens while larger affronts from abroad go unprotested?
Japanese ultra-nationalists continue to whitewash World War II history -- downplaying their soldiers' atrocities at Pearl Harbor and Bataan, and casting Japan as a faultless victim of Western imperialism. This should outrage patriotic Americans of all backgrounds. To appease Japan's right-wing, Disney is reportedly cutting "Pearl Harbor" to omit references to the war's final outcome. (Newsflash: We won. Japan lost. Sorry to hurt any feelings.)
Those who protest the "Pearl Harbor" movie complain about the dangers of putting race above citizenship. The complainers should look in the mirror. We need not fear history -- only its revisionism by traitors to truth.