Jewish World Review Sept. 2, 2011 / 3 Elul, 5771
Pearl Harbor's New Vision
By Greg Crosby
I waited too long. I have wanted to see and pay my respects to the Pearl Harbor memorial in Hawaii all my life and now it's too late. It's not that the memorial is not there, it's that it has undergone some, um, "improvements." The original memorial site was built over the battleship USS Arizonia which was sunk by the Japanese attack on December 7th, 1941. The new center, which opened last December 7, 2010, is on the same site but has expanded to cover several times the original area. And the story has changed somewhat as well.
Visitors will view photos depicting kimono-clad women in department stores and boarding street cars and other scenes of Japanese life during the thirties. The museum shows clips from Japanese theater newsreels, including festive scenes of Babe Ruth playing baseball during a tour. It's all about explaining what brought the Pearl Harbor bombings about. An attempt to show what drove the Japanese to attack the United States and what life was like in Japan at the time. You see, now we are telling both sides of the story, not just the American side.
Planning for the exhibits began five years ago when the park service brought in "top historians" to brainstorm what the displays should contain. The themes that emerged fit inside two halls, "Road to War" and "Attack." There's also a special courtyard dedicated to Hawaiian history. And just what does Hawaiian history have to do with the Japanese attack on American ships? Don't ask; just be happy that the Hawaiians aren't being left out.
The spokes-folks for the "new improved" memorial claim that the end result is a broader, more in-depth view of the Sunday morning attack nearly 70 years ago. The passage of time helped achieve the new vision they say. So did the efforts of Japanese pilots and American survivors to reach out to each other and overcome deeply ingrained bitterness, they also say.
Gee, I can't imagine why those grumpy American GIs would have any "bitterness" over the surprise attack. They need to just get over it, right? And excuse me, but what the hell do the Japanese pilots have to be bitter about - that they didn't hit ALL their targets?
Daniel Martinez, the park service's chief Pearl Harbor historian, said it wouldn't have been possible to include the Japanese viewpoint in any official examination of the attack when he first started working at the visitor center in the 1980s. "It was just too recent, and the wounds were still open," Martinez said. "The idea of exploration of history would have been found unsavory by some of the Pearl Harbor survivors who were still dealing with the wounds of that war."
Oh, in other words, let's wait for most of the people who were actually alive and experienced the attack to die off before we go in and "explore history" a little more. What a crock! The original memorial was a shrine to the memory of those who were killed in that bombing raid. Now with the $56 million renovation, the thing has become a rewriting of history.
Martinez said some survivors have understandably wanted to keep the exhibits as more of a shrine or memorial, as opposed to an interpretation of history. Yeah, no kidding. But he said it's important for people to grasp a more complex story. Hey Martinez, it's not important for me to try and "understand" the socio-political ramifications behind why the Japanese bombed us. The story is actually not complex at all. The Japanese deliberately conducted a sneak attack on America which killed 2,403 American lives. That's almost as many Americans as the Islamists killed with their attack on September 11, 2001.
But Martinez goes on to say, "We have to understand it. . . . and allow for those different perspectives to come in there so a broader understanding can take place." See? Non-judgmental. No right, no wrong. Just a "different perspective."
We have Jewish Holocaust museums and memorials in practically every major city in the country. When will the "top historians" decide to include the Nazi perspective? Shouldn't we try to have "a broader understanding" of what drove the Germans to do what they did? And when the 9-11 memorial is finally finished at ground zero at what used to be the Twin Towers, I wonder if the Jihadist perspective will be included. By all means, we must be fair, after all…even if it means standing history on its head and playing fast and loose with the truth.
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© 2008, Greg Crosby