11 June 2010
No Political Correctness Here
Back in May of 2002, I had the good fortune to be among the earliest visitors to, what was at the time, The National D-Day Museum. A dream of renowned author, historian and educator Stephen Ambrose. (Band of Brothers, Citizen Soldiers, Undaunted Courage among his myriad of works).
In the following years, the popularity of this shrine grew immeasurably, thanks to Mr. Ambrose's continued works (note...Mr. Ambrose has come under a lot of posthumous scrutiny and concern about plagiarism and fabriction recently......that's a topic for somewhere else) as well as the notoriety of Tom Brokaw's popular book "The Greatest Generation". So much so that this one-time factory where New Orleans' native Andrew Higgins mass produced the landing craft that carried millions of GI's and Marines to distant beaches, was greatly expanded to cover the entire effort of WWII, and eventually the name of the museum was changed to reflect it's all encompassing coverage of the War of Our Parents.
So it was with great anticipation that I returned to that museum while passing through New Orleans this week. Not only did I want to see the memorial brick that I purchased for my Father back in 2002, (very 1st section....AA, on the corner or Camp and Andrew Higgins Drive), but I was looking forward to seeing the expanded tribute to the millions of Americans who participated in the War.
Little did I realize how pleasantly surprised I would be. Not because there was any earth shattering information for me to glean perusing these old factory hallways, I have been a voracious reader of all things WWII since Dick and Jane primers. (1st book? Guadalcanal Diary by Richard Tregaskis in 2nd grade).
But there was one small section of the museum about the Pacific War that stood out to me. Only because in this day and age of overblown Political Correctness, I was somewhat surprised that the Curators allowed it.
There is a good 4-5 minute walk within the museum dedicated to Japanese atrocities during WWII. And the pictures, monuments, and stories are horrifying. So much so, that there is a parental warning at the beginning of it, as well a a side route to avoid it.
I think this section of the exhibit is a GOOD thing. Cuz we must never overlook or sugarcoat the horrible brutality of war. And in fairness, there is some (not a lot) mention of the reciprocal treatment that was given to the Japanese by our own soldiers.
But, the silver lining here in all of this is that I think by showcasing this politically incorrect aspect of the Pacific War (The Japanese Brutality), a different kind of "political correctness" will be unintentionally enforced.
Many ears ago, in the 70's and early 80's, I spent many a weekend carousing Kalakaua Blvd. in Waikiki. This was during a period when Japanese Tourism to the Hawaiian Islands was peaking. Nothing wrong with that.....they're good people and spend lots of money. But one thing always bothered me. And that was seeing Japanese men, especially older men, fresh off of a tour of Pearl Harbor, wearing USS Arizona baseball caps and T-shirts. Call me jingoistic, but I found that offensive. The same way I would feel in 2010 if Islamic Fundamentalists dressed their women in burkhas featuring images of the World Trade Center. And probably no different than how a Japanese citizen would feel if I walked around downtown Hiroshima in a T-shirt featuring a mushroom cloud with a "Made in America, Tested in Japan" caption. (indeed, I admit it....I DID get a T-shirt like that made to wear on Kalakaua in response to the Japanese wearing Arizona hats and tees).
But thanks to this one particular new section in the WWII Museum, I doubt very much that Japanese tourists will visit our WWII Museum. And more importantly, very little chance that we will ever see Japanese tourists walking down Canal Street in N'Orleans with souvenir baseball caps or T-Shirts from the WWII Museum.
All of us from all nations can and should honor our fallen warriors in proper ways.
Without wearing "souvenirs" from former opponent's hallowed grounds.
Just my opinion.