All, He Has Forgotten Pearl Harbor
up near the stockyards in Cleveland in the late 30's, I learned
about life from the neighborhood kids and the radio. From the other
kids, I quickly learned it was "Us" vs. "them."
"Us" was white, English-speaking, 100% Americans. "Them"
was a group of folks that did not live on our block, that talked
funny, and were to be avoided. They were the niggers, the kikes,
the chinks, the japs, the hunkies, the wops (or dagos), the spicks,
the polocks, and the gyppos. You could not trust any of them. The
American flag belonged to us, not those others.
Oh, there were
a few good ones, of course, who made good "sidekicks"
like Tonto, the Lone Ranger's "faithful Indian companion",
Little Beaver, who served Red Ryder, or Kato, the Japanese lackey
of the Green Hornet. The radio taught us that we were always going
to be O.K. as long as we had fearless guys who looked just like
us such as Jack Armstrong, the all-American Boy; Batman; or Captain
Midnight to protect our way of life (which consisted of eating cabbage
and Spam, catching diphtheria, and telling racist jokes.)
Of course there
were the evil demons that our heroes were always struggling with,
like Dr. Sivana, Ivan Shark, the Dragon Lady. Then we grew up, and
the demons became Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini. Then it became Mao
Tse-Tung, the Ayatollah Khomeini, Osama and Saddam, the evil personifications
During my four
years in the Marines, I found those old childhood stereotypes were
shared by my buddies. I even learned that the list from my youth
needed expanding to include women (they were good for only one thing,
and you know what that was). Even the Women in the Corps were referred
to by the denigrating designation "BAMS" (broad-assed
Marines). We learned to look down not only on "queers",
but civilians and even the other services. We were the best. We
were the Supermen. "Doggies," "Swabbies," and
"Flyboys" were OK, but we would never have sided with
any of them in inter-service bar fight. Hey, if you can look down
at other services, you can look down on anyone!
that Commies were evil (though we never knew what a "Commie"
was) and that "Gooks" (coming from the real name of the
country we called Korea) were fair targets when we landed in their
country. Most of the time, there was not even a distinction between
the "bad" gooks and the ones on our side. Who could tell
the difference by looking? When in doubt, "Kill 'em all and
let God sort 'em out." When the war started, not one guy I
knew could find Korea on a map, had ever even met a "gook"
or his family, knew one word of Korean, or had ever bounced a Korean
kid on his knee.
So, what is
your feeling about Iraqis? Do we know any more about them than we,
as kids, knew about all of the groups we looked down upon, but had
never met? Have you ever even visited Iraq or had dinner with an
Iraqi? Can you talk for 60 seconds on Iraqi history? Do you even
speak one word of Kurdish the main language in Iraq , in case you
didn't know)? Can you even find Iraq on a map? Have you ever bounced
an Iraqi kid on your knee? Are you willing to support the killing
of these people just because they are "them?" (and because
they just happen to have the second largest supply of oil in the
We are spending
7.6 billion borrowed dollars a month on the Iraqis, which is bleeding
this country dry. Over 2,100 of our sons and daughters have come
home in flag-draped boxes. Estimates from 15,000 to 48,000 of them
have been maimed and wounded, with countless others dealing with
post-traumatic stress or facing the prospect of delayed symptoms
of exposure to depleted uranium and other toxins. Isn't it time
to ask ourselves why we spend a fortune playing the war game? Isn't
it time to rethink the fear and greed which feed the war machine?
Isn't it time to look at our fellow men on earth just say "No!"?
with the feared and hated "other" is not a worthy American
trait. Our beligerance in the world is creating a new generation
of terrorists. When will understanding, compassion, and respect
become American values?
I was berated,
when to took part in a sidewalk memorial for the 2,000th soldier
killed in Iraq by a fist-shaking red-faced guy driving a Japanese
truck made by the same company that made the planes that bombed
us on December 7, 1941. I was struck by the irony. It is clear he
had forgotten Pearl Harbor. That made me wonder: is there hope that
this chap might similarly be able to someday look past the fears
and hatreds inspired by 911 and begin to think of everyone in the
world as "Us"?
Visit us at