Crash­ing the party at Pearl Har­bor

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - Opin­ion by Wes­ley Pru­den

THONOLULU. he mys­tic chords of mem­ory hold World War II in a stub­born em­brace. The re­minders of the war that be­gan here on a bright Sun­day morn­ing seven decades ago lie all about this trop­i­cal par­adise.

Some re­minders are more tan­gi­ble than oth­ers. Last week, the Navy re­vealed that a work­boat dredg­ing Pearl Har­bor had brought up a hu­man skull, prob­a­bly from one of the Ja­panese bomber pi­lots who fell into the har­bor with his plane. Twenty-nine Ja­panese planes were shot down and 55 pi­lots killed on the day that Pres­i­dent Franklin D. Roo­sevelt called “a date which will live in in­famy.”

The Navy’s an­nounce­ment was fol­lowed by a day an un­usual tea cer­e­mony at the me­mo­rial that sits astride the re­mains of the USS Ari­zona, now a wa­tery tomb whose out­line is clearly vis­i­ble be­neath the waves. Po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness ran amok, as mis­placed sen­ti­ment will.

The grand tea mas­ter of some­thing called the Urasenke School of Tea in Ja­pan brewed up a pot of cer­e­mo­nial green tea and pre­sented two bowls of it to the ghosts of the 1,177 men whose names are en­graved in mar­ble above their ship as “the gal­lant men here en­tombed and their ship­mates who gave their lives in ac­tion on De­cem­ber 7, 1941.”

Gen­shitsu Sen XV, now 88, was a Ja­panese air­man dur­ing World War II, though not at Pearl, and said his tea cer­e­mony was a ges­ture of re­spect to­ward the dead, an at­tempt to make sure sac­ri­fice was not for­got­ten, as well as a few words of ri­tual blah blah about world peace, mu­tual un­der­stand­ing, rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and all that good stuff. Gov. Neil Aber­crom­bie of Hawaii went all starry-eyed and ap­plied more goo-goo in re­sponse.

The gov­er­nor called the cer­e­mony a nod to both the Ja­panese cul­ture and the strong mu­tual re­spect be­tween the United States and Ja­pan, warm friends and al­lies since the Ja­panese sur­ren­der on the decks of the USS Mis­souri in Tokyo Bay nearly four years af­ter Pearl Har­bor. The gov­er­nor thinks the tea pots even hold a les­son for “other peo­ple and coun­tries war­ring with as much en­mity and mu­tual mis­un­der­stand­ing as we once ex­pe­ri­enced our­selves.” Maybe it does, though to ex­pect such an ex­am­ple to make friends of rad­i­cal Mus­lims in the Mid­dle East is to ex­pect a lot from a lit­tle tea and sym­pa­thy. The cer­e­mony at­tracted the usual po­lit­i­cal and mil­i­tary of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the com­man­der of the U.S. Pa­cific fleet and two old salts who were there when the bombs be­gan to fall. It’s cer­tainly true that Ja­pan and the United States are good friends now, and it’s only right and proper to let by­gones be by­gones, even to for­give if not for­get. But cer­e­mo­nial tea-sip­ping at the USS Ari­zona is akin to crash­ing the fu­neral.

“Trust but ver­ify,” Ron­ald Rea­gan said of an­other old foe now friendly, sort of. But the Gip­per was not im­mune to the temp­ta­tion to spread a lit­tle goo-goo on old wounds. He could be a sucker for sen­ti­ment and old friends, and he let Hel­mut Kohl per­suade him to go to Bit­burg and a mil­i­tary ceme­tery in Ger­many to pay tribute to Ger­man sol­diers. Mr. Rea­gan, hav­ing ig­nored protests of both houses of Congress, dozens of or­ga­ni­za­tions of vet­er­ans, Jews and oth­ers, ar­rived at Bit­burg to mas­ter the sit­u­a­tion with his usual elo­quence. He stood only a few feet from the graves of SS storm troop­ers to say the ri­tual things about how bad the Nazis were, in­vok­ing moral equiv­a­lence to “mourn the Ger­man war dead as hu­man be­ings, crushed by a vi­cious ide­ol­ogy.”

The SS troop­ers were hu­man, per­haps, but the Gip­per was more than a few inches over the top to mourn storm troop­ers. They were the crush­ers work­ing for the “vi­cious ide­ol­ogy,” not the crushees. Some things, as wise old Mammy told Scar­lett O’Hara, “just ain’t fit­tin’.” No fur­ther ex­pla­na­tion needed. The Gip­per’s White House aides later told the New York Times the Bit­burg visit was “the big­gest fi­asco” of the Rea­gan pres­i­dency.

The Ja­panese tea mas­ter said his cer­e­mony was meant to “heal,” in­vok­ing the fa­vorite sooth­ing syrup of the ther­a­peu­tic age, and no doubt it was. (Cue ap­plause.) But some wounds can’t be healed by a pot of tea, hot or iced. A tea party aboard the re­mains of the USS Ari­zona, how­ever well-meant, is sen­ti­ment mis­placed, and a lit­tle bit creepy. To think other­wise de­means the sac­ri­fice of the men at the bot­tom of Pearl Har­bor.

Wes­ley Pru­den is edi­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.