Sunday, December 07, 2003

Tora, Tora, Tora...

Today is the day of infamy, the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor... It was the beginning of a war that totally destroyed Japan and took the lives of many people: American, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino, Dutch, Australian and countless others. What a stupid war. Japan had visions of grandeur, colonizing neighboring countries, becoming the major power in East Asia. Why? The question is too complicated and I will let the historians deal with it. I will simply take the position that war is usually unnecessary, and started by closed-minded men who will ultimately make other men die for their decision. I wonder how many soldiers with the surname Bush, Cheney or Rumsfeldt have died in Iraq? Virtually zero, I would wager.

As a youth, I was just as stupid. As a Japanese-American, I thought, rediculously, that I was Japanese. When the war movie, Tora, Tora, Tora came out (early 70s), my friends and I went to the Grauman's Chinese theater in Hollywood to root for the Japanese. As the Zeros were torpedoing the battleships and bombing the airstrips, we hooted and hollored and waved our Japanese naval flags (right) in the theater. You can imagine we were received with loud boos and a storm of popcorn. But we were young and stupid and "Japanese". Of course, I now realize that I am not Japanese. Indeed, the more I study Japan, the more I realize that I am not one of them. So why were we like that? Well, as JAs, we were marginalized in the country of our birth, the good ol' US of A. We certainly didn't feel like we belonged to any segment of the society and so we ended up imagining we had an affinity with our cultural heritage, the land of the rising sun. Since the mainstream didn't allow us to swim along them, we had to create or imagine our own tributaries. And for us it was a connection to Japan. As unrealistic as it was, it still made us feel good. The 70s was not the best of times to be a minority, but it was a good time to feel like a minority: On the coattails of Black Power and Chicano Power, it felt good to have some kind of identity, and for us it was to be Japanese.

I feel like I'm rambling... I 'm not trying to blame anyone or any segment of society. It was what it was...

How do Asian youth feel today? Is the feeling similar? Would you wave a J flag--or a kendo shinai--during The Last Samurai?

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