An extremist, anti-American agenda tainted History and Commemoration: The Legacies of the Pacific War,” a workshop for community college professors sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, complains Penelope Blake, a humanities professor at Rock Valley College in Illinois. The workshop was held at the University of Hawaii’s East-West Center in July. Blake sent Power Line a Sept. 12 letter she wrote to Illinois Rep. Donald Manzullo, her congressman, asking him to vote against funding for future workshops until the NEH explains the violation of its objective to foster “a mutual respect for the diverse beliefs and values of all persons and groups.”
In my thirty years as a professor in upper education, I have never witnessed nor participated in a more extremist, agenda-driven, revisionist conference, nearly devoid of rhetorical balance and historical context for the arguments presented.
The required preparatory readings for the conference, as well as the scholarly presentations, sent an overriding message, Blake wrote.
The U.S. military and its veterans were attacked as an “imperialistic, oppressive force which has created and perpetuated its own mythology of liberation and heroism.” Participants were urged to see “the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor from the perspective of Japan being a victim of western oppression.” They were told:
War memorials, such as the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery (where many WWII dead are buried, including those executed by the Japanese on Wake Island and the beloved American journalist Ernie Pyle), are symbols of military aggression and brutality “that pacify death, sanitize war and enable future wars to be fought.”
The U.S. military was accused of system rapes, with no reference to “the mass-murders, rapes, mutilations of hundreds of thousands of Chinese at the hands of the Japanese throughout the 1930s and 40s.” Segregation in the military and the “occupation” of Germany after the war show ‘we were as capable of as much evil as the Germans,” one presenter said. Another compared the temporary relocation camps for Japanese-Americans to Nazi extermination camps.
Although war veterans were invited to a panel, speakers said their memories “are suspect and influenced by media and their own self-delusion.”
Therefore, it is the role of academics to “correct” their history. As one organizer commented, this will be more easily accomplished once the WWII generation has passed away. . .
War memorials like the Arizona Memorial should be recast as “peace memorials,” sensitive to all viewers from all countries, especially the many visitors from Japan. The conference dedicated significant time to the discussion of whether or not a Japanese memorial in honor of victims of the atom bombs should be erected at the Arizona Memorial site, in order to pacify Japanese visitors who may be offended by the “racism” [anti-Japanese] of the Arizona Memorial.
Conference organizers dismissed other opposing voices as “nationalistic” or simplistic, Blake writes. “But I am no blind patriot, Congressman Manzullo, nor am I ignorant of the complexities inherent in the telling and re-telling of history.”
Allied efforts, however imperfect, defended the world against two of the greatest forms of evil the world has ever known, European Fascism and Japanese Imperialism. This perspective was never, not once, offered at this conference except as a concept that will be well-buried with the WWII generation. If nothing else, I have shown that any imminent celebration of the demise of these concepts may be premature.
Blake is the daughter of two World War II veterans; her uncle died in the war. She vows not to “stand by and allow their history to be usurped and corrupted by a revisionist and iconoclastic political agenda within academe.”