No one that I know of has ever accused me of being patriotic. That said, please understand that I myself am as surprised as anyone else to my reaction to Pearl Harbor. December 7 is a day that will live in infamy– not so; for me, this is really only my birthday. A few days ago, I scoffed at the Pledge of Allegiance, scorned the fighting forces of our nation, and disclaimed any association with the United States of America. What a mistake.
O’ahu, Hawai’i, United States is an unsuspecting scene for the first scene of war on the pacific. Ancient asphalt roads scour the edge of the island, leading me away from Waikiki, my resort, and the rest of Honolulu. Blue waters, more blues than in my entire colored pencil set, sparkle in the wind. Ford Island is out there too, another unsuspecting character, but home to Battleship Row. Tropical breeze and beautifully green plant life notwithstanding, the place had an eerily quiet tone, as if shot in dusty film, or digitized in sepia. And although the place quite possibly had more visitors than Disneyland, I felt pronounced isolation.
A silent sigh breaches the calm waves of the bay; a lone, white structure stands above the waves. The sunken portion reflects sudden defeat, and the erect ends signify eventual victory. The memorial has been there longer than the waves; it’s permeant. More than anything though, is that pervading sense of quiet, loneliness. Japanese tourists didn’t evoke anything in me, nor did my family badgering me for a photo. All of this was quiet until you see the quay marked U.S.S Arizona. Then it became very loud. The figure of the ship is a gray ghost that is seen quite well through the waters. The noises of regular ship movements rise out of the past and the huge weapons platform brushing clean air flexes its large muscle. It’s clear that this was a proud ship; even its band was successful. The stern of the ship is a little more telling of its fate. In-fact, its downright heart-wrenching to see the great giant ripped in two. Nothing prepared me for realizing the fact that there are still people below the decks. Flowers I dropped in the water were all I could do to comfort myself. I remember one swirled up in a sticking puddle of black oil. They call these Black Tears.
My world has precious little respect for this type of thing. War is a terrible thing, and I saw that more vividly in Pearl Harbor, but I also saw young men defending what I can only think to call hope. I saw women in the same rite. And of these people, race nor opinion were dividing. People there lived, fought, and died together. They were beautiful people, most not unlike me or people I know. I desperately want to be more like them. How, then, should I remember these people lost? Should I mourn their deaths– should I discover the reasons why they died? Shall I avenge them, or shall I merely accept the loss? I can tell you I feel no anger, and I didn’t know anyone personally to feel sad about losing. I do know, however, that those people engraved in marble could be anyone I know, and probably will be someday. For the first time in my life too, I wouldn’t mind being an engraved name. Beneath my chaotic separatism, I found something surprising. Joined with a feeling of brotherhood that I’ve always seen, I saw America in the way that I think someone defending her ought to. Everyone takes something different away from the memorial, from resolution, to quiet grief. I saw something I’ve only seen in movies, a quiet fading memory of freedom, camaraderie, and valor; I saw that it really is there. I want to defend that