Legion on Hannity discussing the NEH conference, and some replies from participants
November 15th, 2010 by MOTHAX
Still fighting the fight about the NEH Pacific War conference. OK, let's start with American Legion Executive Director Peter Gaytan appearing with Professor Blake on Sean Hannity's show: Now, we've had a bunch of folks weighing in, and I want to be sure to give their comments some attention as well. Let's start with one that "blj" cited in the comments which links to a blog by Joanne Jacobs:
I attended the workshop. The organizers attempted to cover too much material and look at the entire Asia Pacific War. Therefore there was an emphasis on the Asian theaters. As for American imperialism, panelists presented the argument the Japanese gave for invading China in the1930s was to protect China from American imperialism. This was the argument Japan used it was not a reinterpretation of our foreign policy. There were several Pearl Harbor veterans there and they were cherished members of the group. They sat in on many sessions and did not appear to be offended in the least. They loved visiting with us and we with them. We thanked them for their sacrifice and service. I was honored and humbled to be able to meet them and hear their stories. Professor Blake, I believe, has misconstrued the facts to the point that it made me question if we attended the same workshop. Sure, the workshop was not perfect, but it was not anti-American and it was not anti-veteran.OK, some valid points in there, although I would point out a comment that I noted the other day by another participant who stated that:
One of the high points of program was the meetings with various survivors of the war in Hawaii—Pearl Harbor survivors and Japanese American survivors. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time for real discussion.I'll get more into the scope of everything after noting the comments of other participants, but if the materials portrayed an anti-American bias, and they were offset by veterans, then the discussion might (or might not) be different. But from the comment of someone there who was NOT professor Blake, it appears the split was less than equitable. Nonetheless, from commenter "Conference Participant":
I attended this conference and have to say that I am stunned by Penelope’s accusations and by some of the posts here. Certainly, I did not like or agree with all of the readings or presenters, but Penelope seems to have distorted the content and tone of the conference in an effort to gain some sort of personal fame–she is distorting history as much as she is claiming Geoff White and the presenters did. I am not saying that some of the presenters were not clearly anti-American–I myself was quite offended by Professor Camacho’s presentation–but many of our assigned articles were more anti-Japanese than anti-American. Articles bashed the Japanese for using comfort women and not making restitution to them after the war, for continuing to view themselves as war victims rather than taking responsibility for their wartime actions, and for not coming clean about Japan’s “real” history in school textbooks. Penelope’s statements also seem to overlook the fact that the bulk of our conference was spent in visiting sites like Pearl Harbor and Punchbowl Cemetery and that no one could more poignantly convey the sacrifice made by American servicemen than our guide at those sites, Daniel Martinez. I walked away with numerous photos to show my classes as well as greater insight into just what Pearl Harbor meant to America in human terms–in terms of American lives lost and changed forever. As for the sexual assault theme that has been spattered across web pages everywhere, it was perhaps overstated in the reading, but as one who lives near one of the largest military installations in our country, I can attest to the fact that when you send young men to war they come home changed (often not for the better). Soldier suicides, soldiers murdering spouses or lovers, soldiers dying in bar fights are everyday filler in our local paper. Some wars have to be fought, but no society can expect every man or woman who fights to come back the man or woman they were before. Many issues occur at a higher rate among the military community than among civilians–it is a fact, whether or not Penelope likes it. Lastly, Penelope fails to mention anything about the cross-cultural nature of the conference. Attendees came from Japan, Taiwan, Korea, the Marshall Islands, and China to exchange ideas and perspectives. Does it make me any less American to try and understand how others view the events of the past? Last time I checked there was still some value in the free exchange of ideas. Like most things, the conference had good points and bad points. Penelope is cherry-picking for her own personal agenda. If she was so appalled by the direction of the conference she should have shared that at the conference and not blindsided everyone in this way. Maybe had she spoken there, the conference would have become more what she thought it should be!OK, regarding the time spent issue... The schedule I have in front of me lists events for 6 days, and it shows only 1 1/2 days that might be described as visiting sites, which makes me question the statement "the bulk of our conference was spent in visiting sites." Maybe my schedule is not all inclusive? As for the "sexual assault" theme, it doesn't appear anywhere in the grant application that I can find. I can send along the materials to anyone that wants to read stuff for 10 days straight, but it isn't mentioned anywhere except in the materials that were supposed to be read prior to coming. It's certainly not on the agenda, nor in any of the background info that was sent to NEH. Would that be an appropriate discussion topic? I don't know, maybe or maybe not, but it wasn't anywhere to be found either way. Likewise the plight of returning veterans. Nothing pisses me off more than that meme that we come back and become raping and pillaging monsters. It is simply not borne out by the research. The comment here was: "Soldier suicides, soldiers murdering spouses or lovers, soldiers dying in bar fights are everyday filler in our local paper." I'm going to assume you are going all in on hyperbole here, either that or I need to start reading your local paper that covers the daily instances of Joe losing his mind. Lastly, CP1 starts the discussion of the "cross-cultural nature of the conference" and segues into building the straw man of
Does it make me any less American to try and understand how others view the events of the past? Last time I checked there was still some value in the free exchange of ideas.I don't know anyone who doesn't buy into the Marketplace of Ideas espoused by Oliver Wendell Holmes, but neither do I buy into the theory that this is what is in contention here. The problem here is a lack of balance, and using tax-payers funds to do so. Free Speech is not predicated on the Gov't ensuring that all such speech is heard, but rather staying the hell out of the way when it is being spoken. The complaints from Dr. Blake and the others who registered their disapproval was in the ballancing. Let me turn it around, Dr. Blake and others have identified numerous instances of what they would argue is an "anti-American" bias in the presenters...could you identify for me someone who could plausibly be accused of espousing an "anti-Japanese" bias? Anyway, Conference Participant II echoes much of what CPI was saying. I can assure you they are NOT the same person, so I am assuming that they are both legit, and were both present. I am breaking this one into two parts, as it is rather long.
Hello everyone! I usually don’t post on blogs because many posts seem to be angry and partisan. I’d be angry too if I only had read what Dr. Blake wrote or had watched the Fox News interview with her and Peter Gayton. But, Mr. Gayton and Fox News weren’t at the conference. Dr. Blake blindsided her conference colleagues. But slowly other participant’s experiences will come out. When I first heard the news of Dr. Blake’s story I had recalled her name but figured she must have attended the week before me as it did not sound like the same conference I attended. When I checked, yes we were in the same week. As the previous poster and participant noted, this conference included 25 Americans and 25 Asians. So we had a wide variety of participants.OK, the last part is what concerns me. I read through all the comments again, and I can't find the 25/25 split. Further, I am not sure if the reference to "Americans" and "Asians" is to ethnicity or to citizenship. What I do have is the list of 8 presenters. Now, I don't want to stereo-type by any means, and I am not sure that ethnicity is even relevant, but of the 8, two are "White" and "Rosenberg" which are not typical "Asian" names, and the other six are Yaguchi, Nishimoto, Kamakawiwo‘ole Osorio, Yoneyama, Morris-Suzuki, and Totani. Now, the main reason I think all that is irrelevant is that it was Dr. White's comments that I found the most disturbing, to wit:
It should be noted that sexual assaults against local women by U.S. military personnel are not random and isolated incidents. Rather, they are direct outcomes of the political, economic, military, and sexual complex that has long enabled and sustained U.S. hegemony within the Pacific and Asia region. In this complex, the dominant culture of U.S. militarized masculinity requires and underwrites a desire to dominate, possess, and destroy the “feminine”—in other words, precisely those elements that are subordinated and repudiated in constituting soldierly subjects. Given the United States’ political and economic dominance in the region, military personnel stationed there perceive the local population as a subordinated people; local women, signifying both the subordinated and the repudiated in the ideology of U.S. military masculinity, become the logical targets toward which soldiers invest their desires for destruction and domination. This militarized male sexuality, moreover, is assumed to be uncontrollable and not be excessively punished. Immediately after the 1995 rape incident, Admiral John Macke was forced to resign for a controversial public statement in which he remarked, “For the money [the perpetrators] rented the van, they could have had a girl.”Now, counter that with the quote I cited in my first post from Shoji Tabuchi:
There is a conversation in the book between General Tibbets and Shoji Tabuchi. Mr. Tabuchi was carried by his Mother on her back, while she pushed his Brother in a carriage away from their home that was near Hiroshima after the bombing. Mr. Tabuchi’s Father said this about the Bombing, “had the war continued all would have died, the end of the war spared the lives of men women and children all over Japan”.Basically, I think the race issue is a complete red herring, intended to portray this as a racial "us" v. "them" when in reality I view it as having to do with sentiment, not race. Nonetheless, CPII continues:
Dr. Blake seemed most irritated by the readings, which she cherry picked to her advantage. I reread several of the ones she was offended by. One paper she criticized as representing that “The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor should be seen from the perspective of Japan being the victim of western oppression” (in her letter it is point 2) was the same paper that spent pages criticizing the Japanese for not taking responsibility for atrocities committed on mainland Asia. Some of the conference papers I liked and some of them I didn’t. Some papers had both things I agreed with and things I disagreed with. She also criticized the most recent Park Service film seen before going to the Arizona Memorial (based on the paper she read- point 11). We had a screening of it; she says she refused to attend “in protest.” Well, the most recent film is much better than the original, which we also saw. Seems that the original had a line in it praising Yamamoto’s “brilliant” attack on Pearl Harbor that is not in the recent version. Oh, and the older film included footage of the Pearl Harbor attack that wasn’t original footage. It had been made for a movie during WWII and slipped into the film. So, parts of the attack footage wasn’t historically accurate. That was brought out during the screening, but she wasn’t there. Dr. Blake had a multitude of opportunities to express concerns about the conference with her colleagues during the presentations or informally during lunch or after the sessions were over. She also could have talked to Dr. White about the readings, but didn’t. She did have the time to hit the blogs and go on Fox News. Now who has the agenda in this controversy? Well, I see I am slipping into the negativity that I am against, so I’ll wrap up with the positives. Rest assured, this was anything BUT an anti-American, anti-veteran conference. We went to Ford Island (USS Utah Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum, USS Oklahoma Memorial). We had a private visit to the USS Arizona Memorial. We also went to the Fort DeRussy Army Museum, “Punchbowl” Cemetery, Hickam Officer’s Club, Hickam Field, and Hickam HQ Building. I and others went to the USS Missouri Memorial. I had the opportunity to talk 3 seperate times with a veteran who was seriously wounded at Pearl Harbor. He is a great guy who, in his upper 80s, volunteers his time at the USS Arizona Memorial. I am glad to have had the opportunity to attend this program. My fear is that Dr. Blake’s complaints will have the opposite effect on NEH and other educational programs – that miilitary history educational programs will be avoided in the future because they are too controversial. When that happens we all lose.Starting with the video question....I don't know much about that discussion. I looked around YouTube today to find out what they are talking about, but my Google Fu is weak, the only thing I could find is the one I am posting here, and I don't see much wrong with it. If someone can find the video in question, I would be appreciative. Anyway, regarding her comment 11, here is Professor Blake's statement:
11. 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. To this end, the conference organizers discussed a revised film (1992) shown to visitors to the Arizona Memorial which removed some of the earlier (1980) film's "Japan-bashing" and warnings about the need for the American military to remain prepared in the future. The new film, which emphasizes the reasons (justifications?) for the Japanese bombings of Pearl Harbor, includes fewer battle scenes and "transforms the triumphant feelings of victory with a more mournful reflection of losses inflicted by war" (White 285), thus sending a more pacifist, anti-war message and offering a perspective which makes people "less angry" after viewing the film (the author acknowledges that this has worked well, except for "older citizens" who are outraged by the "revisionist" sympathy towards the Japanese) (287). The new, more "inclusive" film features visual images of both American and Japanese dead, Japanese Buddhist monks visiting the memorial, and a culminating text which reads "Mourn the dead" as opposed to "Mourn American dead" or "Mourn our dead" so that "it represented the U.S. and Japanese" (emphasis mine, 288). The memorial's superintendent, Donald Magee, summed up the tone of the new film: "We don't take sides....here at Pearl Harbor we don't condemn the Japanese" (292). Based on the author's description, I refused to attend a viewing of the film, in protest of its appeasement of treachery and attempts to revise historical fact.Now, I would have gone, I generally don't boycott anything. Actually, I tend to go to things I disapprove of more than things I might agree with. In fact, the only demonstrations I ever attended in DC were anti-war ones, because let's face it, they are WAY more fun. Anyway, I am thoroughly agnostic on the movie issue. I know I must have seen it when I went to Pearl the week I returned from Afghanistan, but my cognitive skills might have been deadened due to my evening activities, as I don't remember being moved to any hostility at the time. CPII asserts that:
Rest assured, this was anything BUT an anti-American, anti-veteran conference.OK, fair enough, everyone is entitled to an opinion. I have listed quotes that I think are not subject to different interpretations which seem to show an anti-American bias. Obviously no one can argue they weren't written, so my interpretation must be wrong. What I would like is an explanation of how asserting that the military engenders misogynistic and racial proclivities against our Pacific brethren is not "anti-American" and for someone to explain to me where the balance is. I know one commenter said that the "Comfort Women" type stuff was discussed, but as far as I know, that stuff is based not only on the historical references, but also enshrined in various condemnations by numerous groups. (c.f. this wiki page lists a bunch of them.) I want to close with the final comments of CPII and reiterate the position of The American Legion:
We went to Ford Island (USS Utah Memorial, Pacific Aviation Museum, USS Oklahoma Memorial). We had a private visit to the USS Arizona Memorial. We also went to the Fort DeRussy Army Museum, “Punchbowl” Cemetery, Hickam Officer’s Club, Hickam Field, and Hickam HQ Building. I and others went to the USS Missouri Memorial. I had the opportunity to talk 3 seperate times with a veteran who was seriously wounded at Pearl Harbor. He is a great guy who, in his upper 80s, volunteers his time at the USS Arizona Memorial. I am glad to have had the opportunity to attend this program. My fear is that Dr. Blake’s complaints will have the opposite effect on NEH and other educational programs – that miilitary history educational programs will be avoided in the future because they are too controversial. When that happens we all lose.The American Legion has not called for an end to NEH grants. Based on the comments here, it seems many people *are* doing so, but we have not. Personally, I find merit in these events. Now, whether they should be funded through public funds is a different fight. Our problem is that none of the things that are alleged in terms of bias appeared in the application for a grant. From the readings that I did of the pre-conference hand-out, it seemed pretty clear that many of the folks had a gigantic axe to grind. Just why Gingrich and Sowell would be mentioned seems completely to escape any logic. Learning military history is a laudable goal. Presenting both sides of those fights is also entirely laudable. The problem comes in when one side is given official imprimatur and the other side is given short shrift. From my readings that appears to be the case, but I am amenable to an other interpretation, and so, once again, I offer CPI, CPII, Dr. White or anyone else connected with this an opportunity to write up a blog post that I will put up arguing that this was not anti-American. Because, after all, I believe in the Marketplace of Ideas, and I don't get any tax funding to do it. As Civil War vet Holmes wrote:
....the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution.
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