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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

History lesson

Maybe you haven't heard yet, but World War II is over. The honorable military members merely doing their duty as they saw it for the misguided emperor of Japan finally saw the error of their ways and lay down their arms. Of course, the way they told it then was, "Japs Surrender." But we don't talk like that these days, and we don't like to be reminded that anybody ever did:

Mattice, director of the Roudebush Veterans Affairs Medical Center, said there'd been a complaint: A new employee was offended by the term "Japs," a commonly used slur during World War II.

So, Mattice took down the framed front page, which is now tucked away in the center's executive offices.

That decision, however, has riled a group of retired Marines who call it whitewashing history and akin to offering an apology that isn't due. They are campaigning to have the artifact put back on the wall, where it had hung alongside other World War II memorabilia for more than a decade.

The veterans are right. We can learn from history, but we can't hide from it. The Journal Gazette has framed front pages on the wall between our offices, and one of them has the headline, "Huns Quit!" If anyone complains (this is a German-Lutheran town), would the JG's higher-ups, being good, politically correct editors, take it down? Or would they put a little note beside the page explaining that our ancestors were slur-slinging racist pigs who didn't have the benefit of our more enlightened attitudes? I hope they would just stand tough and explain to the complainer that not ever being offended was not one of the rights millions died for in World War II.

Most of the time, there isn't a very good reason to use a pejorative to defame an entire group. Being at war with a group you're trying to kill so they are less successful in killing you is, in the grand scheme of things, a pretty good reason. There may have been wars in the past in which the opposing sides didn't call each other mean names, but, offhand, I can't think of one.


Michael B-P
Thu, 02/19/2009 - 11:58am

In the script for "My Perfect World," the director's initial dialog would have run as follows: "Well, yes, it was indeed intended to be offensive at the time. But we've learned and gone on by now, haven't we? By the way, as a new employee, you're on probationary status, aren't you? In order to become an even more effective member of our staff, you may wish to reflect upon the sensitivities of those people whom we have both been hired to serve rather than drawing attention toward what some may be inclined to see as our own much narrower preferences."