Testimony From the Heart

A guest post by Roland Micklem, initially published in the Scrap Paper #407.

When I first read the testimony below, I took it as a personal reassurance that the work I do has meaning.   You see, every time I travel to Syria or Pakistan, Iran or Iraq, I come back to tell the stories of the people there in libraries and churches and activist hangouts, wherever they’ll have me, and then I write it here again and again.   And I keep advocating here for the people I have met and whose stories I know.  I keep repeating the little known and maybe even, unpopular truth.  The fact that Roland carried this story with him since before I was born resonated in a big way.   Thank you Roland. 

We Believe What We Want to Believe ………

The year was 1942. We had been at war with Japan and Germany for a few months, and every red-blooded American male was itching for a piece of the action.

I was a puny, underage 14 year-old, my first year in high school, but like all of my classmates and teachers, I was literally bubbling over with zeal for the Allied cause. Songs like You’re a Sap, Mister Jap and In Th’ Fuhrer’s Face were making the rounds, and our school—and indeed the entire nation—was awash in waves of patriotic furor.

Against this backdrop of such unabated Americanism, the school authorities engaged a speaker to address an assembly of the student body. The speaker was a woman who had spent many years in Japan, and she was there to tell us about the Japanese people.

Without any reference to the fact that we were at war with Japan, she proceeded to tell us how courteous, how kind and considerate the Japanese were, how much they cared for their children, and in general, how they conducted themselves like the fine human beings that she assured us they were.

When she had finished her talk, I don’t remember whether we applauded or not, but I am sure of one thing: Immediately following the speech, we were totally befuddled. We had been asking for blood, and all we got was honey. We had expected vituperation; our speaker delivered nothing but praise. We knew, or at least we thought we did, that the Japs were as treacherous and mean as a nest of rattlesnakes, and completely lacking in redeeming features. They were sub-human demons who needed to be wiped out by whatever means possible. And it would never do to have anyone say otherwise, as had our recent speaker.

Our school administrators realized that some form of rebuttal was very much needed, and so they engaged another speaker who might have a different view of the Japanese.

And this time, we were not disappointed. Our speaker was a naval officer, who I believe saw some action in the battle of the Coral Sea—The first American naval victory of the war.

Our naval hero told us exactly what we wanted to hear.. The Japs were indeed nasty characters, and needed to be exterminated like a nest of cockroaches. He went along in this vein for an hour or so, and we hung onto and approved of his every word.

While it’s true that many of the Japanese soldiers were cruel and inhuman, we should not in good conscience have condemned the people themselves and mistreated them in a similar manner. And actually, we did not—I was a part of the army of occupation under Generals Eichelberger and MacArthur, and we were under strict orders not to abuse Japanese civilians in any way. (If anything, we over fraternized; a buddy of mine in the quartermaster corps was reputed to have sold enough goodies on the black market to put his Japanese girl friend through college).

History does not have to repeat itself. Like the renegade Japanese soldiers, the ISIS troops are B-A-D to the core. But while it may be true that all ISIS troops are Muslims, please never forget that most Muslims are not ISIS troops or ISIS sympathizers.

Roland Micklem is an 85 year old Environmental activist who spent years protesting mountaintop removal, and now participates in the We Are Seneca Lake movement to block a plan to store liquid natural gas in the salt caverns under beautiful, pristine Seneca Lake.

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