As Rhode Island communities prepared to celebrate Victory Day on August 14 in recognition of the allied triumph over the Japanese Empire during World War II, “concerned” citizens opposed to the holiday began lobbing criticisms at event organizers around the state. Rhode Island, which is the only state that still celebrates Victory Day, or V-J Day as it is sometimes called, suddenly found itself at the center of the politically incorrect universe.
Critics of the holiday charge that it is discriminatory and want to remove all references to Japan and the Japanese people. The Associated Press quoted former Rhode Island State Representative George Lima as saying, “This is a stigma against the Japanese whom we do business with and are allies.” Mr. Lima, who was responsible for a failed attempt to get rid of the holiday while serving in the state legislature during the 1980s, is a perfect example of the many out-of-touch-with-reality individuals who are so concerned they might offend someone else that they often miss the real motivation behind whatever it is they are opposing.
Responding to critics clamoring for political correctness and sensitivity so that our Japanese neighbors wouldn’t be offended, Rhode Island lawmakers made several attempts to either get rid of the holiday or, in the absence of its elimination, at least change its name. Each time the tremendous opposition of the state’s citizens caused them to abandon their efforts. Three separate legislative bills introduced during the 1990s by State Senator Rhoda Perry attempted to change the title of the holiday to Rhode Island Veterans Day. “It was absolutely a no-winner,” Perry was quoted as saying. “I did not have support, period.”
In the true spirit of political correctness, though, the Rhode Island General Assembly did pass a resolution designed to ease some of the concerns of those critical of the holiday. The resolution, which was approved in 1990, declared that Victory Day was not a celebration of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or of the death and destruction caused by President Truman’s decision to use nuclear weapons. Bowing to the demands of the touchy-feely, can’t-we-all-get-along crowd, the members of the General Assembly managed to change the focus of the debate on the holiday.
Proponents of the celebrations argue that Victory Day is necessary so that Rhode Islanders, and all Americans, can remember the sacrifices made during the Second World War. Not surprisingly, veterans groups are among the most ardent supporters of the holiday. They, unlike the main stream politically correct crowd, understand why Rhode Islanders are steadfast in their commitment to celebrate V-J Day.
Critics like George Lima and Rhoda Perry, who want to abolish the holiday or even change its name, have lost focus on why the holiday even exists. In a surprise attack on December 7, 1941, over 300 airplanes from the Japanese Navy bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, resulting in over 3,500 dead and wounded sailors, soldiers, and marines and over 100 dead and wounded civilians.
That attack propelled the United States into a brutal war against Japan in the Pacific. It was a war in which our military was forced to conduct an island-hopping campaign against entrenched Japanese soldiers determined to fight to the death. The fighting in the Pacific resulted in some of the bloodiest battles in a war that cost us over 300,000 killed and almost 700,000 more wounded.
The celebration of Victory Day in Rhode Island is not about the Japanese people. It is about the generation of Americans who sacrificed so much in a terrible global war that threatened the very existence of our country. It is about honoring them for what they did, and not about offending our Japanese business partners and allies.
In a country where handicapped is often replaced with handi-capable, and where Happy Holidays gets substituted for Merry Christmas, it is imperative that we not let the idea of being politically correct cause us to lose focus on what is important to us as Americans. For now, at least, the people of Rhode Island are standing their ground and serving as a shining example of political incorrectness to the rest of the nation.