St. Louis Post-Dispatch : Woody Lawson


Woody Lawson’s letter to the editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch identified him as a teacher without him divulging so. He uses words and phrases like adequate and “what I would call a 4th-grade teacher” to characterize the competencies of his interlocutors.

He broached a topic I am sure many Americans would be extremely interested in. (Yes, Mr. Lawson that sentence ended in a preposition). Lawson wanted to know how Pearl Harbor had been depicted in Japanese history books. He managed to get “the 4th grade teacher” to indicate that the Hawaii Bombing was portrayed honestly and that the nation’s leaders make mistakes.
Lawson also magnanimously conceded that the United States has made its share of mistakes. I wish he had told her about Tuskegee where syphilitic black males were used as guinea pigs to “study the long term effects of syphilis”. Nice letter Mr. Lawson and she would have gone to dinner with you!!!

Nations make mistakes
I was on a solo beach-camping vacation in Hawaii when I visited the Arizona. It was during a Japanese holiday, and I was the only “American” on the memorial, a strange feeling. I struck up a conversation with a Japanese gentleman who looked to be about my age. His English was adequate. After a few exchanges, I asked him if he would mind a kind of personal question. When he agreed, I explained that I was an American teacher and was interested in how this event was taught in Japan’s schools. My attempt at a gentle, face-saving approach missed; he was somewhat embarrassed but said that Pearl Harbor was indeed taught in Japan; then he excused himself and drifted away.
Later, at the other end of the memorial, a young, attractive Japanese woman approached me, identified herself in flawless English as what I would call a 4th-grade teacher, explained that she’d overheard my question, and offered a more complete answer. “December 7th and the war are taught honestly,” she explained, “Our children are told that their elders made very bad mistakes of judgment.”
She asked if I’d lost someone close to me here. “No,” I answered, knowing she meant a relative. But Yes, I thought fiercely to myself; “Every single one of those nearly 4,000 soldiers who died or were wounded here, including every one of those whose bodies are still today entombed beneath our feet are close to me.” But, for once, somehow, I held my tongue. I think I tried gamely to neutralize the conversation by mentioning some US stupidities, such as our treatment of Native Americans, slavery, etc., and she seemed grateful.Before she left, she put her hand on my arm, looked straight at me and said, “I’m so sorry.” I don’t remember my response – whether I actually said,”I am, too,” or just thought it. I think I thanked her; but I remember regretting that I didn’t invite her to dinner. (Know how you feel Woody…I have missed many romantic forays due to fear of rejection…hang in their brother)Ok, well I did have many questions about Japanese education…Here’s yet another use for a “rewind button” (Remember Calvin and Hobbs?) in my life.


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