December 7 is a date that is supposed to live in infamy. But while the 50th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor will pass unnoticed for many students, some Japanese Americans will spend the day warily on guard against anti-Asian sentiments. Campus scholars in Japanese and American history said yesterday that American bitterness over the sneak attack has declined, but it has also been replaced by new resentment about Japan's economic edge over the U.S. And some Japanese American students said that although anti-Asian sentiments in America are not related to the 50-year-old attack, they fear the day will be used as an excuse to initiate violence against Asians. Representatives of Students for Asian Affairs asked University Police to strengthen patrols tonight and tomorrow night to guard against harassment or violence. SAA leaders said heavy media coverage of the anniversary has increased awareness of it to the point that it could be a dangerous issue. "We just felt that this weekend there should be increased awareness among campus police that it is the 50th anniversary," said SAA Chairperson-Elect Norbert Hsu. "It's more of a precautionary measure than being afraid." University Police Sergeant Lawrence Salotti said two extra officers would patrol the University this weekend. Despite the concerns of some Asian Americans, for many Americans, Pearl Harbor is an event of only academic interest. To historians, the attack, which precipitated America's entry into World War II, marks a shift from American isolationism to the country's primacy in world affairs. The Japanese aircraft that bombed the U.S. Naval forces at Pearl Harbor shocked the American public, promoting the stereotype of the "devious Oriental," and making fear of a sneak attack part of American strategic planning for decades. But History Professor Bruce Kuklick said that although World War II was a shaping experience for many of America's leaders, including President Bush, the attack on Pearl Harbor is not a "live" emotional issue like the Holocaust. Instead, it only serves as a background for what current negative sentiments exist toward Japan. Japanese Studies Professor William LaFleur said American resentment developed as Japan became a world trading power and developed an economic base. He said many Americans are searching for a scapegoat to take the blame for this country's economic difficulties, and Japan's success makes it a convenient target. Japanese Cultural Society Vice President Reed Stevenson said Japan is a popular subject in the American media because of the economic threat many Americans think Japan represents. "Japan is an issue right now," said Stevenson, a College sophomore. "If a country that bombed the United States 50 years ago was still economically in the Third World, it wouldn't be much of an issue." While American press coverage of the anniversary has been intense, Stevenson and others said it has been balanced. According to LaFleur, who returned from a trip to Japan two days ago, the Japanese press has given moderate coverage to the anniversary and has expressed some concern that Americans will use it as an excuse to level blame against Japan. Kuklick said the evils of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima cancel each other out on the diplomatic scoreboard, making each country's attempt to blame the other useless. Japanese teaching about World War II emphasizes Japan as a victim of American economic sanctions and of the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to Political Science Professor Alvin Rubinstein, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor will pass, affecting people differently based on their experience, but the tensions between the U.S. and Japan will remain unless the U.S. government devises a coherent policy for relating to Japan. LaFleur said that just as the U.S. underestimated Japan's military potential in 1941, businessmen and politicians are likely to underestimate Japan's economic strength today. "The lesson from Pearl Harbor as I see it is a lesson of American overconfidence, of the American tendency to ignore signs," he said. "I feel that in the areas of science and technology, and even in areas of the humanities and social sciences, the Japanese will be world leaders within ten years, and there's a tendency for us not to be aware of that."Comments powered by Disqus
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