Pearl Harbor Day has a message for LGBT Americans

The attack was over in an hour and thirty minutes. A lot of damage was done: 2,386 Americans died (55 were Honolulu civilians), a further 1,139 wounded. Eighteen ships were sunk or run aground, including five battleships. May we never forget the people that died and our continued defense of those values they died for: the freedoms we enjoy today, the rights we have yet to gain and continue to fight for.

Today is the 70th Anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. So why should LGBT Americans care? There are many lessons that we can take from the events that took place in the homeland after the carnage of Pearl Harbor.

The U.S.S. Arizona burns and capsizes in Pearl Harbor.

One of the most tragic events after the bombing was President Franklin Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, requiring the relocation and detainment of over 110,000 Japanese-Americans. The discrimination was indiscriminate. They forced men, women and children of all ages out of their homes. They were legal resident aliens and U.S. citizens. In fact, 62% were citizens. Even those who couldn’t speak a lick of Japanese were paraded through town streets like cattle. They were taken to concentration camps flying the American flag. These fenced prisons were given a nicer name: War Relocation Camps.

Instructions for Japanese internees

Japanese-Americans were given short notice to pack what they had and follow U.S. officials’ orders to be relocated.

Despite all that, many of those Japanese-Americans, after hardship in these War Relocation Camps, volunteered to fight in the war for the same country that put them behind prison fences. Why did they do it? Good old American Pride. They still had pride in their country and the hope and vision of an America that continues to evolve and better itself, self-correct its problems and in the end will always find justice and equality for those denied it. 

We find similar struggle as LGBT Americans. Yet, we continue to find pride in being Americans, with the hope that we will find justice and equality. Our nation has its shortcomings but over time it always betters itself. But it happens not by apathy or resignation that “nothing can be done” or “that’s just the way things are.” If we continue to work together, to make an effort to change the status quo, as those Japanese-Americans did, the betterment of national shortcomings can be hastened and brought about sooner rather than later. And not only will it serve justice to the lives of LGBT Americans but also successfully pursue for all Americans the Declaration principles: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

In the face of the horrors of battle, those Japanese-American soldiers came home from war with a message. Their U.S. Army 442nd Regimental Combat Team is to this day the most highly decorated unit in the history of the U.S. Armed Forces. In essence, they came home with the biggest “Fuck You! We’re Americans, too!” attitude towards the authorities who imprisoned them and told them they weren’t equal. Their perseverance in the face of inequality at home is the spirit that proved that they were equal.

We, LGBT Americans, should take this history lesson as a message from a generation of oppressed peoples before us, we can take back our own dignity. We must continue to kindle the fire of pride and demand respect. We should take up the spirit of the of the 44nd Regimental Combat Team motto in our own fight, “Go For Broke.” Keep persevering in the fight for our equality. We can make it happen.

The U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, with the remains of its soldiers still entombed under water, is a steadfast reminder of the sacrifices made for our freedoms today, and rights yet to be fought for and obtained.

Remember Pearl Harbor.