Sara Whitman

Oil Tears

Filed By Sara Whitman | January 09, 2010 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: oil tears, Pearl Harbor, polution, USS Arizona

Boat, the woman said to her small toddler she was holding. See that? It's a boat...

oil-tears.JPGI've been to many war memorials, having grown up with two great aunts who were members of the Daughters of the Confederacy and lived in Lynchburg, Virginia. But I have never heard something that made me as profoundly sad as a young mother pointing to the wreckage of the Arizona battleship in Pearl Harbor.

Boat? Not really anymore. Try graveyard. Try 1,177 dead men lying just below our feet.

I leaned over the railing and watched the small bubbles of oil come to the surface. Two quarts a day, they say, still rise from the ship. The sailors who survived say it's the tears of their fallen shipmates. That when the last survivor dies, oil will stop leaking. No attempt to clean it up will happen as it would disturb what is clearly a tomb.


I was stunned by the indifference, the laughter and the chatting at the memorial. Maybe I was raised differently, maybe all those battlegrounds I visited as a small child, mostly just fields, described in hushed voices made me more sensitive to the countless lives lost.

We were the greatest nation in the greatest war, most say of WWII. The truth is, we avoided entering the conflict as long as possible. The truth is, we fought Japan over natural resources- and they attacked us because we cut off their oil supply. Even as they slaughtered people in China, we sent them oil. It wasn't until the Pacific islands came into question- rich with resources- did we get nervous.

There are some who say we knew about the concentration camps and turned a blind eye, not willing to enter the fight.

We are still at war over oil. Watching the small bubbles expand into a hue of bright colors on the water, I wondered what we have learned. Nine years into a war, what have we learned? We can say we care about Afghan's women and girls, Iraq's democracy but it's all bullshit.

We care about the oil.

On the back of each ticket for the Arizona memorial, there is a serviceman, his picture and his story on the day of the attack. How will we remember the men and women who have lost their lives in this war? Where will their stories be told?

Or have we gone so numb we point to a grave and say, "Boat" to our children?

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I have stood there, and I have stood beside the great anchor and the old flag.

It was named for my home, and so, at the least, I shall remember them.

And I shall not point to the waters and say boat.

And when it was all over, "we" let the Jews and political prisoners and even the murderers and other common criminals out of the Nazi death camps . . . but carefully made sure all the gays and lesbians and trans people were left behind in those places of horror. Worse yet, "we" didn't raise a finger to punish those responsible for the equally horrific atrocities committed by the Japanese; instead, we helped the Japanese cover it all up.

Whenever the subject of World War II comes up, I can't *not* say, I'm ashamed to be an American citizen.

Ummm... are you really suggesting that the young mother juggling a 'toddler' in her arms at a crowded tourist attraction was somehow dense or insensitive - or unpatriotic for saying 'boat' instead of lecturing the child about the atrocities, complexities, and sacrifices of war?

Wait.... were you there with Sara? How do you know the mother was "young"? How do you know that she was "juggling"? How do you know it was "crowded"?

It's not just a tourist attraction. It's not Mt. Rushmore or the Epcot Center or the Sears Tower. It's a memorial and if parents don't think they'll be able to handle themselves or their children properly there, they shouldn't go.

It reminds me of when I went to Dachau, a concentration camp in Germany, and several people were taking big smiling pictures of each other in front of the crematorium.

I understand your point, Alex (and the author's for that matter), but we're talking about a 'toddler' here, and I'm not aware that any of our monuments bar children. You werent there either, yet I get the sense you're presuming that the toddler needed to be controlled? I still think the opening paragraph is a bit overwrought.