Editor’s Note: This editorial was published in the Tacoma News Tribune in December 1941, several days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Its message of tolerance holds true 75 years later.
No reader of this paper can deny that is has long and consistently objected to appeasement of Japan, deplored the sale of gasoline and scrap iron, which are now being used to kill Americans. No journal is more insistent that Japan be punished for her treacherous and unjustified attack on this country.
We have been told that Hitlerism must be destroyed; that the democracies are fighting not the German people but the forces of aggression which have deceived and misled them. So, too, with Japan. It is preposterous to believe that this new war is popular with the impoverished people of Japan, who have been starved and bitterly taxed for more than four years of unsuccessful and frightfully expensive fighting in China.
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But these poor people must suffer, as will the Germans and Italians, for the sins of their leaders. That should not mean, however, that those who have forsaken the land of their ancestors, renounced allegiance to foreign flags, nor those who, by right of birth, are as American as any of us, should carry the same stigma.
Already we have heard of acts of cruelty against those whose only sin is one of parentage or color. The great majority, however, seem intent that the war shall not blot out the tolerance which was one of the foundation principles of our country.
There is that Seattle primary school principal who told her pupils — 100 little white children, 100 Chinese and 600 Japanese — how they were all born under the same flag, and are Americans all.
There is the case of Yuysohi Okada, Sumner high school senior, who explained to his fellow students that while Japan was at war with the United States, it was not his country at war, but merely his race, since America is his country. He then asked to lead in reciting the oath of allegiance. Said the Sumner story: “As the teachers and pupils followed him in this ceremony, many eyes were filled with tears, and a new feeling of brotherhood was among them.”
And then there is the case of Steiichi Yamada, freshman halfback of the victorious squad of the Pacific Lutheran grid squad, who was presented by his teammates with the football used in the 20 to 7 victory of P.L.C. over Central Washington College.
Such examples of tolerance are important at this time, with almost the whole world lined up on one side or the other, but of more consequence will be when the war ends. If we are to shape the peace to come so that it has any hope of being enduring, so that the “four freedoms” can even glint to the farthest reaches, we must have fought the war as a bad job which had to be done, must insist that the evil leaders be made powerless, but must also have charity in our hearts. Good preparation for that is a staunch stand for tolerance while the war is going on. There must be no blackout of brotherhood.
– Originally published Sunday, Dec. 14, 1941