The recent firing of Gilbert “the Aflac Duck” Gottfried from his lucrative TV ad gig doesn’t surprise me much. He is not alone when it comes to not-so-funny remarks made about the Japanese people. These remarks are bad enough during normal times, but unforgivable during these tragic times for all of Japan and its people. To us commoners, Mr. Gottfried’s comments seem beyond stupid, but I think the answer to his stupidity might be tied to the past.
I was born during WWII, and grew up in postwar southern California. The small town of Escondido was, and still is, a conservative community. I went from the first grade through high school in a community that prided itself as a bastion of Republican politics. We lived a great outdoor lifestyle wearing shorts and flip-flops all summer, while enjoying the ocean and mountains nearby. It was the perfect place for kids to grow up and thinking about it makes me smile.
Even though my dad had been in the Navy and had seen some really horrible things in the Pacific campaign, he rarely talked about it. I never heard one derogatory statement concerning the Japanese ever come out of his mouth. This was not the case for the kids that lived across the street. Their father was a career marine who constantly berated his children right along with the Japanese and later on, the Koreans. At the time, I had no idea that there was a flipside to our lifestyle, and that the next-door neighbors had friends who also believed that the only good Japanese was a dead Japanese.
This point was illustrated one day while I was riding the bus home from school. Suddenly, the kid nextdoor started a fist fight with a Japanese girl named Shirley. I instinctively jumped up and intervened like a knight in shiny armor. I couldn’t believe that a boy would start a fight with a girl in the first place, and I certainly didn’t understand the Japanese connection. It wasn’t until much later in life that I was able to understand that the boy had been brainwashed into hating the Japanese by his father.
I wonder how many kids, that are now my age, grew up hating the Japanese and Germans. War is a natural breeding ground for hatred and that hatred, unfortunately, is passed from generation to generation. Even though senseless acts of discrimination by people like Mr. Gottfried occur, I do wonder if he too had been brainwashed. There is no excuse given or inferred by me; had I been present when Mr. Gottfried made his asinine statement, rest assured he would have been facing, yet again, a knight in shining armor!
I’m just saying,