Pearl Harbor: From Sacred to Profaned

Included in our tours of the islands of Hawaii was a visit to Pearl Harbor, where the war began for America in 1941.  I did not know what to expect there and, oh, how I wish I had. 


On our way to Pearl Harbor, our tour guide gave us the details of what we would find.  There would be a souvenir shop, ever present in every tourist trap around the world.  We were told that some of the survivors of the attack who were still living would be seated in a particular area wearing a cap with the word “Survivor” displayed in big letters on the front.  The idea was for the tourists to approach them and talk with them or ask questions. 


The more I listened, the less I liked it, but the kicker (literally for me) was that we would be stepping to and standing on the actual memorial, which is right above the remains of the sunken USS Arizona.  Obviously, the memorial was designed in such a way that people could get as close to the remains as possible and take a look. 


I was thoroughly disgusted and offended.  “Are you telling me that we are going to step on that tomb?” I asked David. 

“We are not going to step on the ship, we will be standing on the memorial above it.” he replied.


This did not make any difference to me.  It is true that I am a believer in the Lord God and I try to be as faithful to the Bible as possible.  So I do not believe that the souls of the dead can roam the Earth, or that the living can summon the soul of a dead person back in the world of the living.  Yet, from my cultural roots, I still have ingrained in me a deep respect for the dead, and a deep sense of their sacredness.  The dead are sacred because, in life, they loved and were the loved ones of other people.  Those who leave us forever inevitably wound our hearts with great pain and that terrible sense of loss.  Our loved ones’ remains, the graves and burial grounds they inhabit, are the symbols of the grief, pain and loss of the living.  Well, call me supersticious or old fashioned, but walking on someone’s grave is an insult to the living and desecration of the dead. 


Not only was I faced unexpectedly with this issue, but here the whole situation was a lot worse.  The USS Arizona became the tomb, the marine coffin of a large number of men that were killed in the attack that brought the United States into World War II.  Today, this undersea cemetery is a circus, a tourist trap for people to go see a documentary film about that day, board a Navy boat to be ferried to where the Arizona is, get out of the boat and in the memorial to walk around itt  to finally reach the guard rail that is the barrier between the people and the Arizona below.  All around me, I could hear the loud talking and laughing of the adults, and the running feet and yells of the children. 


A moment later, it was walking back through the memorial into the boat, being ferried away from the site, getting back to the main area, disembarking and moving on to the next thing.  As usual, there was some time left before the bus came for us in case anyone wanted to run to the souvenir shop and purchase some crappy trinket likely to bear the name “Pearl Harbor” and have the usual small sticker saying “Made in China.”


The whole experience left a really bad taste in my mouth.  I feel that what those entombed men deserve is a tasteful and beautiful memorial that people could see from a respectful distance.  No souvenir shop, no survivors parading themselves around like a freak show, no steping right above the ship and gawking.  How about giving those killed and sent to the bottom of the sea at Pearl Harbor on that terrible day some respect?


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