Hanks does seem to be a genuinely nice man and the work he’s done to bring American history to life on film is impressive, especially during a time when the singling out of America’s exceptionalism is more and more frowned upon in artistic and academic circles. ”From the Earth to the Moon,” “Band of Brothers,” and “John Adams” are not only artistic achievements, but in this MTV-addled culture, might be the best hope of teaching America’s youth about the unique history and greatness of this nation. And I suspect ”The Pacific,” the 10-part miniseries premiering this Sunday on HBO (which Big Hollywood’s Michael Broderick will cover extensively) will be a worthy addition to what came before.
But when it comes to leftist Hollywood, whenever Tinseltown and America meet, you have to brace yourself for it — and by “it” I mean the leftist sucker punch. Throughout, Hanks sounds perfectly reasonable, intelligent and even patriotic for a couple of thousand words. But of course that’s just the lure to get us on his side before we’re walloped with this left cross: [emphasis mine]
[Hanks] doesn’t see the series as simply eye-opening history. He hopes it offers Americans a chance to ponder the sacrifices of our current soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. “From the outset, we wanted to make people wonder how our troops can re-enter society in the first place,” Hanks says. “How could they just pick up their lives and get on with the rest of us? Back in World War II, we viewed the Japanese as ‘yellow, slant-eyed dogs’ that believed in different gods. They were out to kill us because our way of living was different. We, in turn, wanted to annihilate them because they were different. Does that sound familiar, by any chance, to what’s going on today?”
There’s no such thing as a definitive history. But what was once a passing interest for Hanks has become an obsession. He’s a man on a mission to make our back pages come alive, to keep overhauling the history we know and, in the process, get us to understand not just the past but the choices we make today.
No matter how many times you read this passage the context is clear. By “different” Hanks is clearly referring to race, culture and religion, not ideology.
Really, we wanted to annihilate the Japanese because they were different, because we saw them as “yellow, slant-eyed dogs that believed in different gods?” I thought it was due to the fact that “we viewed them” as barbaric imperialists who had attacked us first and wanted to enslave the world.
But there’s no reason to speculate about America’s motivations during WWII because history has proven Hanks wrong. We had every opportunity to annihilate these “different” people. Instead we chose, at great expense, to rebuild Japan and return the sovereignty of that nation over to the “yellow, slant-eyed dogs who believed in different gods.” Or, as most people prefer to call them: our newly liberated allies.
And to answer Hanks’s question: No — annihilating people who are different sounds NOTHING like what’s going on today.
This country spends billions and billions of dollars on weapons designed to target the enemy and save the lives of people who are “different” — those who are not our enemy but still manage to look different, speak languages we don’t and worship in ways unfamiliar to us. The irony is that as Hanks spoke those slanderous words, the American Military remains in the middle of two conflicts that have cost us thousands of precious lives and hundreds of billions of dollars all towards the noble goal of liberating 50 million “different” people in Iraq and Afghanistan. And we all know that had we practiced a more selfish and barbaric form of war the enemy would’ve been destroyed faster, American lives would’ve been saved, and the financial cost would not have been nearly as high.
But that’s not who we are.
Whether they’re “yellow, slanty-eyed dogs that worship different gods” or the people of the Middle East who share the same language and religion as those pledged to murder us, America selflessly protects the innocent who are “different” and as humanely as possible seeks to “annihilate” only those — even if they’re not “different” (like, say, Germans and Italians) – who practice an ideology that actually does believe in annihilating those who are different.
You almost get the sense that Hanks suddenly felt uncomfortable talking about America so extensively without throwing a bone to his MSNBC fanbase. Or maybe he misspoke, or maybe he really does believe it. Douglas Brinkley, the man who wrote the Time profile, sure found those words important. Important enough that the excerpt above is what closes the piece – the thought Brinkley chose to leave us with.
This piece was originally posted on March 9 at Big Hollywood, where Nolte is Editor in Chief.