Ink Soup: ICHIRO, KAZU, AND I
by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- The Mariners baseball team boasts not one but two open= ly Japanese players, both of whom have captured the hearts of all fans,incl= uding this one, and compensated to a degree for the defection of A-Rod (Mr. = Alex Rodriguez to his household staff), who has elected, onhis agent's advi= ce, to join some team in Arlington, Texas, wherever thatis. Judging by th= e litter-strewn field on which they disgrace the national pastime, it would=
seem to be in some rundown part of the country that is either ignorant of = the traditional tidiness of baseball or simplyindifferent to it. The waste = paper that distracts everyone by blowingacross the infield, the outfield, a= nd one's field of vision, feeds thealready serious doubts about the cultura= l background of their formerowner, the current "president."
But I am not = a sports writer, I am a gardener, and there will now bethe sort of interlud= e to which my readers have become accustomed. I have just made the momento= us move of transplanting my sunflower seedlings from the greenhouse to the = north border. They resisted me all the way:
What on earth do you think you're doing?
You'll like it, be patient. Not in that stuff. It looks unclean. It = looks ... dirty. Is it from Arlington, Texas?
It is dirt. It's your des= tiny. Why do you think I ...?
Wait until our father hears about this, yo= u'll see. And not next tothose radishes!!!
They aren't radishes, they're sweet peas, dwarf sweet peas. Gays! And= handicapped gays! Sunflowers have rights, too! We don't have to live next= to [deleted].
Okay, I'm a sportswriter. Who knew that gardening was so = fraughtwith social unease?
The newest Japanese member of the Mariners is Ichiro, who has anothernam= e but, on the advice of his PR people, chooses to ignore it.
In silhouett= e, Ichiro looks like a museum version of the earliest players of the Americ= an game. Add a handlebar mustache, and he might be a period figure on a Cu= rrier & Ives calendar.
But a recent photograph of his grinning face sent sudden shivers through= me. I was 12 in 1941. On December 8, the day after the Japanese attacked= Pearl Harbor, a gas station attendant said to my father: Wouldn't you know= , Mr. Brown, that they'd pick the Sabbath day?
In Ichiro's grinning face, I suddenly saw the iconic image of thefiendis= h foe of the Pacific. When I was a few years younger than 12, Iused to buy = bubble-gum wrapped in tiny comic strips depicting the atrocities of the Man= churian war: Japanese soldiers pitching Chinesebabies into the air and catc= hing them on bayonets; Japanese soldiersbeheading Chinese peasants in front= of their children.
Nice pictures to show to kids, right? (And I'd be grateful to anyreader= who could put me on the track of those little comic strip candywrappers. = I did not imagine them.)
There followed the war movies of the Forties, the ultimatedemonization o= f the Japanese as a people.
Until the Forties, the only people whom I'd b= een taught to hate werethe Union soldiers, the Yankees, the monsters in the= atrocity storiesroutinely recited to us school children in South Carolina = by old peoplewho had been alive during the Civil War.
I detest the ideas of racial hatred systematically implanted in myyoung = skull, but not even years of amical relations with many Japanesepeople, not= even a semester of studying their language, have wiped outthe memories.
May Ichiro, the right fielder, and Kazu, the closer, grow ever largerin = my estimation and crowd from my mind the traces of juvenile terrorthat neit= her they nor I conspired to plant there.
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus ofCompara= tive Literature at Princeton University.