As Rhode Island celebrates “Victory Day” (or as many Rhode Islanders know it – “VJ Day”), it is important that we reflect on how we frame this holiday. I shared my thoughts on this with Patrick Anderson of the Providence Journal, who compiled the musings of Rhode Islanders on this holiday. As Patrick states in the article that ran on August 9, “For the 72nd year running, Rhode Island on Monday will commemorate the end of World War II with an official state holiday — Victory Day. For much of that time, Rhode Islanders have debated the merits of marking the anniversary of the Japanese surrender in 1945. In this year of anti-racism and social justice protest, the Victory Day debate has begun anew.”
When it comes to the potential of renaming the day, I believe (just as I wrote in my prior post about history education) we do not respect our past unless we confront it in its entirety.
So, the problem with Victory Day is not that it remembers our war with Japan, the problem is that its focus is too narrow. We must look beyond our triumph to recognize the horror of war.
I would humbly suggest renaming it Pacific Theater (PT) Day. Framing the holiday to recognize the entirety of the experience of war instead of just victory is an opportunity for Japanese and Americans alike to consider the horrors of war and pay their respects to all those that suffered, including those that served.”