Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Aloha, Senator Inouye
by Pa Rock
America lost one of its most reasonable political voices yesterday with the passing of Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii. Inouye served continuously in Congress since the day Hawaii became a state in 1959. He initially was in the House of Representatives for three years before moving to the U.S. Senate n 1963. He gained a degree of notice in the Senate for his service on the Watergate Committee and later on the Senate committee that investigated the Iran Contra affair.
Senator Inouye was the senior member of the current Senate and served as the Senate Pro Tempore, a position earmarked by the Constitution to be third in line to the Presidency (behind the Vice President and the Speaker of the House). The only other person in U.S. history to have served longer than Senator Inouye in the nation’s upper legislative chamber was the late Robert Byrd of West Virginia.
Inouye, a Japanese American and the son of Japanese immigrants, was eager to fight in World War II, but the nation was distrustful of Japanese and regarded the immigrants as suspect while it waged war on the Japanese Empire. Inouye and his young friends petitioned the government to serve in uniform, and eventually many were allowed to fight in Europe where they would not blend in with enemy combatants.
That was a shameful time in our history when many of the Japanese Americans were hustled off into “interment” camps even as their sons fought courageously and with distinction in Europe. Daniel Inouye was a brave fighter, taking out multiple German machine gun nests during battles in Italy. He lost an arm in military service and was eventually awarded the country’s highest honor for military service, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
When I learned of Senator Inouye’s death yesterday, it immediately put me in mind of a book that I read several years ago, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson. That 1994 award-winning novel (which later became a movie) dealt with the treatment of Japanese Americans during the war and in the decade that followed. It’s an amazing story that helped me to understand that unique era in American history – and era that Daniel Inouye experienced from a first-hand perspective.
Today, for the first time since becoming a state over half-a-century ago, Hawaii is not represented in the halls of Congress by Daniel Inouye. His calm and gentle spirit is sure to be sorely missed on Capitol Hill. News reports indicated that his parting word was “Aloha.”
Aloha, Senator Inouye. Rest in well deserved peace, old warrior.