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A SUNDAY IN DECEMBER : Viewpoints East and West : 'It's More Like History'

December 03, 1991|LARRY QUIRLES and KUNITO HONDA | LARRY QUIRLES, 49, works at General Motors Corp.'s Saginaw Steering Gear plant in Hamtramck, Mich. He is also a committeeman for the United Auto Workers, Local 2140. KUNITO HONDA, was born in Nagasaki, Japan, on Dec. 7, 1952. The auto worker's grandparents died in the atomic bombing, and his mother was exposed to the radiation. Honda, who now lives in suburban Tokyo, was in junior high school when he first learned that the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor sparked the war with the United States


"Pearl Harbor, says Quirles, is "not something that's really talked about. It's more like history, not like the Vietnam War and Desert Storm, that's what we talk about more. . . .

"Still, if you want to look at it, it's hurting America today. With the different trade acts we got, the Japanese have got the upper hand. Automobile factory employment is going down. Look at this plant: We had 7,000 people here and now we're down to 2,500. Since 1980, we lost over 4,000 people and that's due to the economy, the Japanese imports and all that. So I'm bitter about that.

"It used to be where you could just walk out here and get everyone you know a job. I want to get my son a job right now but everything is locked up. Now they're starting to talk in Washington but now it might be too late. We was raised to think this is a free country, land of the free, home of the brave, but that don't really work job-wise. You can't get a job.

"I have some animosity for the Japanese because of what the U.S. let them do. Good old free America, we won the war and then we went and rebuilt their country, and now look at what they're doing to us. I got no problem with them ethnically, or anything like that, but as far as the economy--my job is a jeopardized job now. They have so much control now.

"I went to Hawaii and I went to the (Pearl Harbor) memorial and it was a sad feeling, knowing how many Americans were lost. They caught America with their eyes closed.

"But they're attacking in a different way now, if you think about it. I wasn't born at that time, but I'm being attacked now.


" While the general understanding is that Japan launched a surprise attack, I don't think it was a surprise attack. Television programs show that they started the war because of misunderstandings. Each country had its own circumstances. Responsible officials on both sides weren't communicating. . . . That's why it appeared to be a surprise attack. But actually, it wasn't a surprise, I think.

"(The war) was unfortunate . . . Japan should take responsibility to the degree for which it was at fault, but it's a question of how you judge how much Japan did wrong. . . .

"If not for the war, Japan could have gone out into the world less tentatively. We have only come this far by working really hard after having lost everything in the war. . . .

"Japan can't help it if Japanese cars sell better than American cars. People say the quality (of Japanese cars) is better. There are different national characteristics of the people who do the work. For instance, when you open the hood (of an American-made car), there may be cigarette butts. . . .

"The standard of living in Japan is about equal to America, but the houses are smaller and more expensive. . . . Japan may be an economic giant, but I don't have that much money. Only a small percentage of people can be called rich. Corporations have money. We as individuals don't have money. . . .

"It's good for America to maintain leadership. Japan doesn't have the right character to lead the world."

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