Every week or so, I get an email offering to sell me a Ukrainian mail order bride.
If I were an ideal customer, the ads would have me fantasizing about semi-consensual sex with a desperate blue-eyed refugee while feeling like a humanitarian for helping her.
Well, I am definitely not the ideal customer, and not just because my wife would disapprove.
Instead, the emails got me thinking about how much we mindlessly discriminate against Russians. There are thousands of Russian war widows, none of whom voted for the awful invasion of Ukraine. But they are Russian, so we don’t want them anywhere near our country. Or even our bedroom.
Incredibly, our anti-Russian attitude pales in comparison to the plague of anti-Japanese fanaticism that swept the United States from 1941-45.
In 1941, some fools in Tokyo ordered a naval strike on a Hawaiian military outpost located 2500 miles from the United States. Japanese people did not get to vote on the matter. Nevertheless, our response was strip every single person of Japanese ancestry of her right to life, liberty and property. It was one heck of an overreaction.
In defense of American decency, it didn’t take long for people to look back to the Japanese Internment Camps with regret and shame. “Bad Day at Black Rock” – made less than ten years after WWII – is a first-rate thriller that addresses anti-Japanese mania.
The Bad Day in question begins with a one-armed stranger named John Macreedy (Spencer Tracy) sauntering into the village of Black Rock, California. It is the smallest, most isolated little town in the desert southwest. The townsfolk aren’t used to visitors and they are mighty unwelcoming.
When Macreedy states that he is looking for a farmer named Komoko, the townies go from impolite to actively hostile.
Every time the visitor uncovers a tidbit of information about Komoko, the vice of intimidation squeezes tighter. Two goons (Lee Marvin and Earnest Borgnine) let Macreedy know that they aren’t going to let him leave town.
Macreedy remains polite and even-tempered. But he is not afraid. And that’s what I love about “Bad Day at Black Rock”: Spencer Tracy is a really cool action hero.
Action heroes today are boring and unrelatable. They have muscles like Thor, they have superpowers, they dodge bullets in slow motion … Americans in the 1940s and 50s didn’t need to invent fantasy superheroes: they had millions of real war veterans.
John Macreedy had had Nazi rifles aimed at him. He saw friends die. His left arm was still back in Italy. The idea that a few yokels could intimidate him was laughable. And, above all, Macreedy wasn’t going to let fear prevent him from bringing justice to Black Rock.
There was nothing that could make up for the countless cases of anti-Japanese oppression between 1941 and 1945. But “Bad Day at Black Rock” was a pretty good start.
Irrational hatred of the people the United States is at war against is a common vice. But it is always wrong. I live for the day when American men view every ad for a Slavic mail order bride – Ukrainian or Russian – as equally distasteful and morally dubious.