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Donnie Johnston's column suggests that it is sufficient recognition of the Pearl Harbor attack to trash the "grizzled guys on motorcycles" (his term for bikers) on their commemorative "excursions" (his term, as well) as "little more than a chance to put on their helmets for a long ride with a bunch of buddies" "having a high old time riding around on a Harley-Davidson."
He suggests that the bikers should be more like the medieval Flagellants who walked the countryside beating themselves with whips. He adds, "Whipping oneself with a cat-o'-nine-tails until the blood dripped would allow a man to feel the pain that fallen heroes had felt. Feeling the warm breeze on your face from atop a motorcycle just doesn't provide the same punishment."
I'm not a biker, but I've seen and talked to many bikers on these "excursions." I have seen these rides in this area and in the nation's capital, at the memorials on the Mall, and at Arlington Cemetery as thousands of these "grizzled guys" honor and pay their respects to the fallen. I have seen them at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall kneel in the dark of night and touch the names of their comrades in arms. I have seen them weep for their buddies who didn't come back. I have watched them carefully place an American flag on their Harleys, and watched thousands of these banners waving in their wake as they pay tribute and relive the sorrow that many knew firsthand. And I still see some of them struggle with decades-old pain and nightmares and sorrows that will not go away.
Whatever Donnie Johnston's stereotype issues are with bikers is his opinion, but he is wrong to use the Pearl Harbor anniversary as a vehicle for his pique. And to dismiss these folks' honorable intent so trivially is a slur.