Tomorrow it will be exactly 70 years since, I sat in Mr. Davidson’s 5th grade class and listened to FDR’s speech over the Munson school P.A. system as he said December 7th was a date that would “live in infamy”, yet this day is half over and there has been barely any mention of that date. That day bonded the people of this country into a juggernaut totally committed to preserving our country’s freedom. To be certain, there was disagreement about many issues, yet in those few hours on an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning those differences became irrelevant.
Historians agree that the war was the bloodiest in history with so many millions maimed and killed that an accurate assessment is not possible. It was a terrible price to pay. Was it worth it? No doubt those liberated from the Nazi death camps would say yes. Patrick Henry is alleged to have said: “Give me liberty, or give me death” and thousands of our young people echoed that sentiment as they stood in long lines to volunteer while I was being mesmerized by Roosevelt’s speech. One could argue that the Pearl Harbor attack initiated the last war we have fought in defense of our liberty.
There is general agreement that we are now more divided than at any time since the civil war. Those we hire as a team to manage the country don’t even talk to each other, but rather talk at or about each other. One does not need to be a Psychiatrist to understand that without conversation differences can never be resolved, and anger ensues. When anger meets anger escalation follows, often culminating in rage – what has been called the Who’s afraid of Virginia Wolfe Syndrome.
Historians point out to us the fragility of democracies. They also tell us that when they fail, as they often do, it is from within. John Adams warned us about that in the very beginning of this saga, and seriously questioned how long his new democracy would survive. There are now unmistakable signs confirmed by our intelligence agencies that there are powerful forces plotting to undermine our government while we who care bicker with each other.
The latest death of a famous member of the greatest generation, Bob Dole, whom all seem to agree was a real patriot should inspire us to value what he and others like him gave us. I wonder if he shared the same feeling as did I on that fateful December day in 1941. Since then, there has been nothing like that sense of commitment to a righteous cause shared by millions of others. What a shame that it took the horrors of a war.
For years Pearl Harbor Day was a somber time for reflection. It was set aside to honor those who were lost, and to hear stories of bravery. It seems now to be treated as a mere footnote in history which makes me sad. It seems to me that we could use some inspiration these days.