Sixty-six years ago- on a cold December 7th morning-I learned that Japanese planes had bombed a place called Pearl Harbor. I was only seven years old at the time, and , like most kids my age, barely knew where Japan was -or Pearl Harbor, for that matter. We would soon learn !
The next four years were lessons in history -taught while it was being lived; geography,and the always shifting landscape of alliances, mis-alliances ,patriotism , and politics. I mention the latter because our political leaders did face (sometimes rancorous) opposition at home - but it was almost always loyal opposition : a recognition we were all in this thing together; and that we were willing to set purely personal or partisan differences aside to get through the storm of war.
We also learned about simple patriotism: the act of putting one's homeland first (an idea , we are now assured is just...foolish !)
We learned war has a personal cost : There were few neighborhoods in America that did not have a star in the window to show a loved one was serving in the Armed Forces. Many had gold stars - to show someone had been killed in action.
Our family was not spared. A second cousin , who was a Roman Catholic Chaplain , was killed when the hospital ship he was on was sunk by a submarine in the Pacific. ( The Japanese sub skipper decided not to waste a torpedo on the big clumsy white ship with the huge Red Cross markings; so he surfaced, and let his crew get in a bit of deck gun practice.)
Another cousin served in North Africa and told us how the Arabs - who were in league with the Nazis,and who did not care much for kafirs anyway - would sneak up on sleeping GIs and cut their throats. Yet another cousin came home with sergeant's stripes and battle ribbons ...and memories that - one night - induced him to kill himself with carbon monoxide in the family garage.
It's odd to me that, while we mark the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, we seem to have absorbed very few of its lessons.
For quite a while after WWII,intelligence and national security were important enough to risk the lives of countless airmen,soldiers, sailors and marines , who kept watch day and night to prevent another Pearl Harbor. Now we have revisionists who tell us everything that went before was " a hoax - designed for the benefit of the Industrial-Military Complex" ; that events like Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were just "a tragic misunderstanding" - or, worse still - " a well-deserved comeuppance".
Am I wrong to wonder what self-serving declarations these "evolved" folks will make when the next Pearl Harbor occurs ?