Around this time last year, I asked my politically astute brother Bruce if he would share a few wise words with us on the solemn 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day.
He balked at first: "Since when do I take requests?"
I implored . . .
Then he relented: "Okay, I'll see what I can do . . ."
And I saved his response until today . . .
Unable to shed her college professor instincts, my sister felt compelled to give me a homework assignment: Write something about Pearl Harbor. So, I tried. Sadly, when I looked online, most of today's articles and editorials about Pearl Harbor quickly degenerate into misguided attempts to support our military misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan; or exercises in justifying US jingoism.
Why DO we remember Pearl Harbor? Why not remember May 7 (VE Day) or August 14 (VJ Day) instead? Why remember the beginning of a national tragedy, rather than the end of the nightmare? I'm not sure I can answer that question, but I know what I'd LIKE the answer to be.
On December 7, 1941 [the 2nd Sunday of Advent] the Japanese bombed US military installations on Oahu, the biggest of which was Pearl Harbor. On December 8, the US declared war on Japan, thus entering World War II. The vote in the Senate was 88-0; in the House it was 388-1. (Jeanette Rankin of Montana voted no, saying, “As a woman I cannot fight in a war, and I refuse to send anyone else. She lost her seat in 1942.) Can you imagine any vote today, on any issue of importance, that would receive unanimous support in the Senate, and only one dissenting vote in the House?
Author Studs Terkel called World War II “the last good war.” In fact, it is our last war to date, period. Since World War II, we have not bothered to declare war on anyone before actually engaging in war. In any case, it is the only war in our history (not counting the Civil War, when we went to war with ourselves) when THE NATION went to war. It is the only war in our history when the civilian population at home played such an extensive roll. It is the only foreign war in our history when the entire country made real sacrifices – endured rationing of staple food items, couldn't buy a new car or major appliance because our full industrial capacity was focused on winning the war, paid higher taxes to fund the war.
Maybe THAT is what we ought to remember on the 70th Anniversary of Pearl Harbor. It was a day that united all Americans, unlike any other in our history...even July 4, 1776. An entire nation came together and focused on one mission – winning the war – and making whatever sacrifices were necessary to bring about that end, as quickly as possible. It is the last time...the ONLY time...that AMERICA went to war. Before and since, we have sent our military forces to war. But, the country has not gone to war with them. Maybe THAT is what makes Pearl Harbor worthy of our remembrance: We should never again send our young men and women to die in combat, if all of AMERICA...rich and poor, military and civilians...is not prepared to go to war with them.
Post Script 7 December 2012: Reading this a year later, I am struck by this idea: The ONLY REASON...the ONLY ONE...that the war in Afghanistan has lasted eleven years is because THE COUNTRY is not at war. With the exception of the few families (as a percentage of our population) who have sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers fighting and DYING over there, the war is background noise. Many nights it's not even mentioned on the evening news. How can this be? HOW CAN THIS BE?
If no one had been able to buy a new car for eleven years, you can bet that war would be over. If no one had been able to buy a new refrigerator or a new washer and dryer or a new 84" television set, you can bet that war would be over. If the people who voted to send us to war had also voted to PAY FOR THE WAR by raising our taxes, you can bet that war would be over. If there was a draft, instead of an all-volunteer force, and the children, siblings, and parents of the 1% (or even the 20%) were fighting and dying and coming home maimed, you can bet that war would be over.
As a nation, we should be ashamed. Our politicians should be ashamed, and we should turn them out of office - EVERY ONE! We have sent the best of the next generation to fight and die, and then forgotten them - pulling them out for use as props, to score political points or elicit emotional support for some cause, then forgetting them as soon as WE'RE finished with them.
BUT, WHAT ABOUT THEM? When do THEY get to be FINISHED? When do THEY get to stop dying? When do THEY get to come home? When do we DEMAND that our leaders either SEND THIS COUNTRY TO WAR...ALL OF IT...or bring those kids home NOW!!!
Because, if it's not worth sending THE WHOLE COUNTRY to war, then it's not worth sending ANYONE!
from The Rev. Bruce L. Carriker
A Break From Politics
October, Baseball, and Cats
(also on facebook: A Note About The Cardinals)
Happy Birthday to My Twin Brother Bruce