December 7th, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan… I regret to tell you that very many American lives have been lost… No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory… Hostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces, with the unbounding determination of our people, we will gain the inevitable triumph… (President Franklin D. Roosevelt)
I cannot fathom what the world was like in December of 1941 (although After the Day of Infamy: “Man-on-the-Street” Interviews Following the Attack on Pearl Harbor commissioned by Alan Lomax and chronicled at the Library of Congress gives me some idea) though I can approximate it through my own experience with attacks here in New York City on 11 September 2001. It is because of my experience in September of 2001 I am writing this today:
It is infinitely important to take the time to remember the horrid events of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawai’i and throughout the entire Pacific Fleet, as well as from Guam to the Philippines, and Wake to Midway, and beyond. It is imperative to reflect and draw from the inspiration in the way the majority of US Citizens were able to come together in solidarity and mobilize our entire social identity against the now iminant danger facing us. It is vital to not let this terrible loss of life and liberty pass from our collective memories into some simple historical factoid buried in a bygone generations folklore. It is tragic, yet integral, part of our American identity and cannot be allowed to just dim into the past as technology allows our worlds to move in 160 character bursts that created an age where last year, or even last month, seems like ancient history.
It is all to easy to not remember events you weren’t privy to have lived through but are none-the-less ultimately still impacted by. For those of us whom have forgotten the past we are inevitably doomed to repeat the worst elements of it.
Just as my generation still hails the experience of 11 September 2001 with grave solemness, we should, and for the greater good of future generations must, collectively carry on the legacy of our grandparent’s generation’s most definitely horrific moment.
In conjunction with Winston Churchill’s Speech before Commons, 4 June 1940, the sentiments FDR expressed both in the concerns for liberty and freedom and the need for a concerted effort to thwart any element which sought to destroy such are a functional backbone to the modern Western legacy. We are who we because of how we respond to these kinds of challenges and as US Citizens and human beings despite the persistent pain the Second World War created. The war, on the whole, it became an indelible mark on human history simultaneously demonstrating our inherent evil and our infinite will to overcome.
The United State obviously was not alone in it’s losses, nor it’s valor, nor was it a bastion of all that was good during the era when in our own self-serving interest we set up concentration camps for those of Asian descent, particularly Japanese, acted with overt bigotry against those US Citizens of German or Italian descent, continued the segregation of the races both home and within the ranks of the soldiers abroad, created systemic abuse of women in the workforce, experimented with non-conventional weapons at the cost of the health and lives of citizens, and more. It is acknowledging the grave wrongs we committed in the presence of celebrating the great deeds we enacted that we will continue to thrive as the Nation we claim to be. This knowledge is passed from generation-to-generation in the remembrance of the catalysts of both – in remembering days like December 7th, 1941. In regarding them truly as days of infamy beyond the rhetoric of an enthralling speech.
In memory of my grandfather and the legions of men and boys from his generation who gave of their life and for the many who lost their lives on the battlefields of the war, and for everyone else who participated in and sacrificed for the ultimate outcome, we remember you and your efforts gratefully on this, the date which will live in infamy.