Monday, December 08, 2008

Pearl Harbor

Yesterday, December 7, was the day that will live in infamy, the 67th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that launched America into World War II, the struggle against Hitler not being sufficient reason to go to war. Back in high school in the '60s, the principal, for reasons unknown to me, was nicknamed "Jap," so Pearl Harbor Day was a big thing. Yesterday the New York Road Runners put on a 10-kilometer race around Central Park. I ran it in a home-made shirt commemmorating the event.

The NYRR did not observe the day in any way, nor did any of the runners I saw (to be fair, there were several thousand runners and I was near the back of the pack) wear anything to indicate anything special. When I finished, one runner complimented me on my shirt and said that too few people remember. That is true, and unfortunate. For one thing, basic hakarat ha-tov dictates that we remember the brave men, better men than we, who sacrificed themselves so that we, their children and grandchildren, can live in freedom. Can we even comtemplate what kind of world it would be if, God forbid, the other side had won? We Jews would not even be here. For another, our past has parallels to our present situation that we ignore at our peril. Pearl Harbor was a treacherous "sneak attack" launched while Japan's diplomats were still talking with our own; the stereotype of the "sneaky Jap" has a kernel of truth, if not its actual origin, in Pearl Harbor. The attack on the Habad House in Mumbai was similarly treacherous, carried out so efficiently by attackers who cased the place in advance, availing themselves of the Holtzbergs' legendary hakhnasat orhim. And Israel's Arab enemies since Oslo talk peace with one side of their mouths, even as they plot their barbarities with the other. The attack on Pearl Harbor was not hatched overnight. It was months in the planning, Japan being openly in league with Germany and there being long-standing tension between the United States and Japan over oil and other natural resources. American intelligence was sleeping, the American command structure deliberately self-blinded to the looming danger. Sounds familiar? It is always more comfortable to live in a fool's paradise than to face the stark, unpleasant truth and meet it with manly courage and fortitude. But meet it we must, and the earlier we "man up," the less the inevitable price will be.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

On December 7, 1941, my mother was on duty as a switchboard operator at the Potomac and Chesapeake Telephone Company in Washington, D.C.

Suddenly, the switchboard lit up like the fourth of July. The room went silent, and everyone in it knew something very serious had happened. Then, someone walked in an announced that the japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor, and were killing our servicemen and destroying our ships and planes, without warning or pretext.

Sun Dec 14, 05:03:00 PM EST  

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