After Pearl Harbor

“On Tuesday, December 7, 2021, we will remember Pearl Harbor, the 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base on Oahu, Hawaii, for the eightieth time.”

“We imagine that everything changed overnight. But, as the historian Richard W. Steele carefully documented, by early 1942, only two months after the attack, members of the Roosevelt Administration were already worrying that the public had lost interest. On February 16, Time ran a story with the headline, “THE PEOPLE: Smug, Slothful, Asleep?” It catalogued a list of warnings expressed by everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt to James Landis, the executive head of Civil Defense, to Edward R. Murrow that, as Murrow put it, Americans “do not fully appreciate the need for speed … do not quite understand that if we delay too long in winning the victory we will inherit nothing but a cold, starving embittered world… Already there are signs that we’re coming to accept slavery and suppression as part of the pattern of living in this year of disgrace.”

“1n 1941, organizing chaotic violence and suffering into a story with meaning, propaganda posters soon gave graphic representation to these concepts. Sometimes featuring a fist raised in defiance or a tattered flag, they enjoined the American public to “Avenge Pearl Harbor” by making bullets or ships, buying war bonds, or joining the navy or coast guard “NOW.”

“Relentless calls to “remember” served as a goad to revenge, and the propagandists’ message gave us a vocabulary still in use today for framing American violence.”

“World War II was an aberration in so many ways: the existential threat posed by fascism, the unequivocal necessity of our participation, and the decisiveness of Allied victory are only the most obvious. Betrayed by the last twenty years, we grasp in vain to retrieve an elusive glory. Our tragic postwar mistake was in thinking that the consequences of World War II could be endlessly duplicated. Over the years we have somehow developed a capacity to be surprised when American military might doesn’t establish, as it once helped to do, a new world but instead, after twenty wasteful years of occupation, fitful nation-building, and unfounded confidence, are left right back where we started. There is a cruel and particular irony in the paradox that a country the imagination of which has always been knit so tightly to the future—to the seductive dream of beginning anew—now finds itself in the position of hoping that history will miraculously repeat itself.”

I would disagree with the author concerning our hope for some kind of miracle. We are, instead, those of us with some ability to think critically anyway, terrified of fascism…again. The most terrifying fact of all is that so few Americans believe the lessons of the holocaust and lesser genocides apply to us. That it cannot happen here.

But there is some hope:

“This is really crazy-“

What is “crazy” is that these media talking heads don’t seem to understand how extreme and radicalized the right has become. There is no talking to Trumpists and they are looking forward to everything burning to the ground. They actually believe their white grievance fantasies will make America into that reality tv show their hero attempted to replace democracy with. The news commentators do not live with them like I do. I am scared.

Published by billgamesh

Revivable Cryopreservation Advocate

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