80 years ago today the Japanese air force, in a surprise attack, struck the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, killing 2,403 people. I was 4 yrs. old, and in Michigan with our family. I gradually became aware of WWII unfolding, first as adults gathered around the radio to hear a very serious voice–President Franklin Roosevelt–tell about the attack. Then, in the days and weeks that followed, seeing older cousins show up at our house in soldier or sailor suits, as the U.S. fought back.
The attack was dastardly, though the two Pacific nations had been inching toward war for a long time. (The U.S. had forced Japan to “open its doors” in 1859. Under the direction of Undersecretary Theodore Roosevelt, the U.S. Navy had taken the Philippines in 1898. Later, that same Roosevelt had negotiated a peace treaty between Japan and Russia, then predicted that the US and Japan would fight some day in the Pacific). Now, his cousin, Franklin, faced the task of rallying the nation to fight the strong Japan that had emerged.
Today, as we remember Pearl Harbor, we face new, more internal threats, as elements of our political society refuse to accept reality–that we must share the nation and the world with people who may be different from us–so they fight our emerging democracy with any weapons they can–subverting elections, storming the capital, gerrymandering our electoral districts beyond reason, and threatening our elected leaders and the citizenry with more and more weapons of personal destruction. In our County Offices, one of those politicians decorates an Xmas tree–paid for by our tax dollars–with thinly veiled obscenities aimed at our duly elected President. Sadly, today, we must recognize that attacks on our nation or our freedoms can come from within, as well as from without. As on Dec. 8, 1941, we must respond to these attacks to save any chance of a decent world for ourselves, our families, and our nation.
Please join in repudiating all anti-democratic attacks on our society.
Jack Burgess is a retired history teacher and resides in Ross County with his wife, Kathleen, a poet.