Wednesday, December 7, 2022.
Gazing off a bit into the trees seems more than appropriate today of all days. Pearl Harbor Day demands moments of silence, prayer and contemplation.
I try to imagine that day. Can you imagine? I cannot grasp living on the Hawaiian islands when the Japanese attacks came. When the sirens roared and explosions plumed into darkened smoke, the season of Advent was being observed. The planes flew in, Sunday morning at 7:55am. Christmas preparations with lights and presents occupied the minds of parents and families.
Yes, World War II was being fought. The world was modernizing weaponry and technology and medical advances. Yet, from what I have read, the war seemed distant to the average American family.
Then Pearl Harbor was attacked eighty-one years ago December 7, 1941.
I had to search the internet to verify my facts of history. I began by questioning the timing of responses of the United States, then those of subsequent countries. And I wondered about the feelings that all these actions happened during the season of Advent.
In the day following, President Roosevelt delivered the “Day of Infamy” speech. (Please, if you have never watched or listened to this speech, do so. During my years as a teacher, I played it for my older students. I always loved the internet almost exclusively for this reason. I could share some of the most telling moments of history with them. I could project great speeches from YouTube onto the wall, almost as if we were there. Please – the speech itself is not more than seven minutes long – give it a listen).
The US Congress declared war on the Japanese Empire immediately following the deliverance of this speech. Three days later, on December 11, Germany and Italy declared war upon the United States.
I am unsure why I never wondered about the Advent season with Pearl Harbor. Amid holiday preparations, in a certain year in the 1940’s, wars and battles were declared. In the next five years of the worlds history, unthinkable and unimaginable cruelties would slither and smother millions of human lives.
I sit cozily this evening with a roaring fire in the fireplace, a “cold full moon” illuminating a misty December night and owls hooting so near that they pause when I open the front door.
One of the most difficult aspects of life is also one of the most beautiful. Online immediate access offers a person both headline news and trivial, yet fascinating, tidbits from around the world. So, focus? How? What topic wins a person’s attention?
Maybe I start with Mr. West. Well, Ye, it is almost Hanukkah. Yes, Mr. Ye, you have every right proffered to you by the Constitution. (And my focus will not stray to the former President’s idea to basically rewrite the Constitution. Nope, not going there.)
I do believe Mr. Ye has every right to state that he believes Hitler invented highways and microphones. He has every right to say that there are good qualities to Nazis and Hitler. He even has the right to show off a Star of David embedded with a swastika.
He has the right to meetings with a former president and a self-advertised white supremacist.
And I have the right to opposite statements and actions.
But here is what Mr. Ye’s actions cause me to wonder. The part of all these events which beg a person to write, to me, is the feeling that these are the actions of a person who drives popular culture. In that drive is not a feeling of responsibility. Part of today’s culture is the dare in the refusal of responsibility.
The red alert rises not even at the provocation of disagreeable sentiments. Nor does the alarm sound at the dare inherent in presentation.
My stomach does turn at the thought that anti-semitism becomes the next easy internet dare. “How disagreeable can I be?”
“How low can I go?”
Hmm, sounds like the entrance to a new door of internet five second challenges. How low would some go? To what extent would one challenge and dare, even to the point of trivializing the Holocaust?
The good news is that people seem to cast off Mr. Ye’s statements. People seem to turn away from the idea of a former President entertaining a white supremacist and a wrapped anti-Semite.
While I feel as though I restate the obvious, the obvious does need restating. The obvious needs to illuminated, over and over, to repeat and repeat again and especially to not remain silent.
I did that once. I remained stunned speechless when, nine years ago, in a group of people, they made fun of Jews. I sat with my Star of David and my heritage wondering how they could have laughed. They were a proclaimed ‘religious’ group of proclaimed professionals.
That moment of my shameful silence remains with me. The lesson I carry is the surprising presence of those sentiments.
No, one must not remain silent. The dare is not simple. Nor does the constitution simply give a pass on intellect, wisdom and humanity.
The next internet craze should not be the five seconds of experiment in simplifying history. Even without total understanding, there is guidance or even the hope to guidance in grace.
That is what a constitution supplies. It is wise history. It’s the guidance which brings us through wars and battles. Ghat guidance graces us with humanity…wisdom…
And the ability to pause amid holiday festivities to remember Pearl Harbor.
Please, Mr. Ye. Help raise the world’s collective dignity the hard way not the cheap way. Please appeal to intellect.
I think that is what humanity has always striven to accomplish. People have perished for that dream.
All my love, s