Americans were caught off guard when the Twin Towers were hit on September 11. Many of us couldn’t fathom that so much hate against America had been fomenting for years. Most of us whom weren’t politically savvy decided to start paying attention and immediately felt compelled to come together and fight the mutual enemy, not all literally, but metaphorically definitely, with flags in cars and on yards. We were all motivated and forced to see the worlds and cultures beyond our own shores. The discord between us here was temporarily absolved with our ‘us against them’ mentality.
The problem with Pearl Harbor was that we knew something of this nature was brewing and it was collectively being ignored. ‘…the war had already erupted in Norway and Mongolia, on Crete and in the Dutch East Indies; the Italian army had marched into Egypt, the German army had pushed into Moscow; there was savage fighting in Finland and sea battles off the coast of Argentina. The United States was one of the last secluded places on earth.’ We obviously didn’t have the bombardment of news sources like we do now, nothing beyond radio and newspapers, which were manipulated to have more words than images. What America was being shown were just random Nazi rallies, weird religious rites in Japan and care-free pics of French laid up on barrels of hay in the back country after the fall of Paris. Even still, Americans had to know that we wouldn’t go unscathed forever. The rest of the world’s calamity had to portend to our government what was to occur. But nobody thought Japan was an enemy. We were trying to stay out of the war for as long as possible, and the main objective would really only be about stopping the Nazis.
My generation can not fathom being remote from anything going on anywhere at any time. Twitter is the perfect example of by-the-second, as it is happening reporting. We will never even have the option of being oblivious. There are still environments of scarcity, starvation, disease, and brewing fear that we choose to ignore though. Some think that what is culminating now will be worse than the years prior to WWII. It would be naive to think that something tragic will never occur again. Though the events of September 11 and Pearl Harbor are 60 years apart, the examples of patriotism and anxious enlisters are just the same. Why must we wait to be caught off guard to behave collectively? History keeps showing us we don’t rally together until moments of fear. I do not want to be apart of the waiting…
excerpt from book, Losing the War by Lee Sandlin