Monday, December 7, 2015

When the Tigers Broke Free

Today is the 74th anniversary of the attack at Pearl Harbor in whose aftermath the USA redefined itself as a nation and within the world of nations until the attacks of 9/11 to which the former is invariably compared. America of 1941, and the world for that matter, was very different from our world today and it's with that span of time, I suspect, comes some detachment in looking at that history half a world away for those on the Eastern Seaboard. 

I learned something about Pearl Harbor as a child in American History classes, then later at college through my classes and studies and still later when I encountered men (and women) who had served in World War II, and not always on the victorious side. The more I learned, the less I knew which is one of the positive results of education: when you don't know what you don't know, you're at your most dangerous. 

When the last resort, armed force, becomes the first recourse, we all lose. I've never had the chance, yet, to visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Hawaii (it wasn't the only ship sank and her Sailors weren't the only ones who died), but I'd hope to do so before I die, as I suspect afterwards I wouldn't get quite so much out of it.. 

I wandered across the battlefields of World War II while living in Europe from Normandy, France (where every single bar is called June 6, or at least it seems that way), past the ruins in downtown Frankfurt am Main, (West) Germany, as modern a city as you could otherwise ever imagine. 

I visited Dachau, just outside of Munich, walking through the remainders and reminders of the barracks trying to grasp that people had lived (and died) there. I never got used to the fact that no birds were ever heard at Bergen-Belsen in the Luneberg Heide, one of the Nazi interim equations as they made their Final Solution. It was as if God, Himself, had turned His face from us, ashamed of those who insist and persist in our belief that we are created in His likeness.

All of those spaces and places are connected as if in a straight line to Pearl Harbor, Bataan, the Rape of Nanking, and a thousand other geographic locales (more than 20 million men (and women) fought in World War II and the death toll of those who were non-combatants may be higher than that number) as some sort of a perverse demonstration that as noble as we can be, the depths of our depravity and indifference towards one another may not yet be fully plumbed.

There has been a lot of darkness and a lot of blood and tears since the last Cautionary Tale we think of as World War II. The rush of all the ensuing years may have served to make us numb to the approaching calamity of what will undoubtedly be the Last World War. We won't have to worry about what lessons we learned, or didn't, as there will be 
no one left to read anything.
-bill kenny

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