Date that lives in infamy was day that changed the world
Sixty years later, the date still lives in infamy.
The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor changed history, drawing the United States into a world war that would have ended differently had it not been for U.S. involvement. How differently, no one can know. But here's a starting point. Imagine Nazi Germany with the atomic bomb.
Far fetched? No. Though by war's end Germany had fallen far behind in its atomic research, it had the head start, only to be, shall we say, distracted by the U.S. entry into the war. And while the United States probably would have joined the Allied effort eventually, even without Pearl Harbor, the nature of the attack so galvanized this nation that anything became possible -- even development of a bomb that only one person in a thousand could imagine.
Then and now: Until recently, most Americans living today could only imagine what it was like to be told that an enemy's sneak attack had claimed thousands of American lives in a matter of hours. Today, every American beyond the age of reason knows that feeling, and those who are 70 years old or so, know it doubly so.
While the attack on Pearl Harbor will always be a unique moment in American history, it is impossible not to draw some comparisons between Dec. 7, 1941, and Sept. 11, 2001. The surprise, the horror, the pain were in both in ample, almost overwhelming, measure. There was fear and there was bravery -- at Pearl Harbor, in Manhattan and throughout the nation.
Years before he told Congress that Dec. 7 would live in infamy, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told a troubled nation that, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
But in the days following Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt sometimes forgot that message. As he led the United States into battle, he was decisive and inspirational most of the time. But he also made mistakes, he let fear get the better of him. The most glaring example was the internment of 110,000 Japanese-Americans, taken from their homes and relocated to concentration camps. That began Feb. 19, 1942, less than three months after Pearl Harbor.
Thinking through fear: That experience should serve as an example to us today that it is easy for an angry, wounded nation to allow fear to overcome not only its better instincts, but its principles and even its constitutional mandates.
We emerged from the war that began 60 years ago battle-scarred but stronger. We have done the 2,390 Americans killed at Pearl Harbor proud. There is no better time than now, no better day than today to rededicate ourselves to the idea that we will allow no enemy to instill a fear in Americans that results in a lessening of the great nation that the United States of America has become.
We owe that to those who died on that day of infamy and those who died in the war that followed.