Keller @ Large: What We Can Learn From Remembering Pearl Harbor

By Jon Keller, WBZ

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s December 7, 2011, the 70th anniversary of what President Roosevelt called “the date that will live in infamy.”

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

In that speech to Congress hours after the Japanese Navy slaughtered more than 2,400 Americans in the sneak attack on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor that drew America into World War II, the president said: “Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us.”

But has that turned out to be true?

This is a memorial day of remembrance for the Americans who died that day, and also a time to honor the dwindling number of survivors, most now in their 90s. But how many Memorial Days and Veterans Days have gone by in recent years when we’ve wound up discussing the dwindling public interest in commemoration?

“It’s tough to get people to turn out for it, especially on a work day,” the Marshfield veterans’ agent told the Globe the other day of his town’s brief annual Pearl Harbor Day ceremony. “People tend to forget.”

Yes, we do. Pearl Harbor Day does not mark a moment of military victory or national triumph. December 7, 1941 was a date of disaster and horror, the trigger for a war in which more than 400,000 Americans were killed.

War is always a bad memory, and it’s all too human to want to move on, especially as the human witnesses to history fade away.

But ask yourself this question: do I want my great-great grandchildren to be growing up in a culture that barely stops to remember 9-11? Do they know that barely a lifetime ago, a nation that now is a peaceful friend became a violent military aggressor? Do they understand the price that we paid for winning that war, both the magnitude of our casualties and the shame of the incarceration of Japanese-Americans?

If the answer is no, maybe it’s worth taking some time today to educate the young person in your life about what Pearl Harbor Day teaches us of war, the insanity that can start it, the horror it brings, the need to be ready to wage it, and the even greater need to find ways to avoid it.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. and 12:25 p.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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