With every passing year, Pearl Harbor Day leaves us with a stark reminder that the number of WWII veterans is dwindling rapidly. The epic struggle against forces of undisputed evil, fought by the fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers of so many of us, may soon be relegated to the annals of American history, yet no military conflict since the Civil War has had a more dramatic impact on who we are as a nation.
In the wake of the Great Depression, and in the years leading up to December 7th, 1941, cauldrons were bubbling throughout the world, ready to spill over with the least provocation. Globally today, we find common denominators.
Vladimir Putin is the 21st Century’s answer to Josef Stalin. In Asia, a handful of countries are attempting to solidify their economic and military dominance over the Pacific Rim. Europe is reckoning with nationalist fervor, fascism, and neo-Nazism. And at a time when the world appears to need us most, America is stepping back from the preeminent position it has held since 1945.
In this century, seeds of oppression are being sown. An ideological schism is widening here at home. Separateness, anger, isolation, and—for some—belief in racial and ethnic supremacy, is a constant in the lives of the morally depleted and socially disenfranchised.
None of this is new to the American Experience. Social unrest, economic hardship, and the threat of foreign influence posed a threat prior to WWII. Racial inequality and injustice were prevalent throughout the U.S. The KKK was resurgent and a homegrown Nazi movement emerged in the guise of the German-American Bund.
Then came Pearl Harbor. Suddenly, Americans started behaving like Americans, one nation united—for many of us, under God. Indivisible. A country where liberty and justice for all meant something. It would be misleading to suggest that everything in the homeland was sunshine and happiness. It wasn’t. Anti-Semitism and Racism continued to be a blight on the American landscape, poverty and economic malaise were still a plague among us.
And yet, one “Day of Infamy” gave all in this nation pause when confronted by the very real fear that our way of life was being threatened by forces beyond our shores. Rancor at home began to dissipate. People of all races, colors, and creeds came together out of a sense of mutual need and the desire to combat those who would do us harm.
As disunited as these United States may have seemed at the time, and may appear to be today, the thought of separating us from our shared values and common beliefs was intolerable to all Americans. Together, we bonded and rose up against the clear enemies without, rather than the perceived enemies within.
This is the America that those who would do us harm, once more, fear; instruments of evil who believe that by disrupting our political, social, and economic norms we will be crushed. Unpredictable leaders abroad, like North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, corrupt Russian oligarchs, and Putin’s government pose real threats to our country.
We cannot turn away from this reality and close ourselves off to the world, ignoring the dangerous players who inhabit it. Nor can we make nice, no matter what the motive may be, with those committed to incite discord among us. Of utmost importance, we must remember to stand by the friends and allies who stood by us then; those who continue to stand beside us today.
The patriots who volunteered to go forth and sacrifice everything they held near and dear—some making the ultimate sacrifice—deserve more than just a day. Let’s keep in mind that there are patriots still here among us, in and out of uniform, ready and willing to do the same. We Americans came together as one people before. We will again.