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Tick, Tick, Tick

December 7, 2011

Today is December 7. It is 2011, and I fear “the day that will live in infamy” that transpired seventy years ago may be in a coma. So it is with the interminable list of other such infamous days from Cannae to Borodino to Antietam to Hiroshima.  This is a shame because, for many reasons, these are days that should not be forgotten. We should honor the fallen and acknowledge the sacrifice of all who served, but it should also be yet another reminder of the far deeper issue of war itself.

On this day in 1941, Pearl Harbor joined the list. The primary American base in the Pacific suffered a massive surprise attack by the Empire of Japan. Never before had such an attack occurred on American territory. Never before had America suffered such a loss of life and property in a foreign attack on its soil. This was the original  9/11.

And much like 9/11, the way it happened would read like a novel had it not been true. The series of fateful events that included miscues, missed opportunities, incompetence, and indecision on both sides set off a chain of events with effects that resonate until this very day. At least, for those who care to remember.

Those Americans who lost family members are no doubt aware as are those who were plunged into war as a result of this day. Their ranks are dwindling rapidly, though. Those Americans of Japanese descent are also aware, for one of the greatest breaches in American justice crashed upon them in this day’s aftermath. Their ranks are dwindling as well.

That leaves the rest of us. So why should we care? It’s history. Times have changed.

Perhaps we should be more in tune with history.

America and indeed the whole world have seen a cycle of war repeated for as long as there has been history. People have suffered devastation at the hands of other nations because of greed, power, xenophobia, misunderstanding, and fear. National, ethnic, and religious groups have been vilified to justify their oppression or destruction. The only thing that changes is the time and the place. The lessons that should have been learned from these past experiences are many. Humankind has not been a very good learner.

I realize the need to protect oneself is sometimes necessary. But the lessons are more elemental than knowing one’s enemies and keeping vigilant; the way to peace is the final realization that it is not us versus them but rather us versus us. The huge task of eradicating the artificial boundaries between the people of Earth is the critical need; how to accomplish it is the ultimate problem.

And what now? A few moments spent reading a newspaper or watching the news should answer that. How many “hot spots” do we need? How many areas of the globe on the verge or already immersed in violence must be present?

There are those who say it is in our nature as humans to do this. Maybe they are right. Others hold onto hope that the inhabitants of this small blue planet will some day come to their senses. I pray they are right. But as science and technology create more numerous and powerful weapons than have ever before existed and nationalistic or religious dogma have fanned hatred, perhaps hope is the only weapon that we have to counteract them. But this hope must turn into commitment and then to action to halt our march toward the potential annihilation of our species. It is up to us, to all of us, to make this decision. How much time do you think we have? The answer to this question is mostly ignored or avoided in fear of what it might be. That is a shame too, for the very future of the world may just be at stake.

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