Our place in history ...

Thursday, December 08, 2005

"a date which will live in infamy"

My grandmother, a survivor of the Spanish Civil War, told me that it was years before she could listen to the roar of an airplane engine without having a panic attack. After all, Franco ordered his German allies to perfect the blitzkrieg on Basque soil. Ironically, she recalled the attack on Guernica with less horror than the bombing of a small cemetery near her home. The sight of bodies set to rest in graves far below the surface of the earth, forced into
the open air, terrified her infinitely more than watching her fellow
countrymen fail to escape the wrath of flying assassins whose faces could be seen from the roadsides.

Every generation has a moment that gives it challenge, and one obstacle that gives it purpose. The "greatest generation," as it has recently been dubbed, was challenged by the hardships of the Great Depression, and focused by the perils of World War II--a war of great weapons that truly began in 1936 in Spain, and not in 1939, when Hitler invaded Poland. The Cold War generation, was challenged by the heartache of the armed conflict in Korea, and defined by the uncertainty, and near panic created by the Cuban Missile Crisis. The "flower power" generation was energized by the race to put a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s, but grounded by the quagmire referred to simply as "Vietnam." The "me" generation faced several small challenges, the "oil crisis,"
the "hostage crisis," the terrorism sponsored by Libya's Mohammar Khadafi, and yet found nothing to filter its energies upon other than the expansion of the US's economic system throughout the globe.

Generation X was born, precisely because there was nothing which gave it any direction whatsoever. The explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, captured the nation's attention but did not symbolize the end of the space program or humankind's ventures into our galaxy ad beyond. The fall of the Berlin Wall changed forever the face of the geo-political globe, and marked the beginning of a "New World Over," but the US visit of Soviet Premier Breshnev, and the age of "Perestroika" ushered in by Mikael Gorbachev, prepared that generation for the fragmentation of the "Eastern Bloc." Generation X was neither shocked nor amazed by the aforementioned events--ones which thoroughly impacted the
living members of the several generations before it.

The lines that demarcate the beginning and the end of the "me"
generation, "Generation X" and "Generation Y" are blurry at best, and indiscernible in the most honest and sincere forms of admission. Perhaps the advent of the internet, the acceptance of multiple waves of fashion and musical trends occurring in synchronicity, as well as the social cynicism which has engulfed our American sensibilities, has made "us"--whoever we are--impossible to categorize or understand.

Below you will find President Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to Congress seeking a declaration of war. Although he never mentioned Europe or the fact that Germany had by then declared war on the United States, the Pearl Harbor attack signaled intervention in the European war.

"Yesterday, December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.

The United States was at peace with that nation, and, at the solicitation of Japan, was still in conversation with its government and its emperor looking toward the maintenance of peace in the Pacific. Indeed, one hour after Japanese air squadrons had commenced bombing in Oahu, the Japanese ambassador to the United States and his colleague delivered to the secretary of state a formal reply to a recent American message. While this reply stated that it seemed useless to continue the existing diplomatic negotiations, it contained no threat or hint of war or armed attack.

It will be recorded that the distance of Hawaii from Japan makes it obvious that the attack was deliberately planned many days or even weeks ago. During the intervening time the Japanese government has deliberately sought to deceive the United States by false statements and expressions of hope for continued peace.

The attack yesterday on the Hawaiian Islands has caused severe damage to American naval and military forces. Very many American lives have been lost. In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.

Yesterday the Japanese government also launched as attack against Malaya.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Hong Kong.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Guam.

Last night Japanese forces attacked the Philippine Islands.

Last night Japanese forces attacked Wake Island.

This morning the Japanese attacked Midway Island.

Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implication to the very life and safety of our nation.

As commander in chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense. Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. . ."

Source: Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, Hyde Park, New York.


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