Yesterday, December 7, was Pearl Harbor Day. Much of the day I was out-and-about.
Dad’s brother, my uncle Frank, died on the USS Arizona that day, and especially since the 50th anniversary, 1991, it’s been a very significant date for me. I visited the Arizona Memorial in November, 1985, Frank’s burial place literally underneath my feet, in the remains of the battleship that was his home for the last six years of his life. Were he still alive, he’d now be 97. I’ve written about Frank and/or Pearl Harbor often. Most recent is here.
A year ago, December 7, I was at the Veteran’s Service Building in St. Paul to remember the 70th anniversary of the attack. There I met Edgar Wentzlaff, a crewman on the Arizona, who survived. He didn’t remember my Uncle, which wouldn’t be a surprise. What surprised me was that yesterday’s Star Tribune carried a long article about now-95 year old Edgar. Time is running out for the survivors of WWII; tell their stories while they are still alive.
Back home yesterday was an e-mail from my brother, Frank, born Nov 1945, first male child after Frank died, and named for my Uncle Frank. The e-mail included a photo of a man in California, Gary Hanson, who I’ve communicated with, who has made a scale model of the Arizona. Behind me as I type is my own model of the Arizona, made by my friend and colleague Bob Tonra back in the mid 1990s; beside it is a scale model of the USS Woodworth, also by Tonra. Woodworth is the Destroyer on which my mothers brother, Lt. George W. Busch, spent three years in the Pacific, 1943-45.
(click to enlarge).
Pearl Harbor and the effects of War (Frank was a peacetime victim, technically) is never far away, a constant reminder of the elusiveness of peace, and the brutality and stupidity of war. It also reminds about how complex and difficult an issue this business of war and peace can be, even among passionate people of seemingly like-interests. War…and Peace…is a family matter.
Pearl Harbor is also a reminder of the need for, and fragility of, enforceable World Law, and the need for a system in which such law has a place at the table.
Working on the issue is no simple task, far beyond absolute 100% right positioning, “standing for something”.
Back home yesterday afternoon I watched again the History Channel program, “The First 24 Hours”, about the first hours after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I had seen the program before, but events immediately preceding the program made me more mindful of the difficulties we face to prevent the next and likely much worse cataclysm if nations cannot figure out how to get along.
Back then, until the day war was declared, December 8, 1941, the U.S. was a nation divided about whether or not to enter WWII, which had already been raging for several years.
An extremely strong interest group at the time was “America First”, whose motivation was basically as its name suggests. Our isolationism ended only with a disaster that we felt we could only remedy by an extremely long and deadly World War II.
Then, and today, our dilemma is not so much external (like terrorists); rather it is within each and everyone of us, dedicated to our own top and non-negotiable priorities. Thinking, somehow, that we can prevail over our opposition, or win by sneak attacks of small and major scale (that’s why I used my December 7 blog space for the Minnesota Orchestra lockout: in my mind, it was a simple power play now gone awry, with no face-saving way yet found to settle on terms of a contract. Most people don’t care about an Orchestra being locked out, but the effects are felt by those who do.)
Even within the so-called “peace” community, of which I am a part, there is often disagreement, to the detriment of those same advocates for peace.
Yesterday, on Pearl Harbor Day, I saw a copy of the Kellogg-Briand Pact of 1928, supposedly an everlasting and legally binding pact to end all war, following up on the 1914-1918 “war to end all wars” and the resulting Armistice Day commemoration, which later was changed, in the United States, to be called Veterans Day, losing the essence of the day (in my opinion.) In the United Kingdom it is called Remembrance Day.
Of course, the WWI Treaty of Versailles, intended to end War, only helped to spawn Hitler and WWII. And the ink was hardly dry on Kellogg-Briand when ways to bypass its supposedly iron clad language were found, including by the signatories.
I support people with the passion for Kellogg-Briand, etc. But my friends whose passion is making Kellogg-Briand binding once again, seem not quite as passionate about simple things like promoting Peace Sites, places of peace in our midst; or remarkable movements with results like the 1968 and 1971 Declarations of World Citizenship in Minneapolis and Hennepin County, and then Minnesota.
It can be most frustrating.
And on we go.
Where do you stand?
We live in an increasingly fragile world, and the actions we take, or do not take, and the work we do together, or not, will contribute to the problem…or the solution…one person at a time.
NOTE to Twin Citians: Gandhi Mahal is a great restaurant. Check it out.