And Living On, In Spite Of
I show my age, of course, remembering that today is Pearl Harbor Day. Post 9/11, post 7/7, now post 13/11 (i.e., November 13, just last month), days of infamy pile up one upon another, reminders of wars that persistently force us to recall that War never ends.
If days of remembrance bring to mind only nationalism, however, then I must admit to each of you: I cannot join those celebrations. Through the years, I have come to be impressed that, in the long run, to remember attacks solely to uphold ideas, no matter how ennobling those ideas may be, is only to court the danger itself of those very, never-ending wars.
If days of remembrance remind us, though, that our fellow citizens, going about the day-to-day of their lives, can sometimes die for no reason other than their having happened to have been associated, at least at that deadly moment, with a particular nation-state: then for those days, I will always pause to remember.
Sailors who were doing their day-to-day duties at 0800h on the USS Arizona may have signed up to defend a nation, but at that “infamous” moment, they were simply doing their jobs, no aggression in mind or in body. Officer and enlisted alike, they died because of who they were, not because of what they were doing at that moment. They couldn’t—and shouldn’t—be blamed for the actions of a government miles away any more so than could and should secretaries taking messages on the 90th floor of a New York building or twenty-somethings chowing down on Southeast Asian delicacies on a Parisian backstreet.
Secretaries and twenty-somethings, after all, can be formidable street fighters if, under the right circumstances, they choose to become so.
Remember: we all participate in the aggressions (perceived or real) of our nation-states by our very willingness to go about those days-to-days without perpetual resistance. Some are indeed willing to live lives of perpetual resistance, true. To them, I grant a reprieve from our corporate blame. To the rest of us, sorry.
On days such as today, we remember that War destroys lives. We remember that, at that moment, it could have been any of us. We remember that, at any moment, it still could be any of us.
We remember because we have loved, because we love, and because we will continue to love, in spite of War and all wars past, present, and future.
To the crews of the Arizona and its sister vessels, therefore, seventy-four years afterwards: for your service, for your lives, I remember, and I say, “Thank you.”
Until tomorrow, be well,