President Roosevelt called December 7, 1941 “a day that will live in infamy”. The surprise attack on US naval forces on that day killed thousands of Americans. We had never been attacked in such a brutal manner and our retaliation was swift and decisive. Of course the outcome was that we were victorious in World War II, both against Japan and against Germany and her allies. 12/7 was the 20th century equivalent of 9/11.
As I was driving to the dentist this morning I noticed a couple of flags flying at half mast and my first response was to wonder why. Then I remembered that today is Pearl Harbor Day. Then I wondered how many people are even aware that this is the 70th anniversary of that terrible day or even how many care.
The number of people living today who were alive on December 7, 1941 is dwindling. For most Americans World War II is history, not current events.
I suppose there are valid arguments about which day was worse; 12/7 or 9/11. On the one hand, Pearl Harbor was an attack on US soil by a sovereign nation where 9/11 was a terrorist attack by a small group of men who hate America. Score one for 12/7. On the other hand, the thousands of Americans killed at Pearl Harbor were mostly military people. It was an act of war and there’s always a possibility that, when you join the service, death is a possibility. Most of the Americans killed on 9/11 were civilians. Hard-working people who left home that morning with no thought that they might never return. That certainly makes 9/11 worse, much worse.
I guess that, unless you lost someone on one of those fateful days, it’s hard to say that one was more heinous, more evil, than the other. The point is that each of those days marked a major turning point, not just in American history, but in world history. Nothing was the same after 12/7/41 and nothing was the same after 9/11/01. As we reflect on the coming of the Baby Jesus during Advent, we look forward and we look back. If, after 70 years, most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about Pearl Harbor, then chances are that in another generation, 9/11 will be just as obscure in our (actually our children’s and our grandchildren’s) memories.
I’d guess that most Americans living today have long ago forgiven the Japanese people. I wonder if, in 2061, most Americans will have forgiven the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks? Christ calls us to forgive those who have hurt us, but some sins are easier to forgive than others. On this eleventh day of Advent, 2011, we might want to reflect on forgiveness. Jesus forgave those who crucified Him. “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” If He could forgive those who killed Him, aren’t we called to be equally forgiving?
Is there anyone in your life who has hurt you? Are you still harboring a grudge? If so, is your anger hurting the other person or is it just hurting you? Why not heal yourself? It’s easy. You probably won’t forget, but you can forgive. And forgiveness will do you a world of good.