Tags: Today's | American | Patriotism | Falls | Short

Today's American Patriotism Falls Short

Friday, 08 September 2006 12:00 AM

Nobody in the Club authorized me to speak out about 9/11. Fortunately, it's the kind of club where nobody has to. I belong to that increasingly exclusive club made up of American men and women who remember Pearl Harbor every bit as clearly as we remember 9/11. So naturally we remember what happened afterward.

Would you younger Americans like to know how we grade you as compared to the American public struck by the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941? I don't think you do.

More lies were told the day after Pearl Harbor than on any other day in American history. You had to be 17 to be admitted into the American armed forces. On that day after, lines of American men snaked around the block two, three, even four times in front of Army, Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard recruiting stations. (There was no independent Air Force at the time. It was the Army Air Corps.)

Countless boys who were only 16 pretended to be 17, many with the active help of their parents. There weren't quite as many who were only 15 who succeeded in enlisting, but there were some. I interviewed an author who wrote a book about a husky-looking lad who talked his way into the Navy when he was ONLY 12! After the interview I learned of one boy who made it into uniform who was only 11!

After 9/11 there was a spike in TALK about enlistment. But there was no spike in enlistments.

American unity – and I mean real clenched-fist unity, not congressmen and senators standing on the Capitol steps singing "God Bless America together – lasted from the instant of Pearl Harbor until well after victory over Japan almost four years later. There was no attempt by either party to achieve political gain, and there was no THOUGHT by either party of attempting political gain.

And look how much there was to bitch about! America was outrageously unprepared for a war that was already raging in Europe for two years and in Asia for more than four. There was no way to reinforce our beleaguered garrison valiantly trying to defend the Philippines against overwhelming Japanese might. We couldn't send a convoy. All we could send was a phony RUMOR that we were sending a convoy.

Many times more American troops were lost in the first day or two of an invasion than have been lost so far in Iraq. Some of those invasions – Anzio and Salerno come to mind – were military disasters. Seven hundred American troops were lost in a TRAINING exercise for the Normandy invasion.

Much more could have been pounced upon by political piranhas. Not a chance. Republican Senator Arthur Vandenberg of Michigan was Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt's political bodyguard all through the war. During the 1944 presidential campaign Roosevelt found out that his opponent, New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, had learned that we'd broken the Japanese code and therefore should have been able to foil the impending attack on Pearl Harbor.

Roosevelt knew that Dewey was going to use that bombshell in a campaign speech that very night and sent a messenger to Dewey with his personal appeal not to. That revelation would have helped Dewey gain votes, but greatly damaged American security. Dewey obeyed his commander in chief!

Roosevelt promised us Total War. President Bush urged us to "go shopping." Bush meant well. He didn't want the economy to collapse under fear. There was no fear evident after Pearl Harbor. If there was any fear way down there, it was totally covered up by anger.

Every American was in it. We Boy Scouts collected scrap iron, tin toothpaste tubes, aluminum pots (sometimes from atop our mothers' stoves), and we rode our bicycles as messengers assisting the air raid wardens. And our assistants were our 8-year-old brothers. Our mothers had the yuckier job of saving leftover fat from the frying pan in mason jars to be turned in for the manufacture of explosives.

It seems one week after Pearl Harbor we were all singing, "Let's Remember Pearl Harbor." Now, five years after 9/11, we don't even have a song and there was controversy over whether we should even have movies. There was stringent rationing of gasoline, meat, sugar, coffee, and other foods. There were jokes, but few complaints. Top executives of American industry abandoned their high-pay jobs to go to Washington and work for literally "a dollar a year"!

Just before the fifth anniversary of 9/11, CNN conducted a survey that indicated a majority of Americans "didn't approve of the direction of the War on Terrorism." Try to imagine a similar survey as to whether you "approved of the war on fascism" for most of the first year we were in the war when our Pacific Fleet was destroyed, the Japanese were massing at the shores of Australia, Hitler had taken virtually all of Europe and was at the gates of Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad threatening to knock our Soviet allies out of the war, and Nazi General Rommel was 40 miles from Cairo in North Africa.

The American media rejoiced in American success, not American failure. As one wag commented decades later, when the media began to fail to conceal their delight with American disaster, "Gee, remember when the media was our ally, like the British and French?"

Did somebody say, "But Iraq is not World War II"? Don't give me that. It was 18 months between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq. All this good, rich, vibrant, American patriotic unity didn't need 18 months to manifest after Pearl Harbor. Maybe something more like 18 minutes.

So, now you new Americans want your grade? I'm sorry you brought it up. I refer you to the student who was dismayed to have his test paper returned by the teacher with a big zero on top.

"I don't believe I deserve a zero on this test," protested the student.

"I don't either," agreed the teacher, "but it's the lowest grade I'm allowed to give."


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Nobody in the Club authorized me to speak out about 9/11. Fortunately, it's the kind of club where nobody has to.I belong to that increasingly exclusive club made up of American men and women who remember Pearl Harbor every bit as clearly as we remember 9/11.So...
Friday, 08 September 2006 12:00 AM
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