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December 7, 1941

By Remy Benoit

   Today we remember.
  
   Today we still mourn.

   This day in history was, indeed, a Day of Infamy.
   I was not born until 5 years and 4 days after that day when bombs rained from the air, yet it is part of me and so is all the horror of death and destruction that followed.

   There were many days of infamy in that war:
     for some it was the first day of September;  
      for others a night of White Lights in Leningrad where wolves sometimes devoured those building a city once called St. Petersburg.

   For some the horror came with a knock on the door; for others the sight of the Swastika on the Arc de Triomphe.

   By December 7 of 1941 we  had already added words to our vocabulary. We knew sitzkrieg; we knew blitzkrieg. Indeed, we had learnd the concept of Total War.
   As the days passed, as the bullets and bombs flew we learned other words, and other terms

   By the end of that total war we knew what some meant by a Final Solution.

   The list of things we learned of the savage maw of war is so very  long.

   The vocabulary lesson of "Total War" had begun in 1914.  It was expanded. We seem to work so hard to expand it.

   In today's world there are still teams who go through the countryside of France removing live munitions that wantonly take lives from as far back as an 1870 conflagration. There are other teams in other countries. They too remove munitions; they also remove  landmines left as legacies from wars to subsequent generations.

   We learned other words too.  
   We learned about Victory Gardens.
   We learned Knittin' for Britain.              
   We learned that a Commandant in Paris could not accept the word, Gotterdamerung.
   We learned that Rosie could be a riveter.
   We learned that we could do what had to be done.

   There are other lessons too.
   Lies, duplicity, insane appetites for power are bound to destruction by the simple power of the force of heart of those committed to freedom.

   Our history knows the words, We the People.
   They are echoed in Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite.
   They are grandfathered in the Magna Carta.
   They are ancestored in the evolution of the word demos.

   The world has changed since the 1940's.
   We have known other wars.
   We learned the term brushfire wars.
   We watched Hungarians hunger for freedom at the Bridge of Andau.
   We have seen countries restructured.

   We only too well understand the words prejudice, elitism, brinksmanship,Mutually Assured Destruction, Vietnamization, ethnic cleansing, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Agent Orange, Desert Storm Syndrome, collateral losses, heat seeking missiles, Scud Missiles, terrorism.

   There has been added another Infamous Date, 9/11.

   Yet the Berlin War no longer stands.

   The Soviet Empire is no more; nor is the Personality Cult
  
   Capitalism has come to the Peoples Republic of China; the Cultural Revolution is no more.

   German, Russian, Chinese and Japanese are taught in our schools.

   My kittens were given to me by a Vietnamese family. Some of our Veterans run orphanages in country now.

But Tibet still hungers for freedom, while its Dalai Lama travels the world speaking of compassion and forgiveness.

   Yes, the world has changed much in my lifetime.


   We are beginning to learn the power of words for destruction, and for compassion.

   We are still trying to solve, to balance the formula - to determine the x factor. The x is an algebraic term, an Arabic term for an unknown.

   But that is our greatest strength as a species; our desire to understand the unknown. As a species we are responsible for the care of our planet, and for our, as yet, unborn.

   There are many words we have yet to come to terms with: poverty, hunger, ethnocentrism, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, war.

   The psychologist Maslow said that it is not what happens to us but what we do with it that determines who we are.

   Who are we?

   What will we do?

   How will we mourn, how will we honor those who died on this Day of Infamy, and so very many others?

   As always, the choice is ours, not just nationally, but collectively as a planet.

That has always been our choice.

  We are evolutionary beings and it is time to look deep into the history of our planet, of ourselves, to determine its future.

  I pray we choose well, that we honor those who gave so much, who gave it all for those those awesome words: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

  We cannot have any midnight knocks on doors anywhere. That is not the way of freedom.

  How we do that will speak for who we are.

  How we come to terms with the x factor will determine who we are,  and who we will be.











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This item is part of WelcomeHomeSoldier.com: historian, author, editor, and educator Remy Benoit's ongoing weblog for Veterans, writers, students, and others who believe in learning from and making history; including thousands of articles and posts and the free writing seminar, Using History for Healing and Writing.


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