Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Last year at about this time...

Last year at about this time ... I noticed that very few people seemed to think of December 7th as having any particular significance.  That surprised me, living as I do in an area that's very pro-military and generally more aware of history than was the California I escaped from in 2014.  So this year, for about the past week, I've been informally polling many people I run into to see what their awareness of December 7th is. These short conversations are all happening spontaneously, so I don't have any formal records of the results.  I have spoken with roughly 30 people, many of them clerks at cash registers and my fellow waiters-in-line.  The ages of people I spoke with varied from teenagers to octogenarians.

The results were consistent with my observations from last year.  I found just one person who knew that December 7th was the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.  Just one.  That person was a woman, perhaps 50 years old, whose father was there (and survived) – a medic working out of the hospital on base.  As you might imagine, she reported December 7th was a somber day of remembrance at her house.

I was able to speak further with many of the people who didn't know what happened on December 7th.  I'm not happy with what I discovered while doing that: more than half of them had no idea that Japan had ever attacked the U.S.  A significant number of these people clearly thought I was some kind of kook for believing such nonsense, though only one of them actually verbalized this (a young woman who looked like she needed to holler for help).  Something so momentous, so full of consequence, that happened just 76 years ago has nearly been erased from the memories of our citizens.  This immediately leads me to wonder about similarly consequential events from the more distant past (say, the Civil War, or the War of 1812) ... but I think I won't probe that, as I'm already depressed enough about my Pearl Harbor “investigation”...

I'm less surprised now, though, about our apparent inability to learn from the lessons of history.  One can't learn from history one doesn't know!

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