Tuesday, December 7, 2010


It’s December 7 – famously declared by FDR as “a date that will live in infamy.” This morning, surfing various news programs and listening to the radio, I didn’t hear even one mention of this significant anniversary – the attack on Pearl Harbor that plunged the US into World War II. And I recall that a few weeks ago, on November 22, I saw no attention paid to the assassination of JFK – perhaps the most tragic occurrence in modern American political history.
Growing up, it was as if these days were added to the ritual calendar (especially in our house). Both my parents, who were born during the depression, reflected on Pearl Harbor a day that changed the world entirely. As a kid growing up outside Boston (in the land of Kennedy) – the shooting of the president demanded somber respect as well as utter fascination long after it happened. For those who remember these experiences, they became defining moments in their lives. Ask and you’ll be told exactly where they were, what reports they heard, what pictures or film they saw, and the reflections of those who commented in the news, trying to bring meaning to these terrible times. For many, these were epoch-changing episodes. After Pearl Harbor, the US had to become a greater player on the world scene; after JFK’s death, we lost the post-war benign innocence of Camelot. Have we lost our collective memory as well?

In less than a year, we will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the attacks of 9/11. That day also stands out as one of those transformative times – indelibly etched into the minds of anyone who witnessed, near or far. I wonder if after a few more short years, or in a generation, the powerful impact of that day (and all the events that have followed from it) will be lost among the debris of “other stuff”, and our over-saturation with the chaff that becomes momentarily important. Yes, it’s important to take advantage of today’s media, and our ability to know almost everything about anything. It remains our responsibility to understand that some things – ideas, facts, and parts of our past – are actually more important than others, no matter what, throughout time. Let us not forget.

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