Thursday, June 6, 2013

"...a date which will live infamy."

Today is June 6, and I spent the whole day with a vague feeling that there was something important about that date. It was late this afternoon when I was reminded that it's the 69th anniversary of D-Day, the date Allied forces hit the beaches at Normandy in the offensive invasion that turned the tide in WW II. The casualties were horrific. More people were lost in a few hours there than have been killed or wounded in both Afghanistan and Iraq in a dozen years of warfare. How soon we forget.

Our history is replete with dates that marked events that seemed unforgettable when they occurred but have nonetheless slipped into obscurity with the passing generations. Perhaps the most notable of these is December 7, 1941, the day the Empire of Japan launched a sneak attack on the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, ''...a date which will live in infamy" according to the famous speech by FDR. Within an hour of that speech Congress passed a declaration of war against Japan and officially brought the U.S. into World War II.  Yet, how many Americans today recognize the significance of "Pearl Harbor Day"?

More recently, of course, there were the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, and that was recent enough that our national obsession with commemorating the date has not begun to subside, and yet I am sure it will - or maybe I should say I hope it will.  Our national memory of events lasts only as long as the citizens who were affected are around to keep the memory alive. When the war has been won life returns to normal and those who were  not around to witness the horror forget the sacrifice of those who fought and died to preserve our freedom. Perhaps this is as it should be.

So I wonder, in another 50 years or so will the date September 11 be just another day when perhaps a few old-timers have a feeling that there is something significant about the date they should remember? I hope so, because that would mean that life has returned to  normal and the terrorists did  not succeed in altering our way of life and our freedoms. We can forget the significance of 12/7/1941 because we were victorious against the enemy who precipitated the events, and I hope we can forget 9/11/2001 for the same reason. Or it truly will be "a date which will live in infamy" and the terrorists will have won.

Or maybe it's already too late:

Surely Americans will never forget the date on which they began to lose all of their freedoms - is that date 9/11?  Ask me in 50 years.

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