There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it. – BuddhaHostilities exist. There is no blinking at the fact that our people, our territory and our interests are in grave danger. With confidence in our armed forces – with the unbounding determination of our people – we will gain the inevitable triumph – so help us God. – President Franklin D. Roosevelt, December 7, 1941
“The Japanese felt the United States was a soft, consumer-oriented society, racially mongrelized and lacking the kinda of martial virtues the Japanese believed they possessed. They were under no illusions about how big and powerful we were, but they thought their martial virtues and greater spirit would offset our material superiority.”
Japan believed they had a divine right to rule Asia which would allow them access oil production in South East Asia. Seventy years ago Japan had a big dependency on American oil, a time in which roughly 80% of Japan’s oil came from the United States (source). Japan’s desire to be self-sufficient could not meet the needs of its increasing population and with the belief that they had a “superior” culture they moved forward with military occupation in an effort to expand its influence.
I can not help but see the irony that a people so rich in spirituality would resort to war in order to expand its influence. We, as Americans, are very aware of where we were as a country at this time (trying to come out of the Great Depression). Our spirit was beaten and hope was a concept best ignored: it was nothing more than “disappointment deferred”. Yet when confronted with an evil, this country united to find its inner core of good and right in spite of its economic sorrow.
The event that was Pearl Harbor is horrific: 2,403 lives were lost (military and civilian). While it may sound harsh, and it is not my intent to be insensitive, it is true that horrors happen daily. Our condition of being-in-the-world brings with it events which try to convince us we will never overcome. But we know this is not true. Our experience tells us that there are people who will not allow themselves to be defined by the event, and to a greater extent will not allow the event to be the central focus. Their response will be substantially more powerful and influential.
Today we remember not only those who died too young but we also recognize the reaction to the tragedy and those brave enough to be greater than it. I will close with a bonus quote from President Barack Obama. It speaks to those from this time who have been called “The Greatest Generation”.
“Their tenacity helped define the Greatest Generation and their valor fortified all who served during World War II. As a nation, we look to December 7, 1941, to draw strength from the example set by these patriots and to honor all who have sacrificed for our freedoms.”