The President was ready to go to war, many claimed eager. As President, he was widely hated and criticized, especially by the press and the academic establishment, who could not understand how he had managed to get elected, but something about the sincere way he spoke resonated with the common voters, if not with the power brokers. His family was powerful politically, and he had Senators, Mayors, Governors, and even a President in his family, but he was vague and distant when describing his plans. Respected heroes and Hollywood figures protested that he had merely been looking for an excuse to go to war, and implied his business dealings were his real motivation. So when the planes hit, he moved the nation into war with the approval of Congress, some of whom claimed later that they had been misled.
George W. Bush? No, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
American heroes like Charles Lindberg championed the ‘America First’ movement, born out of the deaths and debt of World War I, urging that the United States keep out of European wars, much as we hear about VietNam today. Let them slaughter each other – those reports out of Germany and Poland were so exaggerated, how could those people claim any credibility?
All that changed on Dec. 7th, 1941. Roosevelt's great speech about the ‘day that will live in infamy’ is a long ago echo of the events of September 11. In 1941, we did not fully understand the enemy we were fighting. The war wasn’t about territory or money or regime change – although all those things were factors – but about a foreign world view, a view of an Aryan master race and culture. We had no real frame of reference for the Holocaust in our understanding, even as we have trouble grasping that Muslim jihadists do not wish to live in peace with us, but are sincerely called to eradicate us.
Porcupine once asked a WWII veteran who had been a liberator of the concentration camps why the Germans had continued killing the Jews, even as the tanks were rolling into the compounds. Why didn’t they just run, take off for the hills? The vet explained, “The men who guarded those camps had been very specially chosen. Among the Hitler Youth, they looked for boys who were bullies and enjoyed hurting others. They put them in the SS. They looked in the SS for those who had a sheer love of hurting and killing. Those were made guards in the camps. The reason they were machine-gunning prisoners, spreading quicklime on them and then machine-gunning more is that they knew, in all their lives, they would never have such a chance to kill again. They were addicted to it, and couldn’t stop, even as we walked up to them and took the guns from their hands. They began to cry because it was over.”
We were a young country to look into such a dark void as we had to in World War II. Yet every person shared in that war (oh, a few opposed it, but were not given much opportunity to make their views known). We are facing another dark void in the world now. The Japanese planes of December 7th found a nation unprepared, even as the ones on Sept. 11th did. We need to remember that lesson, and go forward together. Take a moment today to remember the fighting men and women of World War II, and thank them.