I remember Pearl Harbor. Yes, that piece of ancient history was a current event in my memory. I was only seven years old, but the adults around me were so suddenly sober and serious that I was impressed that something really big was happening, but I lacked the maturity and experience in life to measure just how big this was.
It was a Sunday when the family gathered around the table at grandma's for a three course culinary climax. Someone turned on the radio (remember there was no such thing as TV yet), and whatever else was scheduled was interrupted for the shattering announcement.
Later I was told that our family had an intensified interest in the events of the day because my uncle Harry was in the navy somewhere in the south Pacific. Nobody knew just where. He was just a kid himself, having lied about his age to join the navy. Anxiety lasted for quite a while before we heard from him. As it turned out he made it through the war, but with a few hair raising stories to tell.
I remember blackouts, neighborhood wardens, air raid sirens and special blankets for us school children to lay in the hall during drills. I remember food rationing, gas rationing and other commodities which were limited to mere civilians because of the priority of the war efforts. I remember Rosie the Riveter. I heard of Tokyo Rose, trying to demoralize the marines with her taunting radio broadcasts.
And I remember patriotism. Today what would be sneered at as corny and naive devotion to America, was easily the majority spirit of our culture in those days. I've never seen anything like it until 911 when patriotism made a brief revival. I think there are some in New York who still carry this devotion.
Isn't it strange how a few decades change things so radically? War veterans would get together and remember their buddies who had fallen in the war. And increasingly the news showed us reunions that included Japanese veterans as well.
It may well be that not many "Welcome Home" banners were flown for kamikaze pilots (I couldn't resist that temptation to indulge in inappropriate humor), but it is true that the best jump-start a nation's economy can get is to declare war on the USA and then lose. We don't hate the Japanese people any more. In fact we send billions of dollars to help them recover from the tsunami. We buy more of their automobiles than we buy domestic made.
Peter Sellers made a hilarious movie, "The Mouse that Roared", based on the very principle that a tiny country might save its economy by losing a war with America.
We can have fun with the idea. And we can be glad that our countries now live in peace (and dependence) with each other. But that only emphasizes the question, who ever really wins a war? President Roosevelt said, "I hate war." Those who have been there say war is hell. And for every war there are hundreds (thousands?) of survivors who never really survive. Some wars are necessary, but they are necessary evils.
It's a broken world, and it should be obvious that the sinful distortion of the human heart is the cause. How do you change that twisted human heart? You can keep pretending that human nature is basically good, or you can cry out to the Manufacturer to repair the damage we have done. God can change the heart. And this season of the year we like to celebrate that God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.