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America then, America now

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This week marks the 75th anniversary of Imperial Japanese Navy’s bombing of Pearl Harbor. America on Dec. 7, 1941, was a very different country, however flawed; it was a nation that immediately united to fight a common foe to preserve liberty. Dec. 8, 1941, resulted in not only a declaration of war against Japan but also the highest number of enlistments in the armed forces in a single day than any other day in history up to the present. Young men lined up around the block at recruiting stations to join the Marines, the Navy, the Air Corps, and yes, even the Army. Americans were incensed that while they participated in peace negotiations with Japan in good faith, the militarists controlling Japan had been plotting an attack upon our armed forces that killed more than 2,400 Americans, using peace negotiations to lull America into complacency.

The Japan of the 1930s and early ’40s was not the pacifist nation we know today. It was ruled by a military clique that viewed itself as the inheritors of the Samurai warrior tradition, holding civilian rule and democracy in contempt. Civilian leaders lived in constant fear of assassination by the military, especially the Army. In 1931, the Imperial Japanese Army invaded Manchuria, China’s northern province, to set up a puppet state called “Manchuko” without the consent of the Japanese civil authorities. Japanese military rule was brutal toward the Chinese, as Japan’s military considered itself racially superior to all other races, but especially the Chinese. In 1937, Japan launched a full-scale invasion of the rest of China, raping, pillaging, burning, and murdering its way across large swaths of China, massacring the civilian populations of entire Japanese cities. The cosmopolitan city of Nanking was brutally savaged by Japanese troops who raped at least 40,000 Chinese women and girls as young as 5, murdering more than 200,000 civilians in a six-week bloodbath. Western outrage resulted in America imposing severe sanctions. 

By 1941, the sanctions were crippling Japan’s economy; President Roosevelt cut off exports of oil and scrap metal to Japan, giving that nation less than a year to survive as a modern nation if they didn’t withdraw from China. Japan responded by planning a major military offensive throughout Asia to seize the resources needed to feed Japan’s war machine. The attack on Pearl Harbor was intended to secure their eastern flank by crippling the U.S. Pacific Fleet and force America to sue for an early peace on Japan’s terms. Japan’s forces invaded multiple Southeast Asian countries and seized the U.S. territory of Guam in a six-month rampage across the Pacific. However, the attack on Pearl Harbor only served to “awaken a sleeping giant” in the words of Japan’s fleet commander, Admiral Yamamoto.

Prior to Pearl Harbor, America had been a divided country with the majority of Americans determined to stay out of the war raging in Europe. The attack on Pearl Harbor united Americans against a common foe as never before.

When I fast-forward to the America of today, I see similar trends but with great misgivings. The attack on 9/11 that killed nearly 3,000 Americans did not produce anything like the reaction of Americans in 1941. For about a week the country seemed to be united, but only for a week. That’s when the hard-left began to make noises about the attack being our own fault, conspiracy theories began blaming the government, and it went downhill from there. We haven’t recovered, as American politics has degenerated into a semi-permanent, divisive mud-slinging contest of character assassination. Not since the Civil War have Americans been so divided and so truly hateful of each other as we are today. The issues that divide us are equally non-negotiable, or so it seems, as the issue of slavery was in the 1850s that led to civil war in 1861.

I attribute this break in civility and unity as a nation to a generation of indoctrination of our youth, first by teaching them to despise their heritage and second, to despise anyone who disagrees with conventional thought. Some call it political correctness but it’s really just having a closed mind to different points of view. 

An example of our inability to hold a civil discussion on issues is the fate of any climate scientist who publicly disagrees with the accepted dogma of climate change. A good example is the case of Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado. He writes in a Dec. 3 edition of The Wall Street Journal of his experiences, or persecution, for daring to dissent (“My Unhappy Life as a Climate Heretic”). Read The Deniers by Dr. Lawrence Solomon; his book lays out the scientific reasons why many distinguished scientists disagree with the campaign of climate change alarmism. 

Sadder still is the state of our national political discourse after the presidential election. We’re facing economic destruction, foreign policy challenges, and growing military threats to our national survival. Historically, no country so politically divided survives such combined threats; neither will America unless we unite. 

Al Fonzi is the chairman of the Republican Party of SLO County and an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com.

-- Al Fonzi - Atascadero

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