There is a Land of the Living
and a Land of the Dead,
and the Bridge is Love,
the only Survival, the only Meaning.
- Thornton Wilder
As of today, the Bridge that connects Pearl Harbor to the present spans seventy-five years in length. Incredibly, it is a post that remains manned by more than one hundred nonagenarians. Seventy-five years ago, these young sailors and soldiers survived an ambush attack that killed 2,403 Americans, an attack that brought an inexorable, abrupt, and irreversible end to their youth.
For some of them, including then-sixteen-year-old Vito Colonna, the war that began at Pearl Harbor carried them through a tour of places that were figuratively Hell on Earth, including Iwo Jima.
On December 8, 1941, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Address to Congress requested Declaration of War upon the Empire of Japan. From that day forward through the dropping of the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945, America was at war. It was a war fought - as wars inevitably are - by young men. Rare is the statesman or leader who - upon instigating a conflict or being drawn into one by an enemy - actually does the fighting, the bleeding, and the dying.
Seventy-five years after one of this nation's darkest days, we find ourselves mired in a national state of gloaming as the amount of heavy gray in the skies above us depends upon one's political point of view - perhaps more than at any time during the past half-century. Slightly more than one month ago, this nation elected a new President of the United States, an event that prompted (among other things) the cancellation of classes, the postponement of exams, and the scheduling of appointments with grief/crisis counselors at college campuses across America.
On December 8, 1941, in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, countless thousands of American college-aged kids went to war. On November 9, 2016, in response to the results of the Presidential Election, countless thousands of American college kids went into the fetal position...and did so with the blessing (and in some instances, at the direction) of their professors and instructors.
It seems to me (one man, one opinion) that among the lessons to be learned from Pearl Harbor and all that followed after it for the next forty-four months is that Americans responded to that horrific event - not by tucking our tails between our legs, wedging our heads up our asses, or running away towards Canada as fast as possible - but by backing up President Roosevelt's guarantee ("No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory").
If we are no longer that America - a nation of people willing to sweat and to work and to fight like hell for that which is right and that which is just - then not only did 2,403 Americans die in vain seventy-five years ago today, Vito Colonna and the other one hundred-plus Pearl Harbor survivors have lived in vain every day since that terrible December morning.
Personally, I refuse to accept that is who and what we have become and, furthermore, to allow it to become so. I intend to man a post on that Bridge and invite you to do the same.
There is plenty of space on it for all of us.
U.S.S. Arizona Memorial
Photo credit: Robert J. MacMaster
(June, 2014 - taken while on his honeymoon)