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Friday, September 12, 2008

Tragedy v. Victory

I was listening to the Neal Boortz show yesterday, and a caller made an interesting point. The United States tends to "celebrate" our tragedies and not our victories. Almost all Americans know what happened on December 7, 1941, or Sept. 11, 2001. How many know what happened on May 7-8, 1945 or August 15 of the same year? How about Oct. 19th, 1781 or Sept. 3, 1783? For some reason, we, as Americans, focus on the travails and not the triumph. Why is that?

I don't think it's that's difficult to understand. Pearl Harbor and 9/11 are dates that stick in our minds as motivators. In 1941, we weren't committed to war until the attack on our Hawaiian base. Once it was attacked, Admiral Yamamoto commented that "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve." One can easily say the same thing about the events of 9/11. We were sucker punched, and we were once again filled with a terrible resolve. Those dates are rally cries, never to be forgotten.

Those other dates I mentioned? VE-Day and VJ-Day, the surrender of Cornwallis and the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Our moments of victory. Yes, there are many more, but those are a good sample. For many of us, they may just be tiny print on our wall calendar, if that. The dates of our victories, both military and political, are only of real importance to historians these days. That's not to say that our military isn't celebrated when they return victorious. It's in the decades that follow that the official date of victory is lost. But why? Why don't we care about when we won?

Because it's a foregone conclusion. When Yamamoto attacked Pearl Harbor, he knew he had 6 months to a year to wreak havoc, and then he would be finished. And he was. After 9/11, there was really no doubt in the western world that we would respond, and it would be violent and decisive. The entire world (minus the Islamic extremists whose Koran-blindered world view prevents them from seeing the obvious) knew that, in the end, we would be victorious because... well... that's what the US does.

It calls to mind a scene from Independence Day. Stay with me here. The aliens have attacked, and the Americans finally get some communication gear up and running. They start broadcasting a Morse Code message. A rag-tag group of pilots from around the world are gathered in a desert somewhere (the Iraqi pilot talking with the Israeli pilot was a subtle way of showing the desperation of the situation), and they get the message. The conversation at that base went something like, "It's the Americans." "It's bloody well about time. What do they have planned?" Yeah, it's just a movie, but that is the way we've been seen since World War II- we will lead, we will engage the enemy, and we will win.

What we tend to lack, at times, is motivation. From time to time, we become complacent with our place in the world. We're the big dogs... And? Then we're caught off-guard, and it spurs us to action once again.

Complacency is never a good thing. We saw it happen quickly after 9/11. As a nation, we seemed to forget that we'd been attacked and, yes, we were at war. Even now, we forget we are really at war. Maybe it's because we were told the best thing to do was to live our lives, or maybe it's because, in spite of what the anti-war protesters tell you, this war isn't nearly as barbaric as past wars. No matter what the reason, we have forgotten that there are people out there who only want to destroy us and bring us all into the subjugation of Islam.

In that complacency, however, there is also a confidence that is encouraging. Granted, not everyone is confident in our nation, but for those of us who haven't bought into the lie that we are to blame for all of the ills of the world, there is no doubt that, if the politicians just get out of the way, there is nothing that we can't do. We will win if given the means and opportunity.

It's a foregone conclusion, and in years to come, the date of our victory of the War of Terror will be a tiny memo on a wall calendar. And that's ok. It's what our nation does.

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