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Of conflict and celebration

The United States naval base in Honolulu, Hawaii, had just been bombed by the Japanese. President Franklin Roosevelt used these famous words to describe that event: ‘Yesterday, Dec. 7, 1941 ‘ a date which will live in infamy.’ This gruesome attack propelled our country into the Second World War. Dec. 7, 2011, is the 70th anniversary of that terrible act.
We find ourselves standing in the midst of the holiday season. Our calendars are filling with parties, our stomachs with festive treats and our credit cards with charges for gifts. Where is the place for remembering and honoring valor and sacrifice in the face of horror?
There probably have been historic renderings of Santa Claus dressed in a military uniform, but we would scratch our heads if we saw one today. Maybe that is just what we should envision on this anniversary of Pearl Harbor at the threshold of a holiday season, as both the military (literally) and Santa (figuratively) each in their own way have assured that our way of life is enhanced and preserved.
I am a very peaceful and hopeful person, but I do think that ending the year with a religious holiday points out our need to face the fact that we are human ‘ human and flawed. If we weren’t, we wouldn’t need a god or a military. We could take care of things just fine by ourselves. But look at us. The economy is in the tank. The gap between the rich and the poor is growing. Our growth industry is often in the building of new prisons, and we can’t seem to eradicate drugs or diseases. Our divorce rates are up and adults still abuse children. We are ravaging our environment, and we decry our stab at a democracy. Now, folks, we aren’t doing so well, are we?!
Perhaps it is in just such times that we are awakened to our need to become an active part of what happens in this world. Let’s rethink the Pearl Harbor anniversary. Aggressive governments in Japan and Germany decided they should run the world for their own betterment. The entire United States rallied to protect our world from dictatorships. Citizens of all ages and skills pitched in to help the war effort. In these decisive times, people thought and acted beyond their own self interest. Those people and their actions of yesterday made our relatively comfortable lives today possible. If the heroes of past conflicts had not addressed the issues of their day, we would not be partying, giving school musical programs or wrapping gifts this holiday season.
The question that pierces my head and heart at this 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor is: Do we look at our enemies today and say ‘no more,’ or are we waiting for someone else to take care of things? Our biggest enemies today are what have always been: such traits as greed, hate, jealousy, self-centeredness, laziness, dishonesty and lack of self-confidence. All of these are personal qualities, and it is tempting to assume we could just go in a corner by ourselves and change our ways. But it doesn’t seem to work that way, does it?
As we go about our activities, ponder what human problems and holy holidays have in common. I think they go hand in hand. Without human flaws, we wouldn’t need holy holidays, and without holy holidays, we wouldn’t know that there is hope, if we seek to find it.
We celebrate anniversaries, even those which commemorate hard times, because they remind us that mankind has survived bad times throughout history, always by reaching beyond themselves to other people, to bigger causes and to spiritual guidance from God.