What is the “day that will live in infamy?” Pearl Harbor Day. Quickly – what is the date? I’ll admit it. I had to look up the year even though that day led us into World War II. It was the worst event in the collective American memory….until 2001.
There are all kinds of theories surrounding both attacks, claiming that the US government knew that they were coming, but allowed them to happen because the government needed an event that would justify war. Maybe. Maybe not. I don’t know and, frankly, I don’t care. My thoughts today are on our memories.
It was the worst day in the history of our nation, said many. Now, 78 years later, most middle-aged Americans can’t tell you what that date was. Young American adults my son’s age REALLY can’t tell you. We don’t remember. The horror has faded. For many of us, that horror was replaced in 2001. That infamous day won’t suffer Pearl Harbor’s Day fate if only because it’s impossible to forget the date of the September 11 attacks. But, my grandchildren, in middle-age, may have to look up the year.
It’s a fine line, isn’t it, both personally and collectively? How long do we remember hurts, slights and attacks and in what way do we remember them? Do we remember them forever and allow them to embitter us? Do we remember them forever just so that we can avoid the experience again? Do we forget about them and move on?
How many of our political nightmares are the remnants of centuries old wrongs? The Irish only recently stopped killing each other over actions that began with James II in 1687, but really got cranked up in 1919. Roots of issues within the Middle East go back literally to the Bronze Age. For issues between the West and the Middle East, cast your eye back to The Crusades, at least. These are not new conflicts. They are very, very old ones that have claimed the people who once claimed them and the conflicts continue to kill. And, for what? Clearly, I don’t get it.
That’s the macro view. For a micro view, there’s the sociopath who lied to get me fired, the man who married someone else while we were dating or the one who threw me away. The very mention of some people’s names causes my stomach to burn and these events happened decades ago! How stupid is that?
If I hang onto those hurts, who suffers? I do. Those people have moved on. They probably don’t even remember the incidents that make my blood pressure rise. So, I ask again, who suffers?
I stayed fat to be invisible. I punished myself with food. I committed slow suicide with cigarettes. And with every bite, with every puff, I gave them more of my life. And, guess what? They didn’t care then, either.
So, it’s time to forget our old Days of Infamy. It’s time to learn the lesson, but let the horror fade. It’s time to live our lives in ways that are best for us and for those around us. Easier said than done, it’s crucial for, until we let go of that hurt, we continue punishing ourselves and we deserve better than that.