Seventy-eight years ago, the Japanese attacked the United State defenses in Pearl Harbor. The attack convinced a reluctant America to go to war against the enemies of democracy.
Japan’s surprise attack was a calculated effort to make sure that the US did not have the capacity to interfere with its plans to gain and keep control of Southern and Eastern Asia. It was a military and political plan that in hindsight was more tactical than strategic as it was overtaken by time that allowed for America to mobilize its people and resources for the long and wider war that ensued.
Unforeseen was the fact that in entering and leading the Western World to victory, the United States became the most powerful economic and military power on the globe. Its only viable opponent was the Soviet Union with its scary military but a weak economic structure that led to its demise 43 years later.
America as the sole superpower now provides leadership in a changing and uncertain world that has taken its toll on that leadership to the point that we are becoming less and less the central focus of global affairs. Our insistence on equality on the contribution to military and economic interaction with other countries goes further to diminish our status with friends and foes alike.
If we look closely to events that have led to this reality, we have only to consider the issues surrounding the second great attack of Americans on American soil that is 9/11. In contrast to the Pearl Harbor attack that took us on a path to become a superpower, 9/11 has ushered in a period of great division and self-doubt about our values as a country of immigrants.
Much of the source for the national condition we are living in can be attributed to the war on terror. Although President Bush tried to give that war a face by helping the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan defeat the Taliban or targeting Osama Bin Laden or invading Iraq, the reality is that terrorists are found around the world and can strike at any moment anywhere.
Unfortunately terrorism also has been given an Islamic face because it is fundamentalists from that faith that are most visible in giving a religious rationale for their violence. It is also true that terrorism is very pervasive in Islamic states and it is terrorist from Islamic countries that tend to be in the headlines in other parts of the world.
In the United States the most active terrorists come from the White community. Yet the stereotype associated with Islam is the focus of hatred and intolerance.
This world view is being increasingly assigned to minorities and people of color especially immigrants. During the 50’s and 60’s we had the “Red Scare” and now we have another convenient boogie man.
The fact is that terrorism is exacerbating the effects of great changes in American demography and the racial and ethnic side of these changes. “Make America Great Again” is a slogan that portrays a yearning for a status quo associated with a time when there was no question as to who ran things.
The 2,403 deaths at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 ushered in an America that became number 1 in the world. It awoke a sleeping giant that wanted to keep to itself and yet had to obey the call of destiny.
9/11 and its 2,996 deaths brought with it the realization that we were becoming less. This is the challenge of our time.