What do we remember and why?
Today is the 78th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Not a rounded-off number, so it won’t get the attention of, say, the 50th anniversary this summer of the Moon Landing on July 20, 1969.
It helps that a fair number of us were alive that day to remember watching it on grainy b&w T.V. Whereas, far fewer people alive today remember the utter shock of Pearl Harbor. Is it becoming a footnote?
Memories indelibly seared by JFK’s assassination are now collecting social security.
Who remembers Armistice Day, celebrating the end of World War One? Today the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” has been re-purposed into Veterans Day. Was that war to end all wars too ancient? There is no official observance of, for instance, the end of WW2 with the defeat of Japan on August 14-15, 1945.
Does America commemorate the firing on Fort Sumter that began the Civil War? (* Guess the date.) Isn’t that date even more portentous, given the casualties and the stakes (the end of slavery and preservation of the Union)? In any event, the attack on Pearl Harbor is not a national holiday as contrasted with Independence Day. What about Appomattox Courthouse?
⇒ The USA observes 10 federal holidays: New Year’s, Martin Luther King Jr., Washingtons birthday, Memorial Day, Independence, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veterans, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. (Nepal observes 36 but has a 6-day work week, followed by 21 in India.)
Lest we forget
Here is a thought exercise: What other events should we commemorate as more than trivia of the day? Perhaps officially but as a notch below a federal holiday, with no time off work. We’re looking at events so compelling that one remembers where one was at the time, that resonate still and are likely to in the future.
• Pearl Harbor December 7, 1941. Will the date, indeed, “live in infamy”?
• D-Day on June 6, 1943. (Why does that anniversary get more attention than the defeat of Japan that ended World War 2 on August 15, 1945?)
• JFK’s assassination on November 22, 1963. (Is it the passage of time and memory that makes it more noted than Abraham Lincoln’s on April 14, 1865? Surely, a more consequential president.)
• Men on the moon July 20, 1969.
• 9/11 attacks in 2001 on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the downing of Flight 93. (But not the sinking of the Lusitania on May 7, 1915 that killed 1,198 and led to America’s entry into WW1.)
Other affecting occurrences seem less likely to survive living memory. The death of Princess Diana August 31, 1997. (A foreign potentate.) The space shuttle Challenger explosion of January 28, 1986. Nixon resigning on August 9, 1974. Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream” speech August 28, 1963. Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. (There’s been so much weather since.) Woodstock? The Beatles on Ed Sullivan?
(* Fort Sumter was fired upon on April 12-13, 1861).
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Is there just too much history? Is Christmas Day in danger like Columbus Day? What days should be added?