“Pride cometh before a fall” – of all of my Mom’s wisdom, I remember this expression more than any other.
As we remember Pearl Harbor Day it is really important that we never forget that that disaster resulted to a great extent from an American ego that was built upon a misguided belief that the Japanese were inferior to Americans and wouldn’t possibly attack us. After all we were, in own minds, the most powerful nation in the world. History disagrees.
After World War I we disarmed and disengaged from world politics. We were isolated by two great oceans and the bitter experiences of the first World War and the Great Depression drove our psyche. We were safe; why should we worry about those warlike Europeans or those inferior Japanese? In part, the result of our disengagement, was the great disaster in Hawaii and then four years of the most destructive war in world history.
Ironically we see some of the same signs in American thought processes today. We unilaterally have chosen to disarm, we have forgotten the lessons of the last great war as we disengage from world problems, we have forgotten that we are, in contrast to most other countries, truly exceptional. We Americans literally saved the world from dictators and, though it took us almost fifty years to defeat the Soviet Empire, made the world safe for freedom and its promise of prosperity.
As we salute those brave men and women who perished in World War II, we must not lose sight of the lessons of their sacrifice. History is prologue and we must understand that American exceptionalism is real but that it comes with a price. That price is that being exceptional requires that we use that exceptionalism to ensure that the world is truly safe for democracy.