Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Tora! Tora! Tora!

“There don’t appear to be any Pearl Harbor survivors left in Bay County,” reads a line in this morning’s PCNH, “on this 75th anniversary of the attack.” It’s clear what it means. I know what it means. But it depends on how one sees, knows, feels, “survivor.” 

I’m a survivor of the War between the States, not a war veteran but a survivor. I remember when aged Confederate (and Union) veterans of our Civil War brought up the place of honor riding in open touring cars at the end of every parade up Harrison Avenue to our rousing cheers and applause. I remember when chills ran down your spine as you leapt to your feet cheering anytime a band broke into “Dixie.” I’m a survivor of all that was -- good now corrected and damned as bad -- in our Southern culture of the postwar era that lasted through my teen years. I remember the intense feelings, and my parents and grandparents’ certainties. Indeed my own certainties, what I knew and knew not that I knew not. I was eighteen or nineteen years old and away at college before I realized how wrong I was and in so many ways, and drifted away from my college fraternity with its flags and uniforms and pictures and songs and signs and symbols. 

This morning’s PCNH line is in error. There are lots of survivors, lots of us survivors of Pearl Harbor. I’m one, I’m a survivor. Pearl Harbor, and Hitler’s war declaration that immediately followed, left me what I am and who, whom, I hated, hate, hatred born at Pearl Harbor. “You’ve got to be taught” sings a line from South Pacific, “to hate and fear. You’ve got to be carefully taught,” and we were, and, soul damaging or even damning, never untaught, I do. It retreats, fades, thin, thinner decade by decade, but Pearl Harbor survivor or victim, I am who I am.

Class at Cove School in those war days always began with The Morning Devotional. Robert may remember the order, I don’t especially, but there was a Bible reading, and a prayer, and the pledge of allegiance -- beginning with the right hand over the heart, and as we recited "to the Flag" the arm was extended toward the Flag, palm-down. (In World War II, the salute too much resembled the Nazi salute, so it was changed to keep the right hand over the heart throughout, and I remember that change) -- and a patriotic song. One of our favorite songs was

As we go to meet the foe
As we did the Alamo

We will always remember
How they died for liberty
And go on to victory  

Pearl Harbor is history for some, not for me. I remember. I’m a survivor. I remember. I remember our consuming fury and avenging hatred and our raging determination, and that the cost to those we hated for this Day was total

The PCNH says that as far as is known, no observances are planned. My observance, remembrance, remembering, never leaves me. 


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