North Shore Notes

Pearl Harbor

Harry Drabik

I think it fair enough to say I came into being because of Pearl Harbor. The consequence was not direct or immediate, but for those born in the WWII era being a product of the war is a common condition. Crisis and tragedy are stimuli potent as flowers, candy, and candle lit dinners. Threat of death often moves people to creativity and to pro-creativity. Wars give as well as take. War is not a manner of giving we prefer, but it is certainly among the ones that have stirred mankind to new invention. I think it could be argued that preferring to survive humankind has found ways to neutralize or destroy threats to peace and wellbeing. Of course, there are some who have (and still do) simply like to exercise power by killing “enemies” as they find them. It’s sad, but there is no shortage of hateful doctrine or those eager to employ and benefit by it.

Recalling Pearl Harbor in this era is like recalling Gettysburg in the past century. The successful use of large scale military machinery seems as ancient and ineffective as marching lines of rank and file to stand and fire on “fields of glory.” The biggest battleship we could build would not counter the ongoing threats of guerilla or terror warfare done by zealots fed page-on-page with passages of hate. The problem (it seems to me) is a very old one kept alive by the sorry habit of misguided individuality putting some agenda, scripture, kinship, or etc. ahead of the larger family of man. But, by nature a fanatic sees the small picture where they and what they hold true are all that matter. Pearl Harbor was a product of a belief that Japan had a divine right to bring the four corners of the world under the banner of the rising sun. Much the same result comes to be if the banner is called a communist collective or a theocratic caliphate. Each and every bit of politics or religion I’d call nasty has a common theme of saying a narrow theory or revelation is of more worth than a living human being.

By inclination I think I fit being called a humanist, though I think not of the soft, cuddly sort aglow with peace and love. I know there are those out there who would enact another Pearl Harbor for the cause of their own holy war. I don’t like the thought, but certain ideologies and those honoring them are as dangerous today as the rising sun was in its period of expansion. In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor a reaffirmation of American values was given by FDR in his Four Freedoms speech. I recommend you take a look at it as an example of careful wording. FDR was wise to say Freedom of Expression because expression is larger than speech. And he was far sighted to say Freedom of Worship. There, too, worship is a term larger than Freedom of Religion that is usually and very often incorrectly used. Worship is a private matter. As a human right it allows worship (or honor, etc.) of freedom or of humanity. For the things that matter to me (and following FDR’s vision apply to all of humanity) affirm human rights, which is a far cry from taking them away as some beliefs insist on first and foremost. When human rights are contested of threatened I’d put myself at risk in their defense as I’d never do for the sake of an imaginary heavenly being indifferent (and thereby inept) as a ruler. To protect and defend human rights I’m prepared to tell those small minded believers precisely where and how to get off. It’s not my job to help narrow minded zealots feel good about their fanaticism. Telling a fanatic they are an idiot seems quite kind compared to what they have in mind, so please, no advice or lectures on understanding my fellows, especially those who make no effort to do likewise. They should get the kick in the ass they deserve.

I wonder if you agree that whether it is politics or religion those who take their beliefs too seriously are a reliable source of trouble. This usually means narrow definitions, strict following of tradition or “accepted” dogma, and most horrible of all --- no sense of humor. You can’t look at humanity and not imagine that if it had a “creator” that deity did not have one hell of a sense of the ridiculous. To paraphrase Sam Clemens, “God made man because the monkey was a disappointment.”

I confess personal fondness of December seven because of a story I like to tell about that date and a woman named Pearl (possibly Finnish with a last name of Maki) getting bombed in Two Harbors. It is a silly story but people say I’m insensitive to tell an ethnic joke. They are talking to a Polack so their work is cut out. The Pole could give Mr. Clemens a good run. My grandfather used to counsel me “Be stupid like a fox.” That’s as ethnic a bit of humor as you’re apt to find. He would also say I was good for two things; nothing was one with shit being the other. It’s not hysterical, but it is funny because the old guy was trying to be amusing and not succeeding. Grandfather’s comedy fell flat on its face more often than a borsch belt comedian took a pratfall. To make up for these flops he’d get out the “fiddle” and treat the family Polish folk tunes that sounded like cats dying in agony. In the communist era a Polish factory worker outside Krakow told me with a wry nod, “They pretend to pay so we pretend to work and that way everyone is made happy.”

Maybe instead  of philosophizing I should stick to casting aspersions at Canadians. Sad to say too few will know what in hell that means, eh?