Yesterday, December 7, 1941 — a date which will live in infamy — the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt
“A date which will live in infamy.”
Except it hasn’t, and that’s a shame.
I’m not old enough to remember Pearl Harbor; that was my father’s generation, and my family was not directly impacted by the events that transpired there. But as a retired newspaperman who designed thousands of front pages over a 33 year career, I was intimately acquainted with Pearl Harbor Day.
During my career — at least for the majority of it when paper, ink and editors were still relevant — Pearl Harbor had a presence on page one whenever Dec. 7 rolled around, without exception. But a quick Sunday morning hopscotch via Google to newspaper sites around the country reveals relatively few mentions of the day, and what I found took a protracted search.
I get it. Not a lot of those men and women are left standing, and media outlets must reflect what is relevant for people who are still walking around, voting, spending and tweeting in the 21st Century. Yes, I get it, but it’s not right.
Dec. 7, 1941 marks a turning point in our nation’s history, and shame on our society — and shame on mass media — for starting to allow its significance to sink deeper into the history books than the USS Arizona sank beneath the blood-tinged blue of the Pacific.
As they say, time marches on, and already there are young adults in this country for whom Sept. 11, 2001 is no longer significant.
That’s why this morning, Dec. 7, 2014, I’m reminded not just of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “date which will live in infamy” speech, but also these words from George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”