|December 8, 2009|
|Pearl Harbor, USS Maine, 9/11 Recede|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|America remembers the anniversary of Pearl Harbor today, scene of the horrific Japanese sneak attack that took more than 2,400 U.S. lives. The question: how much longer will that memory last? |
It is no secret that the "Greatest Generation" is quickly passing on. Even their kids are beginning to die out. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Day that will Live in Infamy" is much less infamous among today's young people. To them, the event of 68 years ago might as well as happened in ancient Rome.
That's a shame but it's part of what makes America great: the idea of moving ahead rather than dwelling on the past.
Edward Bernays, the "father of PR," once told me how as a young boy growing up in New York City -- the family of Vienna-born Bernays moved to New York when he was one -- he and other kids would run up and down the streets, screaming "Remember the Maine. To Hell with Spain."
They were raising a ruckus over the bombing of the USS Maine in Havana Harbor. That fireball killed 252 sailors, precipitating the Spanish-American War. The explosion, whose origin remains questionable, occurred on Feb. 15, 1898 when Bernays was seven.
When we spoke in 1992, Bernays was 101. He vividly remembered the reaction to the attack as if it happened the day before. He recalled the yellow journalism that hyped the Maine bombing and swelled war fever in New York. Bernays, to me, sounded as if he was from Mars.
The same fate is bound to happen to 9/11, a much more recent day of infamy. How long will it take before that horrible day becomes as little remembered as February 15 or December 7?
New Yorkers are finally seeing some construction progress in the hole that was the World Trade Center, where 2,752 of the 2,976 September 11 victims in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania perished. Psychic scars are healing. "Never Forget 911" stickers are peeling from the bumpers of "super patriots." The new WTC complex will get built. New Yorkers will move on.
President Obama says we are escalating America's involvement in Afghanistan because that is where the 9/11 terror plotters came from. Osama bin Laden and his henchmen did indeed train in Afghanistan, but they have long left.
The Pentagon estimates there is a core of only 100 Al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. It is hard to justify such a U.S. ramp-up for a tiny band of terrorists. The president needs a new narrative for Afghanistan. The 9/11 connection isn't cutting it especially among younger Americans who are leading the opposition to the build-up in Afghanistan.
Public support for American involvement will continue to wither unless Obama explains why we are still there. His West Point speech didn't connect those dots.
(Image via Skyways.org)
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