Stop for a moment. Be very still. Shut out the sights and sounds of the world around you. Are you there? Now, recall where you were when the planes hit the World Trade Center. How did you feel? Afraid? Shocked?
Almost thirty years ago, I remember my wife screaming for me to come out of the bathroom to the living room. “They’ve blown it all up!” she said. I watched in horror as that bifurcated plume of rocket exhaust proved the Challenger space shuttle had exploded shortly after take off with a school teacher on board.
Some of us can recall an even more shocking moment. I confess that I was but a small child, but talk to anyone over the age of 65 and they can tell you exactly what they were doing and where they were the moment President John F. Kennedy was shot. Fifty years have passed and still the grim and horrifying jerky images of the Zapruder film signaled an end to Camelot; an end to America at its greatest.
But, sadly, there are fewer and fewer Americans alive today who recall when they heard the news that Pearl Harbor had been attacked on December 7, 1941. My parents lived through the Great Depression and moved to a large city from a failing farm in the early 1940’s. They are both passed on now, but their stories of the fear and dread they felt when they learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor eclipsed any fear I have experienced since then.
Today, now 72 years later, our memories of that attack have faded and have suffered from the reconstruction of history. Japan is no longer our enemy. Hawaii is no longer a territory and has become the default tourist destination for many Americans. It is difficult for us to fathom the enormity of the defeat of the American fleet on that day. In our day of drones and laser tagged missile attacks and cyber warfare, this kind of attack is unthinkable.
So, pause for a moment and remember the men and women who died that day in a sudden, underserved attack by the Empire of Japan. Stop and recall whatever tiny bit of shock and awe you may have felt in the past few years at other attacks on our country. Be still and say a prayer for our country; say a word of thanks for the men and women who daily put their lives on the line for our freedom.
You see we are free. Freedom and liberty have driven the metamorphosis of our country into what it has become today. Most of those men and women who died that day in Pearl Harbor would not recognize modern America. It would be more foreign to them than any of the enemy countries they fought to defeat. But, there is no dispute in the fact that they would lay down those lives again if it meant protecting the freedom and liberty that has allowed us to grow into the country we are today, good or bad. Let us not take that liberty for granted. For, tomorrow, there could very well be an attack on our country more heinous and more devastating than Pearl Harbor. The question we must ask ourselves:
Do we have what it takes to face such a challenge as did those who fought the Great War against a world filled with evil and death? Let us hope that we do not forget these lessons of history. As Ravi Zacharias once said, “the only thing worse than nostalgia is amnesia.”
To the World War II veterans who have gone on to their reward and to the veterans who still live with those bitter memories, we salute you. Thank you for fighting and dying for our liberty. May we NEVER forget!
We are approaching the 50th anniversary of the longest running science fiction television series, Doctor Who. My daughter, Casey, got me hooked on the new Doctor Who back in 2007 and now, my entire family is hooked on Who. I decided to go back and find the original episodes of the very first Doctor Who (he has regenerated 11 times since then) in black and white on youtube. In the first episode from 1963, Barbara, a reluctant passenger on the TARDIS (the Doctor’s spaceship) is captured by cavemen when they travel back in time to early Earth. During a pivotal scene, two rival leaders of the cave people fight. Their battle is brutal as would be expected from cavemen. At the pivotal point, the winning caveman bashes the other one’s head in with a rock. A close up of Barbara fills the screen and she turns her head away from the ghastly sight.
She turns her head away. Why? Because what she is seeing is so horrific, so appalling it is beyond thought; beyond consideration. It brought to mind that many of the shows from the 1960s have key moments when someone is so horrified they cannot bear to look. They turn their face away. They deny the evidence of their own eyes!
Fast forward to to the present. When was the last time I saw someone turn their gaze away from something because it was too ghastly to consider? Rather, what I have observed in the present is the opposite. Characters stare wide eyed and enthralled by the horrific sights they see. It is as if they cannot tear their gaze away from what is before them. In fact, many of the characters in today’s shows act rather blasé or fascinated by what they see. It is as if the capacity to be appalled, shocked, horrified no longer exists. Have we become too desensitized to the macabre, the horrible, the dead?
I asked my son, Sean, (age 28) for his thoughts on growing up in a culture that can no longer be horrified. Here is his incredible response as he reflects on a growing unease he has been feeling for months:
I’ve been chasing down this unease for months, at least since Hutchmoot, but the roots go back for years, easily into my college experience. I hope it’s not as pretentious as it sounds to say that I’m sketching out my worldview, because that’s how I can best trace the steps that lead me to a response – not just to desensitization or to political bile, but to the world, our Lord and the call to discipleship.
So what, then, is the world’s great need?
I’ve seen two trends: one over the course of my adult life and one stretching further back over my 28 years here. Over the past ten years, the information infrastructure of the whole world has been transformed – practically rewritten. For the first time in history, people of similar interest or temperament can share information and connect with one another regardless of geographic, social or cultural boundaries. As information multiplies, information and communications technologies allow tribes to form around every interest imaginable. The shift is value-agnostic : it allows people to affirm and solidify one another’s views, good or terrible, mainstream or fringe.
The upshot is two-fold. First, formulated worldviews are more numerous and extensively-documented and communicated than at any other time in human history. The Meta-Narrative windshield has been smashed, and we are looking at the thousands of fractal worldviews scattered around, crash-proof enough to still be distinguishable in the mess. Second, as a result, people are more aware than ever of this mess. At least subconsciously, we all recognize this diversity and acknowledge a need for co-existence to survive.
Second, since I was a child, the dominant language of social competition, of the interplay of ideas, has grown increasingly violent, increasingly personal and increasingly polarized. Being confrontational, once a rare tactic deployed when all else had failed, is now standard political and argumentation style. We have abandoned deliberation in an arms race to do the most harm in the fewest number of words. This adversarial frame dictates that all arguments are fights, that every fight has (close to) two sides, and that one side must win by destroying its opposite.
It is not logic, but rather a perversion of it: what was once about disagreement and discovery of truth is now a border skirmish between worldviews, a war whose casualties are multiplied by our newfound globalized tribalism. Our civil discourse doesn’t resemble an agora so much as a lynching, where the mob that’s the biggest puts to death those whose identities are different. We have returned to the era of foreign wars, of colonies and dynasties and unchecked power and ambition. In the absence of a common language, our confused interchanges know only one solid verb: to kill. This limitation frames our interpersonal struggles as a zero-sum game, a war of survival: family against family, tribe against tribe; ‘her desire shall be for him but he shall rule over her.’
But Jesus’ blood can mend even this.
I’ll stop for now and leave all of us with one thought. When Jesus of Nazareth; God in man form hung upon the cross, bloodied and dying his Divine self looked out from the dimensions of heaven and beheld his Son. God was so appalled; so horrified; so shocked by what He beheld — the sins of all time; the sins and wrong doings of all mankind from Adam’s first bite of the fruit to the horror that will end it all — every wrong and bad and awful thing and He could not look upon it; could not SEE it; could not abide it and God turned his face away!
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Matthew 27:45-46
Tomorrow, I will show you Sean’s answer to this question of violence in our world. If you are interested in featuring me on a radio talk show, I would love to grant an interview. I am speaking on two topics, “Why are we so fascinated with the undead?” and “Are Violent Video Games leading to Violent Behavior?” Use the contact tab to drop me an email and we’ll set something up!
My father walked through the darkness of the railroad yard. This was not the world he had wanted to live in. But, his farm was a bust and my mother had convinced him it was time to leave the country and move to the city of Shreveport and find a job. They had two children to raise; four mouths to feed and the Depression had been devastating on the farm.
My father came to the city and they moved into a house on Buckner Street along with other relatives. Life was hard but at least working for the railroad, my father had a steady paycheck. The one drawback was the hours: he had the graveyard shift. Now, he walked through the darkness toward the bus ride back into the city and to home. The railroad yard was filled with hulking, sometimes rusting railroad cars crouched on their tracks. This land was alien to my father; nothing at all like the rolling hills of Saline, Louisiana with its fertile soil and towering pines. His heart raced with anxiety as he stumbled over the tracks and dodged around the railroad cars. And then, the ground opened up beneath him and he was falling through darkness into shadow. He hit the ground and rolled and found himself in one of the maintenance pits over which railroad cars were driven to work on their undersides. He realized if he had hit his head or broken an leg, he might have stayed there until he died. He climbed painfully out of the pit of darkness and despair and resolved to find a better job.
My uncle Marvin was a unique individual. He was tall and round with a cherubic face and a quick wit. When he would call the house I would say, “Hello?” and he would answer “Is that you?” I was always confused around him. But, he worked for the Post Office and the next day spoke to my father about filling a position at the Post Office. Normal hours. No pits to fall in. Paper cuts galore, but my father could deal with that. He took the job much to my mother’s relief. They were NOT going back to the farm.
1941 came quickly and Thanksgiving was a time for true thanks. My father, mother, sister, and brother had a home; food on the table; and my father had a job he could more than tolerate. My father still longed for the farm but my mother was unrelenting. Over the past few months, sisters and brothers had come through the house on Buckner Street for brief stents as they found jobs in Shreveport. The world was changing. War occupied most of Europe and the country folk were being drawn into the war to end all wars. Fresh faced young men whose life was walking behind a plow and a mule were faced with the prospect of going across the ocean to a world they could not begin to imagine. Shreveport, a growing city in northwestern Louisiana was foreign enough.
And then, December 7, 1941 came. My father and Mother learned of the attack on Pearl Harbor after church. They were terrified. The United States was now officially in the war. What would become of our country? What would become of the uncles who were even now being drafted into the armed forces? What would happen to my father? He was twenty seven when the war broke out. But, because he worked for the federal government at the Post Office, he was not on the first list of draftees. Most men didn’t have to be drafted. They volunteered. The attack on the United States was horrific and these men, fresh from the farm, wanted revenge.
In June 1942, shortly after my father turned twenty eight, he was drafted. He was thirty days away from being sent off to Europe. He had thirty days to get his affairs in order; to insure my mother and brother and sister would be okay while he was overseas. At the last minute, with only two days left until he was deployed, the Unites States government lowered the age of draftees to twenty six. My father didn’t have to go and stayed with the Post Office. My uncles were lucky. they survived events like the Battle of the Bulge and came back to the country after the war. But, my father tells me the world changed forever on December 7th. It changed for my family and it changed for my nation.
Six years ago, I immortalized my parents’ story in the play, “The Homecoming Tree”. It was performed three consecutive nights at Brookwood Baptist Church in November, 1995. It is the story of that house on Buckner Street and the men, women, and children who lived there at the beginning of World War II. It tells the story of a young boy, age 13 and his coming of age when he realizes his father may not come home from Pearl Harbor and he has to become “the man of the house”. This coming of age is represented by the boy cutting down the family Christmas tree by himself.
In writing, producing, and directing this play, I was able to honor my father and his extended family and the sacrifice of their incredible generation for our personal freedom. We no longer know what it means to be “the man of the house”. Most men today abandon their families to find their personal identity; to discover themselves often in the arms of a younger woman or in the throes of drugs and alcohol. Most families do not resemble the nuclear family of the forties. And, it is certain, that most households have no idea of God and country; of self sacrifice and dying for what you believe in. Truth is, most of us now believe in ourselves and therefore we are dying for ourselves with overindulgence, personal selfishness, lack of manners, rampant consumerism, and would never consider sacrificing our lives for a principle or a value. The exception are those valiant men and women who still understand the necessity of defending the freedom this country still represents, albeit weakly, to a world that no longer regards the United States as a great country.
On this day, the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I want to ask everyone to revisit that event; to talk to a veteran; to examine the cost of their ability to sit in front of a computer and have total, unfettered access to a world of information — true freedom. Freedom is NOT free. It cost thousands their lives on this day seventy years ago. And we must take up the torch of self sacrifice and keep the fire burning if for no other reason than to honor them. Honor a member of our armed forces today. Stop, shake their hand and look them in the eye and say, “Thank You.” There is no better way to remember Pearl Harbor!