Remembering Lennon, and Trying Not to Forget Pearl Harbor

As we poked around for some blog posts about the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s death, it was striking how mundane or predictable so many were (reprinting the lyrics to “Imagine” and such). Then, Ann Althouse came through with a raw, honest, and very personal remembrance that stopped us in our tracks:

On the day I heard that John had died, I was a law student at NYU. I remember dragging myself in to the law review office and expecting everyone there to be crying and talking about it, but no one was saying anything at all. I never felt so alienated from my fellow law students as I did on that day. I was insecure enough to feel that I was being childish to be so caught up in the story of the death of a celebrity long past his prime.

I was especially sensitive about fitting in, because I was six months pregnant with my first child, and I worried that this experience was tearing me away from the career I had spent the last two and a half years studying to begin. I was 29 years old, older than most of the other law students. I doubted any of them had studied fine arts, my undergraduate major. With my age, my art school background, and my pregnancy, I was [an] imposter, constantly threatened with exposure. I couldn’t walk out on these people and go be with the mourners. I only watched the mourners on television and felt doubly sad.

As for anniversaries: anyone care to remember what December 7th was? That would be the 64th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The general media silence that greeted the occasion was a bit of a shock to us, considering the world historical significance of the date, and we weren’t alone. Silver’s Hands is none too happy about the situation, writing that “I did not see a single story in the paper about [Pearl Harbor.] However, today is the 25th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. That is the front page story in this morning’s paper … Why do we continue to venerate him while we forget the 2,000 sailors whose remains lie at the bottom of Pearl Harbor? In my cynical old age, I think it has everything to do with money. Lennon is still a commodity. The long-dead sailors have no commercial value.”

Other bloggers drew some very different lessons from Pearl Harbor, and the often forced relationship that day has to our present situation. Darren at Caravan 70 begins with some personal family history, writing that his grandparents lived in “Manoa Valley (just outside of Honolulu) at the time, and from what I’ve been told my grandfather was carrying my father in his arms when they looked up to see Japanese bombers flying overhead. It wasn’t long before smoke started to swell up from the harbor below and my grandfather consigned my father to his wife’s careful custody before driving down to try to help with the cleanup efforts.” He then turns to today: “We live in very different times now, and it’s maddening to have to watch television interviews with people who want to compare Pearl Harbor with the World Trade Center bombing (which was orchestrated by a group of extremists, not a sovereign nation), and, even more incredibly, our unilateral strike against Iraq.”

Pastor Louie Marsh on the other hand, has a praise-the-lord-and-pass-the ammunition take on it all. He writes that “Pearl Harbor seemed like a disaster at the time,” but “[h]istory gives us a very different view.”

Marsh then blasts people who whine about the death that war produces, opining, “WWII cost us 400,000 dead. Would this country be willing to pay that price for freedom today? Clearly not. Four years into the War on Terror and we’re incessantly whinning about 2000 tragic deaths in Iraq. More people than that died at Pearl Harbor, and on 9/11 as well.

“Our eventual fate as a free land will depend on our willingness and ability to stand fast and endure messy, bloody situations like Iraq.”

Makes us wonder if the good pastor is, say, a Marine Corps chaplain.

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Paul McLeary is senior editor of Defense Technology International magazine, and is a former CJR staffer.