80 Years Ago Today Proves Friendship is Always Possible

“December 7, 1941; a day that will live infamy,” as President Roosevelt immortalized it before Congress the next day. The Japanese Empire conducted a surprise attack on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii and airfields around Oahu.

Roosevelt characterized the attack as “sudden” “determined” and “dastardly.” True enough it was.

Nearly four years later, embittered by years of hard war and the memory of December 7, The United States became the first and only nation to use atomic weaponry when it leveled the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

History looks at these events through a standard lens. I’d like to shine a different light on them today by asking a non-standard question. Why don’t The United States and Japan absolutely despise each other?

There are peoples on this planet who have maintained a violent and hate-filled relationship for far longer than 80 years and with far less reason to do so than these two nations. Instead, you’d be hard-pressed to find two nations that are closer friends or allies today.

It could be argued, with some validity, that decades of economic cooperation and now a common perceived threat in China have knitted these two countries together.

Yet, we should not diminish the significance of how two countries who did grievous harm to each other found a way to become friends.

This relationship puts to shame the excuses people have for maintaining their bigotry and anger at each other whether within nations or among nations.

Today you can visit Pearl Harbor, as I have multiple times, and sit in the documentary about December 7, 1941. You’ll find a crowd largely made up of Americans and the ever-present Japanese tourists in Hawaii. Together we sit in peace and friendship remembering one of the three days that bookmarked four years when our two nations exacted horrific costs upon each other.

Our friendship is an astounding achievement and one that can and should be replicated the world over.

Wherever you are on your journey today, may you find the strength and the courage to open the door to friendship.

Ray

The Water, the Rock, and the Maginot Line

After World War I, France built a massive line of fixed fortified concrete bunkers and walls. It was called the Maginot Line and it’s gone down as one of history’s great blunders. The goal was to prevent future invasions by Germany like the one in 1914.

The problem was the French were fighting the previous war and the Germans were preparing themselves to fight the next one. In a World War I framework, an adversary would have been crazy to conduct a frontal assault against the Maginot Line.

By 1940, when the Germans quickly overran France, the Germans simply flew their planes over it and drove their tanks around it. The massive fortification did nothing to defend France and their reliance upon it caused them not to otherwise prepare.

The stark imagery of this example has gone down in history as a metaphor of stolid, dogmatic thinking in the face of change.

Wisdom is adaptation to the moment. Fixed thinking, like the Maginot Line, is not up to facing new challenges.

A similar metaphor is that of the a rock and water. A rock is solid, strong, immovable. Water is soft and pliant. It goes over and around the rock. Watched for a day or a week, the rock appears to be winning the battle. It’s holding its ground and standing firm. However, come back in a year or five or fifty. Over time, the water will wear the rock into nothing.

New challenges require us to be agile and adaptive. We live in a world, especially now, that is not only experiencing massive change in this moment, but is nearing the birth of a very different world where many old paradigms are going to be tested.

If we don’t adapt, we can look forward to the fate of the rock and the Maginot Line.

If we work to understand the difference between immutable principles and merely habitual thinking, a very important distinction, we will find ways to navigate and thrive in this new world.

Better days are ahead for humanity, if we’re smart, flexible, and principled.

My grandmother lived from 1904 to 1988. When she was five, her family got into a horse-drawn wagon and rode outside of town to observe the 1910 passing of Halley’s Comet. When she was 64, she witnessed a man walking on the moon.

Wagon thinking would never have gotten us to the moon in six decades. New thinking was required.

It’s very likely that in two or three decades our world will be more advanced and changed relative to today than 1969 was to 1910.

That kind of change holds both peril and opportunity. Who will we be? Will our technology run us or will we use our technology to benefit humanity in ways never before imagined? Will power and wealth be held in fewer a fewer hands or will we finally create an egalitarian society where our genius meets our basic needs and we have the freedom to explore our highest aspirations?

I don’t and I won’t let this moment get me down. We’re going through the growing pains of massive transformation. Whether it is to the benefit or detriment of most human beings is being decided, as tomorrow always is, by our thoughts, words, and actions today.

Stay safe. Stay well. Amazing things are on the way! Oh, and by the way, just in case no one else has reminded you today, you are awesome!


Ray