“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.