M. Samantha Kinsley
SPECIAL TO THINK & ASK
Even after horrific, life altering events...people forget.
Even after new, patriotic American traditions evolve, people forget.
By late afternoon of December 7, 1941, if you were to have told any God-fearing, country-loving American that in less than 50 years, most of his family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors would be buying cars and electronic gadgets made in Japan -- the person would have thought you were insane.
But people forget. They forget that Japan launched a sneak attack (and the beginning of America's involvement in World War II) by bombing Pearl Harbor and killing 2,388 military service personnel. They forget because they want to believe that they have forgiven, so that any time they visit their local sushi bar, they're doing so, because they've forgiven -- not forgotten. But people forget.
Killing military personnel has become a sort of rite of passage in the modern world. Every day, people forget how many of our soldiers are murdered in Iraq and even Afghanistan. Yes, Afghanistan. Remember Afghanistan? We're still in that unsettling place. But since the war on terror has switched over a couple of countries, people forget that our military personnel are still stationed in the violent and unpredictable land of Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was a distant and unfortunate place that most of us learned about in history books and from random news reports when Russia invaded, but most have forgotten about that mistake too. But people forget too that most school children only knew the location of Afghanistan after 9-11.
It's easy to forget when you live in the greatest, most plentiful country in the world. But in a few days, we will mark four years after the morning that birthed a beautiful baby blue sky that cannot be described by mere words on a screen. You had to see the sky that morning to understand its beauty. But the beauty of the morning of Tuesday, September 11, 2001 was quickly turned to burning buildings and crushing piles of debris and suffering when two planes crashed their way into the Towers.
It was only the beginning, don't forget, as nearly 3,000 people perished. What is the death toll now?
In the days and weeks after the attacks, New Yorkers became some of the most patriotic people on the planet. Tiny American flags began to pop up on almost all car antennas in New York and surrounding boroughs. Stereotyped for their harsh, cold behavior, New Yorkers were found to be more friendly and warm; people were concerned about neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers on the street. But people forget. And as their tiny American flags blew into the winter months of 2002, their flags, along with their patriotism, became tattered and faded. Memories of the atrocities that occurred on 9-11 grew more distant. People allowed these ratty flags to remain on their cars until someone invented something better, something different, something more American: Magnetic red, white, and blue all-purpose, all-weather ribbons.
The tattered flags and unenthusiastic patriotism were again re-birthed. And nothing was more American than capitalizing on a tragedy than selling patriotism for a profit. It's been done in the past --war bonds-- and since we obviously do not learn from our mistakes, it will continue to happen. The brilliant makers of the magnetic red, white, and blue ribbons have also profited by making yellow ribbons for our forgotten soldiers of war. Profiting from others' losses has become a new American past-time; by making money from the pain and suffering of others, these 21st century entrepreneurs are living the true American Dream.
The idea of that dream is what encouraged our ancestors to sail across the Atlantic. And it's what our forefathers would have wanted for us had we not used the horrific events of 9-11 to profit for our own means. But people forget. They forget about the battles that were fought with the British; the battles between brothers and fathers in the North and the South; the battles that we fight every day to live in a free society given to us by those ancestors. If they had known then what we take for granted today, would they have made the sacrifices for us?
If we could somehow magically spend one-day in the life of a consumer in year 2065 would we be compelled to sacrifice for them now? Would be afraid to know? Will sacrifices made today ensure the safe, peaceful, terror-free lands in 2065 that we are told will be? How is that possible when people forget?
The next time you buy a hand-held device made in Japan, can you be sure that in 50 years our children's children won't be buying the latest gadget from al Qaeda?
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