Thursday, December 07, 2006

December 7, 2006

Sixty-five years ago, a country that arguably no longer exists bombed a country that has drastically changed, causing the two countries to go to war against each other and their allies, and bringing the longest-serving leader of the bombed country to issue that now-famous (in America) phrase, "A date that will live in infamy."

But how famous/infamous is the day (12/07)? I looked up December 7th on Wikipedia, and found that...
  • 2048 years ago (apparently), Cicero died.
  • 230 years ago the Marquis de Lafayette tried to join the newly-formed American army as a major general.
  • 219 years ago, Delaware became a state.
  • 143 years ago, Richard Sears (founder of Sears) was born.
  • 89 years ago, the United States declared war on Austria-Hungary
  • 78 years ago, linguist Noam Chomsky was born.
  • 57 years ago, the Republic of China moved its capitol city from Nanking to Taipei.
  • 50 years ago, basketball star Larry Bird was born.
  • 41 years ago, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras "dis-"excommunicate the other's office that had been in place for the previous 911 years (12 years before the Battle of Hastings took place)
  • 34 years ago, Apollo 17 (the last US lunar mission) took the "Blue Marble" photo of earth.
  • 31 years ago, Indonesia invaded East Timor.
  • 24 years ago, Galileo spacecraft arrived at Jupiter.
A lot of other stuff happened on this date, but I can't be bothered listing them. All-in-all, discussion of the bombing of a naval base in a far-flung territory of an up-and-coming world power by another up-and-coming world power happened. The "date that would live in infamy" appears to be as much as famous/infamous as any other day when the context of the year is removed. But this is obvious.

I don't think that the attack on Pearl Harbor is remembered in Japan anymore. Indeed, a search on the MSN/Mainichi News search engine, "Pearl Harbor" comes up with links to the movie, the wikipedia entry, and the online tour of the museum. As I said at the start of this piece, the nation of "Imperial Japan" no longer exists. It is effectively as dead as the nation of "National Socialist Germany". The fact that they both are called "Japan" and "Germany" are merely a recognition of the people that live there, rather than the political identity of that nation.

In this way, I would say that the understanding of the differences between Imperial Japan and modern-day Japan are a gulf that one would find difficulty shooting a cannonball over, just as the Imperial Japan of the early 1900s was a different country from the Shogun-controlled Imperial Japan from the early 1800s. One could similarly say that the United States post Civil War was a different country than the one that existed even two generations.

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