Don’t Worry…Big Brother Is Here

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The town of Mt. Pleasant, SC, is across the river/estuary from Charleston, SC. It is a fairly small suburb, containing both the old, historic houses near the waterline and newer structures in other places. It is a blend of old and new…a study, if you will, in contrasts.

I took today’s photo when we were on our way aboard a ship to visit Fort Sumter. The boat left from Mt. Pleasant and headed around the nearby marina to make its way to the fort in the middle of the bay that leads to Charleston.

The ferry started from a dock that was right by the USS Yorktown, a carrier that is retired and is now a floating museum of sorts. It contains aircraft on its flight deck, the Congressional Medal of Honor museum on the hanger deck and various other photographic and video displays about the ship and where she served.

As with any aircraft carrier – it is impressive in size. It isn’t as large as the carriers being built today, but it’s not of a size that you could put it into your bathtub, either!  And so, as we rounded the marina on our way out to the fort, I looked back toward where we’d come from and caught today’s photo. All the smaller boats in the marina stood in start contrast to the sheer size of the Yorktown. I couldn’t help but thinking of a bunch of baby ducklings or goslings swimming along behind a much larger parent…and feeling comforted that big brother was nearby. Oh, and just in case you’re wondering, the other large ship toward the right in the photo is a destroyer…again dwarfed by Big Brother.

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: In keeping with today’s photo, on this day in 1941, the day after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan in perhaps the most memorable speech of his career. The speech, in which he called Japan’s act a “deliberate deception,” received thunderous applause from Congress and, soon after, the United States officially entered the Second World War.

The day before, Japanese pilots had bombed the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, decimating the majority of U.S. warships in the Pacific Fleet along with most of the Air Corps and Navy aircraft stationed on the island of Oahu. The bombing raids killed 2,403 people, including 68 civilians, and wounded almost 1,200.

Although Roosevelt and his advisors had received intelligence reports indicating an imminent attack by Japan days before, he had hoped that Japanese and American diplomats, then negotiating in Washington, would come to a peaceful solution. He was incensed to realize that while American and Japanese diplomats engaged in negotiations (over Japan’s recent military actions in China and elsewhere in the Pacific), Japanese aircraft carriers had been steaming toward Hawaii intent on attack. His words on December 8 relayed his personal indignation and fury.

Roosevelt had already proven his oratorical skills during the Great Depression when his “fireside chats” rallied the nation’s morale. The same president who once said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” declared with equal conviction that the nation “would never forget the character of [Japan’s] onslaught against us” and vowed that the “unbounding determination of our people… will gain the inevitable triumph—so help us God.”

The stirring speech was hardly necessary—Congress and millions of Americans, who had been hearing details of the attack in the news, shared the president’s outrage and commitment to defending the nation. Young men flocked to armed forces recruiting stations the next day and both houses of Congress quickly voted to declare war on Japan, with only one dissenting vote, that of Montanan Jeanette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and a dedicated lifelong pacifist. She was the only member of Congress to vote against U.S. involvement in both World Wars, having been among those who voted against American entry into World War I nearly a quarter of a century earlier.

Rankin, however, believed that Roosevelt deliberately provoked the Japanese to attack because he wanted to bring the U.S. into the European war against Germany; she was determined not to cooperate with the president’s plan. After a 40-minute debate on the floor of the House, a roll call vote began. When her turn came, Rankin stood and said, “As a woman, I can’t go to war and I refuse to send anyone else.”

Rankin was vilified in the press, accused of disloyalty, and called “Japanette Rankin,” among other impolite names. She stood her ground, however, and never apologized for her vote.

When her term neared completion two years later, Rankin was certain she would not win re-election and chose not to run again. She continued to be an active advocate for pacifism, and led a campaign against the Vietnam War in 1968 when she was 87 years old.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: the decapitated head of a dead snake can still bite, even hours after death. These types of bites usually contain huge amounts of venom.

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