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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

The Politics of Hatred

On December 7th, 1941, with no declaration of war, Japanese planes attacked Pearl Harbor, devastating the U.S. Pacific fleet. In his address to the people of the United States, President Franklin Roosevelt denounced the 'sneak' attack as 'a day which will live in infamy'. For the Japanese, the twin goals of their action was to destroy American military capability in the Pacific, but mainly, through the sudden and overwhelming force of the assault, to break the will of the American people. The result was hardly what the Japanese had intended. Even Fleet Commander Nagumo, realizing they had missed the American aircraft carriers, commented, 'I fear that all we have accomplished is to awaken a sleeping giant, and fill him with a terrible resolve'. In the history of any nation, there are relatively few watershed events which define a people and a national character. For the United States, those would be the Revolution in 1776 and the subsequent establishment of the Constitution, the Civil War (1861-1865), which produced a greater loss of life than all other U.S. wars combined, and Pearl Harbor. And now, there is September 11th, 2001. The horrific attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., bear superficial similarities to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Both came without warning and with extreme violence, both resulted in massive loss of life, and both stunned the nation. But there the comparison stops.