|AP file photo 1941 (available HERE)|
Sometimes, and for a little while, the political branches of the general government will be moved to legislate an importance to such events. And in the process will also seek to legislate its meaning. So it was that as the generation that lived through the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in the then fairly new territory of the Hawaiian Islands began to age and die in increasing numbers, Congress sought to legislate memory by enacting Public Law 103-308, as amended, designating December 7 of each year as “National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.” Much more advanced in its progress toward the hidden recesses of history has been the 8 December attack on facilities in the US territory of the Philippines on 8 December 1941 initiated within hours of the strike on Pearl Harbor and launched the invasion of the territory by Imperial ground troops (a remembrance here).
The text of the "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.” is worth reading from time to time and on no better day than this:
Public Law 103-308 103d Congress 36 USC 169. Joint Resolution Designating December 7 of each year as "National Pearl Harbor RemembrancePresidents have duly produced the required proclamation in the years since. They do not vary much within the terms of an administration. The 2020 Proclamation of Mr. Trump may be accessed here; compare the text of the 2012 Proclamation of mr. Obama HERE. Governors will usually then order flags flown at half staff (example here), and perhaps increasingly muted commemorations are held as the pool of those wil direct memories shrinks and their memories as well. Generally they follow the language of the Proclamation and explain it to suit the year, though usually in marginally different ways. But then, in how many different ways may one proclaim a day of remembrance for the dead during the course of an event that formally brought the United States into war with the Japanese Empire and thereafter with the German Reich? To what ends a reduction of the event to a (well deserved) commemoration of individual sacrifice quite precisely contextualized within history?
Aug. 23, 1994 Day".
[H.J. Res. 131] Whereas, on December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy and Air Force attacked units of the armed forces of the United States stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Whereas more than 2,000 citizens of the United States were killed and more than 1,000 citizens of the United States were wounded in the attack on Pearl Harbor; Whereas the attack on Pearl Harbor marked the entry of the United States into World War II; Whereas the veterans of World War II and all other people of the United States commemorate December 7 in remembrance of the attack on Pearl Harbor; and Whereas commemoration of the attack on Pearl Harbor will instill in all people of the United States a greater understanding and appreciation of the selfless sacrifice of the individuals who served in the armed forces of the United States during World War II: Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That December 7 of each year is designated as "National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day" and the President is authorized and requested— (1) to issue annually a proclamation calling on the people of the United States to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities; and (2) to urge all Federal agencies, and interested organizations, groups, and individuals, to fly the flag of the United States at halfstaff each December 7 in honor of the individuals who died as a result of their service at Pearl Harbor. Approved August 23, 1994.
Perhaps a way to think about the answer to these questions depends on the utility of key moments in history to those who manage the construction and reconstruction of national identity, national purpose, and national senses of one's place i the world and in relation to others. The Japanese Imperial attacks on Pearl Harbor, as part of its half century long effort to construct its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere then blocked by the Americans, has been overtaken by events. Japan is now a key American ally and a key partner in the development of economic and cultural globalization. The American war to reconstruct its own sense of its national volk has produced a refocus from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the incarceration of Japanese citizens and residents by the Americans after that start of the war. And Americans have cultivated a quite distinct and self critical view (or rather a war among its elites respecting the view) of militarism and imperialism especially after 11 September 2001. New forms of co-prosperity have been put forward since 1945; and these new models of co-prosperity keep coming to suit the times and the reach of those states with the power not just to conceive of new forms of such shared prosperity but of the ideological principles and power relations necessary to give them effect.