It’s Time For America To Grow Up

Susan Page
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Wednesday - December 14, 2005
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Legendary World War II ace and Vietnam fighter pilot Brig. Gen. Robin Olds spoke at the annual benefit dinner for the soon-to-be-built Pacific Aviation Museum. Among other things he told a riveted audience that Americans must recognize our nation’s leadership role in the world; that throughout history one country has had to step up and after WWII it has been our job, whether we like it or not.

In essence, he was saying: Grow up, Americans. This message is one we rarely hear from politicians and the media. It got me thinking about being a grown-up in the true sense, like the “Greatest Generation” were grown-ups. Today’s elected officials and especially our news media, who seem to promote dangerously immature rhetoric, even silliness, pale in comparison to the sober, serious statesmen who held the responsibility of our nation’s security as sacred during the war against powerful enemies hellbent on totalitarian world domination.

At the same dinner, we heard the recollections of two gentlemen, Herb Frank and Ernest Olson, who were stationed at Ford Island on Dec. 7, 1941 and are featured in a powerfully moving video in which they relate what it felt like to suddenly be under attack that fateful morning when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor.

Ernest put it best when he described being a carefree, young 20-year-old sailor “chasing wahine,” then, after three horrific hours of chaos, death and destruction, he had to think about “becoming a man.” You could see, as his eyes filled, that he still carries the heaviness of that life-changing realization. The same boy-to-man rite of passage was soon felt by young men all across the United States as they volunteered by the thousands to fight. I imagine that every man (or woman) who goes to war feels that same sense of leaving childhood behind forever.

On that “infamous” December day in 1941, the eloquent and stirring words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt warned the world that the nation they regarded as a young upstart was up to the task of taking on and defeating a powerful enemy. And Americans rose to their leader’s challenge. They grew up fast. The country matured and was changed forever ... it was thought.

Members of Congress who have served in the military are diminishing rapidly. It’s now fewer than 30 percent but more significantly there are only 11 left who fought during WW II - including our Sen. Dan Inouye. It’s not necessarily military service that creates grownups - though it does engender discipline, a sense of duty and sacrifice - but society itself.

Since seeing my son in Japan last month, I’ve recognized a change in him. He’s now a professional with not only a combat tour under his belt, but the responsibility for a couple of dozen young Marines within his squadron. And he flies multi-million-dollar fighter jets. He’s clearly a grown-up, and I’m proud that he acts like one.

But the society he grew up in demanded little of him, unlike it did his dad or granddad. Since the social revolution of the late ‘60s “take your time, find yourself, do your own thing, live it up, do what feels good” has been the country’s commercial for young people. In the past 30 years we have regressed from a nation that expects the highest standards from our youth to one that expects little.

An immature national leadership and a reckless media can have serious national ramifications, especially when we are at war with another enemy - radical Islamists - hellbent on total-itarian world domination.

Imagine the Congressional leadership in WW II years announcing to the media a desire to quit before winning the war against Japan and Germany, and further that we need to tell the enemy when we are quitting. Imagine those serious men putting political ambition over the safety of our fighting forces in harm’s way. Imagine Roosevelt or Britain’s Winston Churchill proclaiming to reporters that America couldn’t win the war.

It’s unimaginable because back then those statements that aided and abetted the enemy would’ve been considered treason. I’m not talking about healthy debate behind closed doors, but irresponsible political demagoguery, like former governor, presidential candidate and Democratic Party chair Howard Dean’s pronouncement that we can’t win the war. With today’s worldwide media, what one official says publicly is heard by our enemies the same day and also by our troops who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s no wonder Gen. Olds and many of our WWII vets - our dads - are sickened by what they see and hear.

We are at war. We need to demand maturity from our Congress, our media, our appointed officials and ourselves. We had our own “Pearl Harbor” on 9-11-01.

It’s time to grow up, America - again.

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