Pearl Harbor’S Vital Lessons

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We vowed to never forget our “day of infamy.”

Have we kept the promise?

Certainly, yesterday passed quietly enough — that 68th anniversary of the day the bombs fell on the slumbering Pacific Fleet, moored in Pearl Harbor.

Do we remember? Have we learned those lessons — and renewed them for a new generation?

Certainly, one could glean all manner of wisdom from the terrible thunderbolt attack of 353 Japanese bombers on the American ships.

The American commanders had proven fatally careless. Although they knew war threatened, they assumed the blow would fall first elsewhere — then made the mistake of acting only on their assumptions. They didn’t cast out a defensive air patrol net, they ignored the first confusing radar signals of the mass of Japanese planes, they left most of the ships tied up and silent and they failed to act on intercepted clues and portents.

Perhaps more important, they remained trapped in the last war — where battleships mattered and admirals held airplanes in dignified contempt. So the Americans failed to grasp the capabilities of the Japanese carriers — even as the Japanese mistook the importance for battleships they sank or damaged.

Have we done it again? Are we fighting the last war, not this one? Have our assumptions made a prison for our strategy?

Then again, Pearl Harbor and its aftermath harbors other lessons. Consider the 14 Medals of Honor awarded that day, for men roused from their Sunday morning routine for a plunge into carnage and death. They swam on one breath beneath seas of fire, pulled comrades from burning gun turrets with their charred hands, manned their guns on the burning decks of listing ships until ordered to leave.

Then they rebuilt the fleet and won the war that remade the world.

That lesson we’ve learned — that courage we remember, judging from the actions of the men and women we have sent into harm’s way in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have made every sacrifice we’ve asked of them — waging a war of restraint and courage and fierce love of their country.

Of course, after Pearl Harbor the whole nation turned to that great task in a spirit of shared sacrifice. Now, we fret about our Christmas shopping as the war grinds into its eight year, with only fitful thoughts of those who fight for us still.

So perhaps we have need for this day, after all: Remember Pearl Harbor — and those who stand at their posts that we may live our lives.

School board gambles on you

Psst.

You there.

Yeah — you, with the grey hair and the life experience.

Come here: This is funny. It’s gonna make you laugh.

Ready? Here it is: The Payson Unified School District is afraid of you.

Isn’t that hilarious?

But they’re afraid you don’t really care about kids any more, now that you’ve raised your own children, worked hard all your life and retired here to your a quiet little bit of heaven.

So now they’re just desperately hoping they can somehow talk you into supporting a school budget override — although a surprising number of you rejected just such a proposition about a year ago.

But the schools have no choice — seeing as how the state legislature has been gnawing at the foundation of education in this state like a pheromone crazed swarm of termites.

The district faces a projected $1.2-million deficit for the fiscal year that starts in June, coming on top of a distressing round of cuts this year. Fortunately, this year federal stimulus money averted outright disaster — but the district can’t count on that help next year.

So it’s up to the people of the community the schools serve to prevent draconian cuts, including layoffs, ballooning class sizes and cancellation of enrichment programs. They need voter approval to go 10 percent above a statutory spending limit. If voters approve the measure, the owner of a $100,000 house will pay an extra $11 each year — the price of a couple of lattes.

So the school board members took a deep breath, crossed their fingers and voted this week to put the measure on the March 9 ballot. Now they’re just hoping that folks who attended public schools, put their kids through public school and who will of necessity depend on other people’s children to pay their Social Security and Medicare taxes will this time support the override.

Isn’t that funny — that they’re so worried?

What else would you do?

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