Not too late to remember WWII heroes

Today is the 76th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. President Franklin Roosevelt said it would “live forever in infamy.” But has it?
I mentioned recently that our World War II veterans are now dying at the rate of more than 1,000 every day. And so are those of us who were too young to fight, but are now old enough to remember…
In grade school, we sang the national anthems of every Allied country along with our own, plus a new song, “Let’s remember Pearl Harbor…as we do the Alamo.” But we don’t remember the latter much today. We do remember ration books — Meatless Tuesdays — Victory Gardens — a grass-roots children’s organization called Junior American Citizens, devoted to scrap collection — and the triumph of finding a single, treasured can of peaches available for purchase …
When it finally ended, my Boubby the Philosopher removed the Five Star Flag from her front window as she welcomed her sons home. Only one is still alive today, active at 95, telling us of his time at the U.S. Air Base in Bari, Italy, repairing the B-17s that dropped their bombs over Berlin. Which brings me to a current concern:
Last week, I attended a showing of The Tuskegee Airmen, a film telling the sad but ultimately triumphant story of some brave Black Americans who literally “fought for the right to fight for their country,” and finally succeeded in making their enduring mark on United States history. This event was sponsored by our own Dallas Holocaust Museum, which has wisely — as years have passed — broadened its mission to emphasize “Upstanding,” the act of acting rather than simply standing by in the face of wrongs, from children’s bullying to adults’ racial and religious slurs, exclusions and persecutions. The Tuskegee Airmen’s story is a somber, sober example of fighting alone when your countrymen are far from upstanders and even worse than bystanders, contributing to a culture of prejudice that, sadly, still exists today. We Jews know about this, and should be upstanding ourselves about how this affects others.
Although the film’s audience was a large one, only a handful of us there were white, and not all of us whites were Jews. Our Black neighbors came early to view the Center’s current Tuskegee Airmen exhibit beforehand, bringing their children to learn this poignant story of their people’s history. Why weren’t more of us there, to learn ourselves and to support these others? We expect much today for ourselves, and are hurt and angry when our expectations aren’t met. But if we want a certain kind of equality and appreciation in how we are treated, shouldn’t we be showing the same to others? I was saddened, and more than a bit ashamed.
Our forthcoming new Dallas Holocaust Museum, for which ground has recently been broken, will be physically larger, and have an even broader — in fact, an ever-broadening — mission of action in the face of wrongdoing. We Jews created this institution, and are now sharing it with our wider community. Let’s not forget to take advantage of it, to continue to learn from it, ourselves.
When World War II ended, we kids wove crepe paper streamers through the spokes of our bicycles and rode around our neighborhoods making joyful noise. But we knew little about war’s realities. Those of us who were there, and remain alive and sentient today, are still learning what it was all about — and, by extension, what war is all about. We Jews have learned from our precious survivors, and have succeeded in passing that knowledge, now broadened far more inclusively, to a much wider audience. Let’s not get complacent ourselves. Let’s not miss any opportunity to learn about others who have also suffered — differently from us, but in the same way: at the hands of the hateful.
Please go to the Dallas Holocaust Museum to see the Tuskegee Airmen exhibit. The movie showing is over, but it’s not too late to learn…

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