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Pearl Harbor and 9/11: How They Changed Society

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You could say it happened twice. Both were surprise attacks, both occurred on a normal morning, and both were catastrophes that will never be forgotten. December 7th, 1941, in Oahu, Hawaii, Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japanese battle ships. September 11th, 2001, four planes crashed into various locations in the U.S. Not only did these disasters shock and bewilder everyone in the country, they drastically changed the way government and society was and is now.

“December 7th, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.” Just hours after invasion, Franklin D. Roosevelt asked congress to declared war on Japan. No one that morning spoke against the idea, though they had no clue the kind of racial tension that would soon be dispersed throughout the country. Taking cautious security actions to the extreme, President FDR established the Gentlemen’s Agreement in 1908, which made immigration from Japan to America incredibly difficult, and affirmed the Executive Order on February 19, 1942. This resulted in 110,000, innocent American citizens of the Japanese heritage being forced to move to one of ten internment camps in California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. Many families were stripped of their homes and rounded up to be relocated. These “camps” were worse than prisons; hundreds of people shared one toilet building, five to six people lived in a 25 by 20 foot room, and people were fed poor quality food in crowded cafeterias. Though everyone in the camps was treated cruelly, the Issei, older Japanese immigrants, had less privileges than the Nisei, American-born Japanese children, who were granted positions of authority. Though the meaning of the Executive Order was to keep Japanese already living in America safe, 1,200 joined the U.S. Army when the opportunity presented itself.

Though tensions between the Japanese and Americans increased, patriotism did as well. Many men and woman volunteered to join the army, more and more flags were raised in front of homes and businesses. Quotes like “United We Stand,” were published on comic books and magazines. Paul Roberts and Bob Miller produced an inspiring patriotic song called, “There’s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere.” Songs like these altered the emotions of Americans, reminding them to love their country and support the fighters in their journeys in foreign, highly dangerous places. When patriotism flourished, it kept the country from falling back down again.

Perhaps the most horrific sight on the news was the crumbling of the Twin Towers on September 11th. They were America’s pillars, the highest of the highest, and they had been brought down by a group of al-Qaeda terrorists. But the attacks kept coming. One plane was crashed into the Pentagon, another in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, which was originally heading straight towards Washington D.C. No one can describe the horror of that day, but when President George Bush declared War on Terror, it was hard not to feel a sense of revolt. Following the war was the USA Patriot Act (Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001). This gave the government a huge amount of flexibility with searching telephone conversations, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and many other records. Profiling began in airports, where security bases a person’s race or looks to decide whether or not they are safe to be in the country. Muslims are often mistaken as terrorists, and when they chose to form a place for them to worship, it is frightening to many American civilians. Today, security has been taken to the next level. You can’t get onto a plane without being fully and carefully examined and having most of your cargo scanned.

Though an immense amount of sadness and sorrow followed 9/11, it gave the country the opportunity to reunite once again. When it seemed like all was lost, troops began lining up, ready to sacrifice their lives for the country that had been so badly punished. While it was rare to see a flag waving before the attack, it was surprising not to see one hung outside of your home within hours afterwards. Inspirational quotes about the U.S. were seen on bumper stickers and clothing. The rise of patriotism was the only positive, but most important aspect that came out of the tragic day.

Pearl Harbor and 9/11 nearly mirror each other. Not only did they both occur on an ordinary, regular morning, their outcomes changed both the government and society of the time. President FDR and President George W. Bush declared war against their attackers, ordered a series of acts and laws that were meant to protect the country, when at times, it made racial tension worse. Though it might have seemed like a good idea at the time to relocate the Japanese or take profiling into a serious way of tracking dangerous people, it has altered the way people think, and therefore, causes exaggerated security procedures. Although patriotism was a big part of the aftermath of both Pearl Harbor and 9/11, it does not cure the issue of racial tension.

When something as tragic as U.S. ships sinking unpredictably or the Twin Towers collapsing, the first thing in response to that is to follow your leader. This puts the president in the most powerful position, and allows him/her to decide what is “right” for their country, though it may be completely unconstitutional. As for the U.S., nothing has gotten too out of hand. However, what Adolf Hitler did, which was to take control of Germany during its desperate times and use his power in the most deceitful ways, cannot be repeated again. This could be reduced by the simple but difficult to achieve solution of world peace. Since this is the least likely of solutions, leaders could think before declaring something significant for their country, and it would allow them to look at the problem in front of them before making their best possible decision. Regular citizens could be more involved in what the president is thinking, and look deeper into what is really going on, rather than falling into the trap of “what the government is doing is right”. Luckily, there hasn’t been any updated catastrophic events that have resulted in leaders turning against the world, but who knows when the next attack will occur.




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