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We are a people capable of great things when we're united

Like most Americans, my mother heard the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor while listening to the radio. I was in a high chair and don’t remember hearing anything. We were in the kitchen of a lavish Miami Beach beachfront home. My dad was not home. He was piloting a B-25 from Miami to Africa. From Rio de Janeiro to various airstrips in sub-Saharan Africa, the crew used funnel and hose for in-flight re-fueling. One of a young bunch of pilots hired to deliver bombers to our as-yet-undeclared-allies, the Russians, my dad had learned to fly in the Army Air Corps. I don’t remember Pearl Harbor, but I remember that lost white sand beach.

Our next home was a one-bedroom apartment on the top story of a hot brick building. There were scorpions on the wooden stairs that switchbacked the bricks down to the sandy back lot and rats in the palm trees. And we had it lucky, our father came home.

August 14, 1945, he was home, sitting outside, wearing Bermuda shorts and his Pith helmet. The church bells began to ring. The bells pealed and rang and chimed. I turned to him and asked why the bells. He was crying. I had never seen him cry. “The war is over,” he told me.

Remarkably, the Pearl Harbor attack and the defeat of Italy, Germany, and Japan were separated by less than four years. Our navy was practically destroyed, our allies were overrun by German tanks, but from a nation struggling out of the Depression came a great resolve. American industry stopped producing Bendix washing machines and ground out tanks. Adults bought war bonds, young men were shot to hell, and kids collected paper. The largest invasion of history was executed and the most terrible bombs were used. The entire nation mobilized to defeat the great threat of Fascism. Three years and nine months!

None of us will ever forget September 11, 2001. The shock, the horror and deep psychological shift could have mobilized a nation like December 7, 1941 did. Instead, our president told Americans to continue to shop. Presidential advisors Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz long held the neo-con scheme of creating friendly governments, like the Saudis, in the Mid-East, as a necessary solution to secure a supply of oil. Rather than consider the root of the problem—the demand—they wanted to work out the supply side. So the neo-cons convinced some of the public and most of the politicians that Iraq was allied with al-Qaeda and possessed atomic weapons. The battlefront to avenge 9/11 was misdirected. Seven years later  al-Qaeda grows stronger as America is perceived as unwelcome occupier.

Our worst enemy is our addiction to oil. Our demand for this drug has corrupted governments and created terrorists. Like any addict, we would rather not think about withdrawal, and have distracted ourselves with partisan politics. You choose a team, Republican or Democrat, and you cheer them no matter who is the coach, who are the owners, who are the players and what is the game strategy. When the rules change and the elephants become the party of fiscal irresponsibility and the donkeys vote for preemptive war, the strident fans don’t notice.

On November 4, 2008, I heard bells. And like my father in 1945, I cried. I cried with pride for my nation, relief, and hope for the future. America is a great nation that still has great things to accomplish. However, it needs a Dream Team. It will take a 1980 American Hockey team composed of our best and brightest. Robert Gates and Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Colin Powell, Ron Paul and Bono, T. Boone Pickett and Al Gore, Steve Jobs and Robert Kennedy Jr. We need the smartest players drawn from both parties to defeat the triple, yet interconnected, threat of energy dependence, economic breakdown and environmental collapse.

We are a people who pulled together to defeat Fascism and then rebuilt Europe and Japan. We are a people capable of great things when we are united.

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Lou Springer Lou Springer lives in Heron when not out on a river somewhere.

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