My essay is based on familial and societal experiences: I believe in diplomatic solutions to conflict rather than bombing or name calling, if at all possible. . I am 73 years old. I grew up in San Francisco.. My family discussed world affairs with a vengeance and we listened to Edward R. Morrow. Mr. Morrow and we believed in saying things as they were, in the truth as seen, studied and observed.
We survived the Second World War and McCarthyism with interesting events in our lives. As a seven year old, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and we fled San Francisco to the “Peninsula” to the south. The pervasive fear was that if the Japanese could bomb Hawaii they could bomb “The City” and, indeed, there were sighted Japanese submarines off the coast. I wore “dog tags” and was afraid Hirohito would come over the Presidio wall and grab me.
Father enlisted in the Army Air Force the Monday after Pearl Harbor and left for three years. He returned a decorated Lieutenant Colonel having worked on the supply end of the Normandy invasion. Father, a hero in our eyes, had difficulty adjusting to civilian life. His mining business had been declared non-essential to the war effort, much of the equipment confiscated with no remuneration, and it was difficult to restart and earn the same income as before the Second World War.
We women were taught that patriotism is not only about war, but about exercising one’s rights as citizens. At 12 I was taken into a voting booth and told it was one our greatest responsibilities as adults.
My maternal grandmother, later the recipient of honorary PhDs from the University of California and Mills College, understood the reasons for war declarations, but was disappointed that diplomacy with Japan had not worked; she was a member of commissions to try and resolve differences in the 1930s between Japan and the Pacific Basin Countries. Included in her correspondence are letters from the Empress of Japan, the Governor General of New Zealand. Granny McLaughlin”, as we called her, was later involved in logistics for the United Nations Conference in San Francisco. Although being careful to enlist speakers on both sides of issues when she was in charge of radio broadcasts for the World Affairs Council in San Francisco during the McCarthy era, she was threatened and labeled a Communist.
We do not believe in ill-conceived and poorly planned wars. Versed in Asian politics, Grandmother thought President Kennedy should not send advisors to Vietnam because of possible unintended consequences. For the same reason I opposed the Second Iraq War and though I supported Afghanistan maneuvers and all troops, I was called “unpatriotic” in the Pennsylvania community where I now live. “
Should I have worn the small flag pin Mother wore during the Second World War? In some sense I thought it would show support for a war that I opposed. But now? Do we not have moral obligations to a people we invaded?
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