[KB] Warrantable Outrage
Edappel8 at cs.com
Thu May 29 13:10:59 EDT 2008
Without quoting from Greg's response---with an interpretation possibly
to the contrary---to my comedic revision of Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech of
December 8, 1941, I want to emphasize: It was a joke! It was not a joke as
an application of Burkean comedy to the situation. I think my charitable and
ambivalent construction and phrasing were right-on. The re-write was a joke as
any kind of appropriate discourse, as constrained by the challenges and
requirements of the moment. If Roosevelt had started his address with my wording,
and continued on through in that spirit, the Congress and most of the nation
would have been in an uproar. They probably would have thought Roosevelt had
lost his mind.
The nation was at such an impasse where even Herb's "warrantable" or
"earned" outrage would have had to be shunted aside. There wasn't time for the
college debate-team ploy and standard of preparation: Let's make our little
list of arguments on both sides, and get all our disparate supporting pieces of
evidence neatly arranged in our two file boxes, the pro-American and the
pro-Japanese. We were suddenly up against a quasi-medieval culture and
then-superior military power (to say nothing of the likely and resultant conflict with
Germany, in addition, which Roosevelt had been trying to incite for months).
Japan's military had been barbarically brutalizing China for 4 12 years, tying
civilians up in bundles and burning them alive, burying them alive, raping
women wholesale from age 8 to 80, providing their newspapers, a la sports
reporting, with a contest in civilian decapitations two of their officers were
waging. Our nation feared as imminent an invasion on the West Coast. As Roosevelt
enumerated, in anaphoric or epistrophic style, Japan's army, navy, and
airforce were on the assault all over the place the night of December 7. We were
hurt and hurt badly by Pearl Harbor. Only luckily were our aircraft carriers at
sea, not in port.
Greg is right that Roosevelt did not explicitly demonize the Japanese
in this address. It was still, though, in my judgment, and accoding to my
notion of serviceable dramatic taxonomy, a tragic-frame speech, not just
melodrama. Roosevelt was responding to a patent evil, with a massive threat of more
of the same. ("Our people, our territory, and our interests are in grave
danger.") The Japanese had killed many of ours, and broken our things in appalling
magnitude. Roosevelt asked for a declaration of war that would lead "the
American people in their righteous might [to] win through to absolute victory,"
surely a perfected redemptive vision. To gain that victory, via an "unbounded
determination" that would energize Americans toward "the inevitable triumph,
so help us God," we would, by obvious implication, be killing Japanese and
breaking their things, of necessity, on a scale more massive than probably
anything the world had ever seen.
Considerable language of furious conflict and dire threat and carnage
pepper the speech: "live in infamy," "dastardly attack," "treachery,"
"deliberately sought to deceive," "severe damage," "many American lives have been
lost," "a state of war has existed." The language of revenge is not absent:
"Always we will remember the character of the onslaught." Intense mortification is
front and center: "We will . . . defend ourselves to the utmost" via that
The point of it all: Herb's call for "humble irony," a
"comedic,self-deconstructive stance," as appropriate transition from raw, "righteous
indignation," to a matured antipathy that takes account of the "mistakenness" that
"necessarily" characterizes, to some extent at least, both sides of any conflict,
will work under some circumstances, but not under others. The extremity of
December 7-8, 1941, was, I submit, one of those others.
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