[KB] Warrantable Outrage

Edappel8@cs.com 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 
"unbounded determination."

       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.


-------------- next part --------------
HTML attachment scrubbed and removed

More information about the KB mailing list