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Danny Tyree: On 75th Anniversary, Remembering the Lessons of Pearl Harbor

When I was a preschooler, I lived across the road from Rufus Foster. I still attend church with his widow.

One of many memorable things about Mr. Foster was that, as a 19-year-old from the hills of Tennessee, he was at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese sneak attack.

Dec. 7 marks three-quarters of a century since that attack, and I have to wonder if we truly remember the lessons of the day.

We pay lip service to military preparedness and diplomatic solutions; but in a million ways large and small, America remains an accident waiting to happen.

In a world of widely shared personal data, porous borders, massive power grids and the Internet of Things, there is no room for complacency.

Young and old, public and private sector, management and labor — we’re all flirting with disaster.

We hear of product recalls with mind-numbing frequency. High government officials are accused of “extreme carelessness” with state secrets. Restaurants are at the center of epidemic outbreaks. Suicide prevention hotlines for veterans go unmanned. Anthrax samples are shipped to labs haphazardly. Economic bubbles are treated as if they’ll never burst. People giving off warning signs are allowed to “go postal” in the workplace.

Yes, “stuff happens.” But lightning strikes, earthquakes and other so-called “acts of God” are only part of the problem we face.

Negligence, incompetence, laziness, denial, unpreparedness and other factors exacerbate potential crises.

Kicking the can down the road, passing the buck, taking shortcuts, engaging in juvenile jurisdictional wrangling, administering wrist-slap punishments and carrying on Ol’ Boy Network shenanigans all make our infrastructure, food supply and identities a little more vulnerable.

The 21st century is fraught with danger because of a network of human shortcomings: employees who goof off when mixing a batch or tightening a nut; workers who ignore the rules-breaking of teammates; supervisors and CEOs who ignore metaphorical “check engine soon” lights while counting their bonus before it hatches.

Sometimes we’re so concerned about "rocking the boat” that we wind up sinking the ship.

Did the “Greatest Generation” really risk life and limb during World War II so their great-grandchildren could (a) get molested by an authority figure who fell between the cracks, (b) sink to a watery grave because a bridge inspector didn’t really, you know, INSPECT THE BRIDGE, (c) get sick from tainted water because someone was too cheap to clean it up, (d) get beaten up by a police officer whose history of violence was whitewashed, (e) lose their life savings because of lax security at a financial institution or retailer or (f) get slaughtered because someone was too politically correct to investigate a terrorist?

Eternal vigilance is not something reserved for the commander-in-chief or the top brass at the Pentagon. For America to survive and thrive, we must all contribute.

Individual citizens must be conscientious enough to do their own jobs right and remain politically well-informed. Workers must be willing to “see something, say something” when co-workers or management do questionable things. Managers must enforce “top-down” quality control, placing the proper protocols in place and not merely assuming that procedures are followed out.

Sept. 11, 2001, joined Dec. 7, 1941, as a day of mourning. Another “date which will live in infamy” may be lurking out there.

In honor of those who were killed or wounded at Pearl Harbor, make sure you’re not a contributor to it.

— Satirical columnist Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page Tyree’s Tyrades. He is syndicated by Cagle Cartoons. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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