When I was in high school, back in the 1960s, our teachers would occasionally spring a surprise, unannounced quiz on us, just to see if we were keeping up on our homework and staying on top of the subject matter.
We called these surprise quizzes Japs.
I suppose that would be considered politically incorrect these days. But there was nothing quite like the rumor of an upcoming Jap quiz to recreate terror in the minds of high-school kids something like the horror of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 75 years ago today.
I don't mean to be politically incorrect -- we all know that the Japanese are our friends now, and they have sometimes bested the Americans in many ways from the economic to the academic. And I certainly don't mean to make light of the horrors of World War II which killed an estimated 60 million people -- more than any other conflict in history -- including some 400,000 Americans and 2.2 million Japanese.
But I don't think people remember World War II quite the way we did in the '60s. Back then the war was much more recent history. We knew fathers and other relatives who'd actually fought in the war, and we were awash in books and movies about the War.
To my kids, the War refers not to World War II, but to the Vietnam War -- the one they constantly heard about from their parents. But Vietnam, as scarring as it was, took much less of a toll compared to World War II. Some 58,000 Americans died in Vietnam, and the total number killed, both North and South, is estimated at "only" about 3 million.
The amazing thing is that it didn't take long for the Japanese and Americans to mend their wounds and develop into international friends. We've now become partners with Vietnam as well.
Today we're embroiled in the Middle East. I wonder if the day will come when Saudi Arabia, Iran, Syria, Israel, and all the others, as well as the United States, will lay down their arms and figure out a way to live peacefully with one another.