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Walker: Christmas 1941
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As we celebrate Christmas 2014 we may have felt somewhat apprehensive concerning the ills that befall our nation currently, and with good reason. Not only are Americans being terrorized and attacked by Islamic extremists without as well as within; we are besieged by aliens illegally crossing through our borders. We are experiencing unrest and outright distrust of our legal system, including law enforcement authorities and our courts. If that isn’t enough, consider that there is a seemingly ever-widening gulf dividing our political parties, and liberals from conservatives. Add to that the painful results of the financial miasma which has stifled our economy, and the realization of the poor economic legacy we will be leaving for our descendants for generations to come. These very irksome systemic ills are in our mental foreground while our young men and women are engaged in an unending need to fight war after war. The picture is pitiful indeed, and most discomforting.

There is a truism that is good to remember at times like these. There are no coins with only one side. In every confrontation; in every conflict or disagreement it is wise to examine both sides of the “coin” before rushing to judgment. When considering the dismal state of affairs that besiege our peace of mind today, be careful to consider the opposite side of that coin. In spite of the recent very real economic downturn we have experienced, it doesn’t compare to the downturn of the Great Depression of the late ‘20s and early ‘30s. We survived that one and recovered from it because Americans believed in America. We passionately considered this wonderful nation worth saving and saved it.

Christmas of 1941 found us recovering from the Great Depression, but with enough economic problems to touch everybody in one way or another. The mischievous boll weevil had “gut-punched” the southern farmers into a struggling existence, and African-Americans had migrated en masse to northern cities for better gainful employment.

But December 1941 was an especially discomforting month. On December 7th, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and declared war on the United States a few hours later. Both Germany and Italy declared war on the United States on December 11. The United States gave its RSVP in the form of reciprocal declarations of war. The American congress opted to suspend all legislative activity and devote its energies to winning the war in which we were engaged for the duration. You may imagine the unsettling and chilling effect of this as a background for Christmas 1941 and to a large effect for the remaining years of WWII.

On the 24th of December, Christmas Eve, Prime Minister of England Winston Churchill was in Washington, D.C. conferring with President Roosevelt, and gave a Christmas message to America. He spoke of the whole world being locked in deadly struggle, with war creeping nearer to our hearts and homes, and suggests that amid all the tumult, for this one night we make for the children an evening of happiness in a world of storm. Let them enjoy a night of fun and laughter, “before we turn again to the stern task and the formidable years that lie before us, resolved that, by our sacrifice and daring, these same children shall not be robbed of their inheritance or denied their right to live in a free and decent world.”

Do we not find ourselves in circumstances similar to those of 1941 with the sternest of tasks lying before us, which will require sacrifice and daring that our children not be robbed of their right to live in a free and decent world? May the “Peace that passeth understanding” abide with you and our nation during this Christmas season. 

Charles Walker served as the mayor of Conyers for two decades and was the first president of the Rockdale Historical Society.