The Pittsburgh Press (December 8, 1944)
I DARE SAY —
After three years
By Florence Fisher Parry
It was Sunday. I was working in my office downtown. My brother came in and said in a funny voice: “The radio says the Japs have blown up Pearl Harbor.”
“It can’t be,” I said.
“No, it’s a mistake, I guess. But call up The Press.”
I said: “They’ll think I’m crazy. Pearl Harbor! The very idea.”
But I called, and whoever answered was sitting out in Editorial room, away from the UP room.
“Must be a mistake,” he said. (There’s no place as quiet as the desk on a Sunday afternoon, and his voice made the whole thing more dream-like.)
“But I’ll see,” he said, humoring me.
An instant after, the world’s hair was standing on end. The war was here, then, every nerve end in us was exposed. Sensitives, we, then. Eating, sleeping, thinking war with every atom of our being.
But three years is a long time.
I reach sleepily for the dials to get the early news. Oh yes, it’s December 7. Well! How time flies. I think I am listening to the broadcast, the habit of getting it with my morning ablutions is so fixed that I know the commercial blurbs that come before and after by heart.
But combing my hair I suddenly realize that I haven’t heard a word of the news. Men are dying like flies all over the world, needless, horrible deaths they are dying, it is being broadcast, and I comb my hair and forget to listen.
There on the table lies, neglected, a map of Europe glued to a convenient lap board, and bright colored push pins with pretty round knobs are stuck all along the Western Front. My, oh my, how many pins! There’s really no more room, they’re so bunched there at the Saar! …Maybe I’d better pull out a few and stick them in the other map I have somewhere of the Pacific, there around Leyte. But the pins have been there for ages; why, the Cologne pins and the Leyte pins haven’t budged for I don’t know how long! The map has grown so static that we’ve lost all interest in it.
“Do you still want this old map?” I am asked, and I answer: “Oh, stick it up there on the mantel for the time being.”
Anne goes on to tell me about the sugar she got yesterday and I hold out for leaving the curtains hang another week, never mind HOW black the smog has made them.
“What date is it?” Anne wants to know.
“Dear me, only 12 shopping days left! WHAT will I do about that doll!” she says.
The radio voice goes on. Saarbrücken… Revolt in Athens… Italy… Britain sore… Leyte fighting deadlocked.
December 7… December 7…
The edge has dulled
We have grown numb, calloused, insensate to the very meaning of war. We find it difficult to concentrate when the war news comes on the air, when we pick up the paper and read the headlines. We can look at the pictures now, the sprawled dead, the bloated children, the abandoned skeletons, the great Fortresses blown to bits 25,000 feet high. This is not WE. This pain is not OUR pain, this death not OUR death.
Three years. And people are tired and resentful of war much in the same way that they are tired and resentful of the smog and the delayed laundry and the insolence of those whom war has made brazen and cocksure. They are tired of war films and war stories and war talk, and all this giving and giving and giving.
The first fine edge is dulled. We who were made so extraordinary for a while, we who burned and prayed and for a while were cleansed, look at us now. Look at us.
I think of the way we felt at the first submarine sinkings… at the fall of France… at Dunkerque… the ordeal of London… I think of the way we felt when we saw those first G.I.’s at our Variety Club Canteen and in the stations.
How brave, how caught up, how selfless, we!
Three years ago merely. Three years.
“Anne,” I say. “Where IS that other map of Asia and the Pacific? I haven’t put pins in it for perfect ages.”
“On top of the hall bookcase, remember? You put it there when the Japs began crowding us back.”