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Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
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Copyright © 2001 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

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For the week of  September 19 - 25, 2001

  Opinion Column

Tips for Bush on 
stirring nationalism

Commentary by PAT MURPHY


America of 2001 struggling with the hideous attack on its people is far different than the America of 1941 when Japanese bombs turned most of the U.S. Navyís Pacific fleet into a humiliating inferno of flaming steel hulks on Dec. 7, 1941.

No round-the-clock live TV news, only radio reports and newsreel footage of Pearl Harbor that was days late at neighborhood theaters as well as censored newspaper stories were our sole news sources.

Times were simpler, the world smaller, people less cynical.

How President Franklin Delano Roosevelt inspired Americans to maximum effort against Axis powers 60 years ago may provide clues for President Bush on ways to muster Americans for the long war on terrorism.

To sustain Americaís rage and patriotism from 1941 to 1945, FDR became a central figure with his radio fireside chats, plus creating an orchestrated environment that nurtured nationalism, just as he had done to help Americans survive the Great Depression of the early 1930s.

FDRís eloquence ("Never before have we had so little time in which to do so much"; "This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny" and "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself") boosted self-confidence and morale.

Slogans ("Loose lips sink ships") reminded Americans of the domestic threat of spies and saboteurs. Shared shortages (gas, meat and sugar rationing), shared volunteerism (collecting scrap rubber and metals for recycling) and self-initiative (homes had Victory Gardens of vegetables) created unity of effort and purpose.

In 44 months, the sleeping American giant bounced back, and unleashed a fearsome, furious war machine that crushed the Japanese and helped pulverize Adolph Hitlerís Nazi Germany and the estimable Italian dictator Benito Mussolini.

This was "The Greatest Generation" celebrated in Tom Brokawís book about World War II.

Americans were filled with fierce pride, whether marching off to war, working on the home front in factories, or volunteering in countless roles.

Even a stay-at-home teenager could serve: along with others too old or too young for the military, I was as an Aircraft Warning Service spotter, manning a 30th-floor tower four hours each day in the Biltmore Hotel-cum-Army Hospital in Coral Gables, Fla., watching for enemy aircraft that never came.

FDRís war Cabinet ĺ critics called them propagandists ĺ persuaded Hollywood to crank out uplifting film entertainment. Celebrities who hadnít enlisted or been drafted dominated War Bond fund-raising drives in large and small towns, collecting dimes and dollars for weapons.

Home folks became pen pals to GIs up front.

Although George Bush lacks Franklin Rooseveltís eloquence and preparation to lead, he can quickly mature and develop a style for handling the pain ahead. He also has the advantages of a stronger industrial economy and modernized military.

The big question is whether the 21st century American psyche for quick gratification, quick results and instant solutions has the capacity for a drawn-out, tedious often disappointing campaign against terrorism.

Bush & Co. must find ways, as FDR did 60 years ago, to keep the attention of Americans on the demanding task at hand.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.