I am Jerry Brainard, the radio announcer for KJOY in San Francisco. I also happen to be a fictional character in a story written by Deborah Craig-Claar and Mark Hayes entitled, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” The actor who portrays me…isn’t important.
The story revolves around a functional family in a turbulent time, and begins Thanksgiving day amidst the anxiety preceding America’s involvement in the 2nd World War. The story shows how our faith was stretched as we inched our way through one of the worst days in American history.
I know my way around the entertainment business. As a radio announcer, it was my job to keep folks tuned in, but, after what happened on that fateful Sunday morning of December 7th, my job turned into something more. I heard the news of the attack the same as everyone else, on the radio. I got mad and cried and felt helpless like everyone else, but when I squared off to the microphone afterward, I knew I couldn’t let the news trigger a knee-jerk reaction. Saying what I felt was too raw, unpredictable and sad. What good would my opinion do anyone – including me?
There was no question any more. We were officially at war. If that wasn’t enough, there were people who hadn’t heard from their loved ones in weeks and no one could tell them whether they were alive or dead. People didn’t need opinion. They needed information, and, with so little available, it was my job to put on the face of patience in spite of not knowing and joy in the midst of misery and pain in order to keep the country working until they received the next morsel of hope from a source they could trust.
Take it from someone from 1941, standing around feeling sorry for yourself just makes you feel worse. Sharing your grief with someone doesn’t change anything and brings the other person down. I suppose that’s why God said not to worry. You see, it wasn’t my job to tell folks what they were feeling or whether or not they were wrong for grieving. It was my job to keep people from feeling worse.
It’s a pretty peculiar thing – having someone take your essence and bring you back to life and put you on display the way actors do. I could think of hundreds of events I would have preferred to relive, but I’m not the writer. This one has happened dozens of times now but never quite like this. This actor, through the course of the performance allowed me full control. At that time there was more of me than him in that body that carried us around. And, because I had control, I got to see things, albeit from his perspective, I was never allowed to see before.
I saw a couple of disturbing details about the future of journalism and the entertainment business which are pretty far fetched if you ask me. There were apparently a number of entertainers who threatened to move to Canada if the candidate they opposed was elected, but, when the opposition won, nobody moved. Now, why would someone with notoriety say they were going to do something if it was for a just cause and not follow through and risk never being taken seriously again? After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, if I heard someone denounce their American citizenship, I’d have punched them square in the mouth.
I also saw how journalists no longer research and report the news. They present bias perspective enhanced with opinion – which I find extremely hard to believe. Anyone who would use his platform to offer a personal critical opinion, especially when it undermines the safety, unity and morale of the people, would not likely have a job the following day. Such a shamefully irresponsible act would warrant a line to punch them square in the mouth.
Then I saw tragedies like the bombing of Pearl Harbor haven’t been obliterated but are in recent times increasing in frequency and are called terrorism – which is something I dare say I know something about, though I would not use that term. I suppose the word terrorism does carry the moniker of bad behavior, but it also implies a force of power when the opposite is true. When someone attacks their victim while they are sleeping, that’s not powerful. It’s weakness. It isn’t a good strategy. It’s cowardice. How much greater the level of cowardice when someone chooses to attack when their target is in church, as was the case on that fateful day seventy-five years ago today. I would suggest changing the phrase act of terrorism to act of cowardice at every opportunity.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I’m stuck here on the pages between November 20th and December 24th, 75 years ago. It’s been a wonderful experience playing a part in reminding another generation of the resilience of the human spirit, but my influence is so small. If what my counterpart has shown me is true about journalism, the entertainment business and their irresponsibility, I suppose it’s important to remember something which is true no matter what year it is. Being popular will never make you right. It will only extend your reach and thereby your accountability. So, may God bless America…as we serve the Lord. Maybe then we’ll lick these acts of cowardice once and for all.