Saturday, December 31, 2016

Photographs of the Month



December 6, Light Modulator, Lazslo Moholy-Nagy, Art Institute of Chicago

December 11, Evanston, Illinois


December 13, Modern Wing, Art Institute of Chicago


December 14, Macys Department Store, State Street

December 14, Washington Avenue

December 14, Preston Bradley Hall, Chicago Cultural Center 

December 16, Santa Train, Howard Station

December 19, Belmont Red Line Station

December 21, State Street Subway

December 22, Wabash Avenue

December 23, Lincolnwood, Illinois

December 26,  Laughing Kookabura, Brookfield Zoo

December 27, Wilson Red Line Stop

December 30, Purple Line, near Wilson Avenue

2016, The Reaper's Bumper Crop

As I walked into work yesterday morning, I wished a friend a happy new year. He said 2017 had to be better than this year which began with the death of David Bowie and ended with the election of Donald Trump.

It's only natural this time of year to reflect upon the past 365 days. For my family and me, 2016 was actually a pretty good year, my boy and I traveled to New York, and all four of us had a lovely summer vacation which included the cities of Cleveland and Pittsburgh, as well as a memorable visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's magnificent Fallingwater, the home he built on top of a stream for the Kaufmann family in Southwestern Pennsylvania. We even managed to sneak into West Virginia, a first for all four of us.

Both kids have been doing well in school, despite not necessarily liking it one hundred percent of the time, and have been involved in other activities that give them great pleasure and keep them out of trouble. My wife and I both managed to devote time to our artistic endeavors, not an easy thing when combined with the responsibilities of working for a living and raising a family. Knock on wood, while there have been health issues here and there, nothing earth shattering thank God, and a double knock on wood, we didn't lose any loved ones this year.

And yes the Chicago Cubs won the World Series which was great news for everyone except for fans of the Cleveland Indians and the Chicago White Sox, well actually only a handful of disgruntled ones that is.

In short I'd say my family has much to be grateful for at the close of this year.

Yet many people will recall this as a year that particularly sucked.

Another New Years tradition is the reading of the passing year's necrology, the list of notable people who died. Sadly, 2016 proved to be a bumper crop for the Grim Reaper at least as far as famous people were concerned, especially musicians. In some circles, particularly at home, I'm known for my morbid fascination with the obituary pages, but this year even I couldn't keep up.

Every year has its Abe Vigodas, and Zsa Zsa Gabors, those celebrities whose death inspires the inevitable remark, "Really? I didn't know he or she was still alive."

But this year seemed to have a disproportionate number of unexpected celebrity deaths. I learned that David Bowie was seriously ill at the beginning of the year. He was not a young man, but coming through his creative spirit there was still an eternal, timeless youth about him and I was blown away at the news of his passing, coming as it did on his birthday, January 8th. Like mostpeople, I was blindsided by the death of Prince. It's disconcerting when I hear of someone who is exactly my age, as Prince was, suddenly dropping dead. I'm not proud to say I breathed a sigh of relief when I learned that his death was attributed to the pain killers he used to alleviate the agony resulting from the many years of unbelievably athletic dance moves he used in his performances. He literally gave his life for his art. Poetic and romantic as it may be, I simply can't relate.

Both men were extraordinarily talented and had they lived, they would have continued to produce remarkable music. But those two only scratched the surface of losses that the world of music suffered in 2016. Here's a woefully incomplete list in no particular order, of musicians we lost in 2016: Ralph Stanley, Buckwheat Zydeco, Pierre Boulez, Paul Kantner, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake. Glenn Frey, Sharon Jones, Neville MarrinerDan Hicks, Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen, Scotty Moore, Guy Clark, Mose Allison, Vanity, Billy Paul, Nikolaus HarnoncourtGato Barbieri, and Merle Haggard.

Although he was less known as a musician than as perhaps the most famous music producer the world has ever known, in 2016 we also lost George Martin.

Indeed, heaven's chorus added greatly to its ranks this year but it will have to wait at least a while longer for Keith Richards who remains at this writing, probably to the surprise of no one more than himself, not only merely, but really and most sincerely alive.

The sports world lost at least four remarkable legends this year: Arnold Palmer, Gordie Howe, Pat Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, and of course, Muhammad Ali.

They say that deaths come in threes but this year proved there is no limit to the number of celebrity deaths that can occur over a short period of time. As I remarked when Vaclav Havel and Kim Jung Il died, one right after the other a few years ago, death makes for strange bedfellows, in that case, two national leaders who were the polar opposites in everything else. The most absurd celebrity death matching I can recall was the quintessentially elegant and proper Katherine Hepburn, and the crude actor/comedian Buddy Hackett who died within a day of each other in 2003. I can only imagine the conversation that took place when the two of them marched up the steps to St. Peter at the Pearly Gates.

Just this week we learned of a trio of deaths with an unusually strong connection. revolving around the passing of the actress Carrie Fisher, best known known for her recurring role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars film series. Much was written a few days ago about that role and her portrayal of it, unique for its time, as being a female hero and role model "in a male-dominated genre."

Well it so happened that real life female hero-role model in a male dominated profession that also dealt with intergalactic space, died this week. Her name was Vera Rubin, and she was the astrophysicist who proved the existence of dark matter.

Of course the other, more tragic connection to Carrie Fisher was her own mother, singer and actress Debbie Reynolds, who passed from this world one day after her daughter.

I could go on and on listing the famous people, the pioneers, politicians, playwrights and poets, the authors, artists, athletes, actors and astronauts, who died this year, but the time remaining in this year is short, so I'll just take the easy way out by linking to the New York Times list of the Notable Deaths of 2016.

Whether we heard of them or not, they all touched our lives and shaped our world in one way or other, some of them in good ways, some of them in splendid ways, some of them in inspirational ways, and some of them, quite the opposite.

But the world would be a much different place without them and tonight at the stroke of midnight, let us all raise a glass to the lives that were lived by the people we lost in 2016.

Happy 2017.

Stay healthy my friends!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Genius

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump famously said: "I love the poorly educated."

Here's the quote, really just an aside, in its proper context, which came at the end of one of Trump's victory speeches, as he read through a laundry list of the demographic groups he won in the Nevada Republican primary last February:
We won with highly-educated, we won with poorly educated, I love the poorly educated! We’re the smartest people, we’re the most loyal people.
That last sentence would imply that Trump may love the poorly educated, but certainly doesn't equate himself with them. In fact, our president-elect seems to be obsessed with his own IQ, allegedly in the neighborhood of 156, or so he says, well into genius territory. If it's true, that would place him (according to estimates of the IQs of all the presidents) at number two, behind John Quincy Adams and just above Thomas Jefferson.

But with all else in the Trumposphere, claims he makes about himself must be taken with at least a grain of salt, more likely a truckload. To my knowledge, proof of Trump's advanced intelligence does not come from any standardized test, rather the assumption that he must be a genius because he attended a prestigious college, Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. Needless to say, dummies need not apply to Wharton, that is unless they have friends in high places or a rich daddy. Trump had both. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from that school, not too shabby.  Still, nothing in his records would indicate he was an exceptional student. He also enrolled at that Ivy League school as a junior after spending two non-incredible years at Fordham University in New York City. Entering Wharton when he did meant he was not subject to the same rigors he would have had as a freshman.

This certainly does not mean that Trump is not a genius, all it means is that unless we believe Trump's word, a shaky proposition at best, from the information we have, the facts about his intelligence are inconclusive.

Genius or not, clearly the guy has some smarts, after all he is very successful at what he does. He also got himself elected President of the United States, doing so using a strategy never attempted before.

Is that remarkable success a result of his staggering intelligence? One of my all time favorite quotes (used in this space before), from one of my all time favorite movies, sheds some light on the issue. In pursuing the life story of the recently departed newspaper magnate Charles Foster Kane in the movie Citizen Kane, a reporter interviews Mr. Bernstein, Kane's business manger. The reporter brings up the name of Wall Street tycoon Walter Parks Thatcher, Kane's adopted father/caretaker. Of Thatcher, Bernstein comments: "That man was the biggest darn fool I ever met." to which the reporter quips: "(but) he made a lot of money." Bernstein responds: "Well it's no trick to make a lot of money, if all you want is to make a lot of money."

Trump made a lot of money being ruthless and unscrupulous. by not playing by the rules. Prudent business men and women learned early on that if you did business with him, make sure you got the cash up front. Unfortunately a lot of people never learned that lesson because they were swayed by the Trump brand, which Trump the man, tirelessly promoted, despite much of it being little more than smoke and mirrors. If Trump has a genius, it's for self promotion, driven by a superhuman ego, fueled by a pathological sense of self-importance, and his legendary narcissism.

I'm reminded here about jury duty. If you've ever had the privilege of the experience, you no doubt encountered folks incensed at the inconvenience. who talk openly in the jury room about how they plan to get up in front of the judge and tell her or him in no uncertain terms that they have much better things to do than spend precious time performing their public service. But when the time comes to actually face the judge and all those assembled in the courtroom, these folks usually turn out to be sheep in wolves' clothing, trembling and mumbling "no sir" or "no ma'am" when asked if there is any reason they feel they shouldn't serve on the jury, rather than being publicly humiliated by the judge.

But not somebody like Trump. He's the guy who tells off the court then sits there stone faced while the judge reprimands him for being a cad. In the end he wins, as no lawyer or judge is willing to put up with a hostile juror, and he gets sent home.

Long before he ran for president this time around, Donald Trump understood that the key to getting votes was to set himself apart from the other candidates, and the way to do that was get his mug on the airwaves more than they did. Most candidates get attention buying broadcast time to get their point across. Needless to say that costs a lot of money. Trump did an end run around that by understanding that any free media attention, be it positive or negative, worked to his advantage. I needn't go into all the stupid, asinine, and hateful things he did or said during the campaign, it's on record and I'm sure you've heard it all. No matter how pitiful he was, it didn't matter, it got his face on the tube. And for every American who was horrified by Trump and his indiscretions, there was almost another American cheering him on. To the latter group, Donald Trump was the man who would make this country great again by leading it out of the morass of so called "political correctness". To them, his pronouncements, whether they were about Mexicans, Muslims, women, or African Americans, struck a chord, as he was saying exactly what they felt, but wouldn't dare say, before Trump came along that is.

To the other side, that is to say the majority of Americans who didn't vote for him, Trump sounded as if he were running for Doofus-in-Chief.

What ultimately set Trump apart from his opponents, was his willingness to play the role of the fool. The bigger the fool he was, the more media coverage he got. That was the key to his victory. It turned out that all he needed to win the presidency was the vote of a minority of Americans (who lived in the right places), who may not have exactly approved of him, his actions or his lifestyle, but were convinced that if nothing else, he was at the least better than "that lying bitch."

The truly difficult thing for me to understand about this election is the overwhelming willingness of so many Americans to believe every single bad thing they heard about Hillary Clinton, no matter the source. It's true that Mrs. Clinton was not entirely up front and sometimes even blatantly careless with the truth about her own indiscretions. But on the whole, every credible source points out that she was no different in that regard and certainly no worse than other politicians, better than most, and without a doubt light years more open and honest than Donald Trump.

The thing that stands out for me perhaps more than anything else these last several months is the disregard for and utter contempt of reason and facts on the part of Trump's supporters. Despite Trump's obvious character flaws, his lack of understanding of the basic functions of government, and his blatant pandering to the basest of human instincts and values, his supporters without any substantive information to back it up, insisted that Hillary Clinton was much worse. It was like someone convincing himself that the car he just bought, despite an oil leak, cracked engine block and blown transmission, was infinitely superior to the car he didn't buy because of its less than appealing color. 

I think his real draw was the way he presented his message. Hillary Clinton to many, represented the snobbish moneyed cultural elite, and the way she presented herself (especially compared to Trump) emphasized that point. Not that her speeches were exactly college dissertations. but they were substantive to a point. and did contain on occasion, bits and pieces of policy, as well as multi-syllabic words.

In stark contrast, the language of Trump's speeches, actually stream of consciousness rants, were rated at about a fifth grade level, placing him hardly in the Adams-Jeffersonian stratosphere, but bringing up the rear as far as the sophistication of presidential speech making is concerned, that is to say, more in the league of George W. Bush, and that's giving Trump the benefit of the doubt.

Personally I think that fifth grade assessment is a bit of an overreach as my fourth grade daughter uses a broader vocabulary and unlike Trump, has the ability to speak in complete sentences.

It makes one wonder if Trump dumbed down his language in order to better appeal to his beloved uneducated crowd, or did we actually see the real Trump on the stump and he is in fact, not quite as smart as he claims. 

In either case, it's clear to me that rational thought and discourse, self-reflection, honesty, truth and integrity took a real beating in this election. Through whatever force he used, Donald Trump convinced just enough Americans that he, perhaps the most unqualified person ever to be elected president, was more deserving of the job than the person who was, at least as far as experience is concerned, by far the more qualified.

In a sick and twisted way, you kinda have to hand it to him.

This is the dawning of the age of incompetence and Donald Trump is about to be ringmaster and head clown, no easy feat. Maybe he is a genius after all.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Hijacking Christmas

It's Christmas season again which means it's time for cherished American traditions like chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Yuletide carols being sung by a choir, and folks fussing over what decorations are appropriate in public spaces. The latest to-do is taking place as we speak in Knightstown, Indiana, (pop 2,182) where local townsfolk are aghast over one of their own, Joseph Tompkins, who filed a lawsuit against the city over their tradition of placing a cross on top of a Christmas tree in front of city hall. Rather than facing a costly ACLU lawsuit which they most certainly would lose, the local burghers begrudgingly decided to remove the cross, much to the chagrin of the local populace. 

I don't know Mr. Tompkins but can only assume the man has a load of chutzpah, going against his neighbors in a small town whose population is overwhelmingly Christian and in favor of keeping the cross. I can imagine he's not the most popular guy in town these days. I also don't know his motivation for filing the suit, nor do I really care.

Despite claims by the local citizenry that the removal of the cross is a violation of their first amendment rights to proclaim their faith. (I keep hearing the statement that nowhere are the words "separation of church and state" found in the constitution), the very first clause in the first amendment of our constitution declares unequivocally that government shall not make any law respecting the establishment of religion. One could argue whether or not a cross atop a tree on government property really constitutes the establishment of a religion. Whichever side you're on concerning that question however matters not in the slightest, as courts all over the country have decided that indeed it does, which is why the local government in that small Indiana town wisely captiulated rather than face an expensive court battle they had no chance of winning.

Mr. Tompkins certainly has the law on his side, but the question has to be asked, is this really a battle worth fighting? Some would say that court battles over Christmas decorations are petty, they further divide an already divided nation, and go a long way to take all the fun out of what is supposed to be the most joyous time of the year, the one time when people are actually nice to each other. In other words, political correctness imposed by the no-religious-decoration-on-public-property crowd, some feel, is hijacking the holiday.

A small part of me agrees with that sentiment.

On the other hand...

Some Americans take it for granted that this is a Christian country. While it's true for now anyway, that the majority of people in the United States identify themselves in one way or other with Christianity, as we just saw, our constitution states this is no more a Christian country than a Jewish, Muslim or Atheist country, but a nation of laws irrespective of creed. This indeed is as it should be.

To Christians, myself included, the cross has deep symbolic meaning. I won't go into all of that here but suffice it to say that in a nutshell, to Christians the cross is the symbol of God's enduring love for all of humanity. At least that's how I read it. Needless to say that symbolism falls upon deaf ears to non-Christians, many of whom see the cross as representing not God, but people throughout history who have been indifferent, intolerant, and at times openly hostile to others who do not share their beliefs.

To many, the cross is a symbol of oppression. Under the cross, the Spanish government expelled all non-converted Jews and Muslims from their country in 1492. To the indigenous people of the Americas, the cross symbolizes European conquerors who brutally imposed their faith upon them. The Ku Klux Klan during their reign of terror in this country, chose the burning cross as the symbol of their own brand of cruelty, hatred and oppression. And sadly today, the cross is becoming a symbol of the intolerance of many white American Christians whom as we saw this past election season, would just as soon everyone not like them go someplace else.

Ironically, the Christians who voted for Donald Trump last month, supported a man who at least from his outward actions, could not be farther from representing Christian ethics and values. I can only assume that what appealed to the Christians who voted for him, or at least justified their vote, was his bullet point style of addressing issues close to their hearts. Although in the past, Trump stated he was "pro choice", in this cycle he came out as staunchly anti-abortion. He also claimed to be pro-Israel, anti Muslim, and pledged that when he became president, people would no longer substitute the greeting "Happy Holidays" for "Merry Christmas". How he planned to accomplish that I have no idea, make a law I suppose.

It's true that I vastly prefer wishing people a Merry Christmas to the insipid Happy Holidays. If you're interested you can read my reasons here. Yes I understand that many people do not celebrate Christmas, at least not as a religious holiday. But while there is definitely a religious component to Christmas, it is by no means strictly a religious holiday, it never has been, and in fact, the holiday predates Christianity by several centuries. Having a winter celebration commemorating the birth of the son rather than the birth of the son was simply a palatable way for Emperor Constantine to introduce his new found faith to his pagan subjects, For the first three centuries of Christianity, the followers of Christ never even thought of commemorating his birthday.

Yet today all over the land we hear voices crying out to "put Christ back into Christmas." As I mentioned in my earlier piece on the subject, we Christians can't have it both ways. If we want the emphasis of the holiday to be on religion, we can't expect people who do not share the faith to participate, even by extending the simple gesture of wishing others a "Merry Christmas."

I have to admit being slightly perplexed at the attitude of some of my fellow Christians regarding the holiday as in reality, the secular and the sacred Christmas seasons don't even overlap. As we all know, in the U.S., the secular Christmas season begins officially the moment folks begin to digest their Thanksgiving dinner. In reality it begins as soon as the stores take down their Halloween decorations.

To the purely secular, Christmas ends on Christmas Day. For my father, an a-religious person if there ever was one, it ended even earlier as our family tradition was to have Christmas dinner and the opening of presents on Christmas Eve. Like clockwork every year, after the last gift was unwrapped, my father would proclaim gloomily: "well another Christmas is over."

Of course it hadn't even begun!

To believers, the real feast of Christmas does not begin until Christmas Day, and is celebrated for the famous twelve days, culminating with the feast of the Epiphany on January 6th. In church, the four weeks preceding Christmas Day are not considered Christmas at all, but Advent, a solemn time of prayer, almsgiving, and fasting, much like the forty days (not counting the Sundays) of Lent before Easter. Just as Lent, Advent is a time of preparation, in this case not just preparing to commemorate the historical birth of Jesus, 2,000 years ago, but more importantly, preparation for the next coming of Christ which will signal the end of the world and the beginning of eternal life. Pretty heavy stuff, small wonder why that part of the Christmas story isn't mentioned in any of the holiday songs or stories we're inundated with every year at this time.

I could be wrong but I can't remember much of a conflict between secular and sacred Christmas during the first half of my life. Then about thirty years ago I began to notice a slow but steady decline in the use of the word Christmas.

The operator of the train I was riding last night announced that at the next stop we would be able to board the Christmas Train featuring Santa Claus and his minions, something that has been a Chicago tradition for a number of years. As soon as the words came out of his mouth he corrected himself saying: "Excuse me, I meant to say the Holiday Train." As you can see in the picture, I met Santa and he personally wished me a hearty "Merry Christmas". Apparently Santa is not on board with CTA policy as far as their idea of the proper nomenclature for the holiday. To illustrate the universial nature of the holiday, Santa Claus is a Christmas tradition whose origins can be traced back to pagan times.

So of course is the Christmas tree.

Neither the secular nor the religious seem to have much of a problem with the public display of the Christmas, excuse me, holiday tree, Santa Claus, and other religious-neutral symbols of the season. Chicago seems to have worked it out pretty well I think in their approach to decorations in our most public government space, Daley Plaza. For many years there was a tradition of placing a creche in the plaza at Christmastime. When people objected to the overtly religious symbolism of the life size figures representing the characters in the Christmas story, raising of the funds for the display of the creche was taken over by the Knights of Columbus and new signage made it absolutely clear that not a cent of public money was spent on the display. Then a giant menorah was placed adjacent to the creche as were symbols of other faiths, including in recent years, a nod to Pagans in the form of a tribute to the Winter Solstice. All this in the midst of our version of a holiday festival market found virtually everywhere in Germany this time of year. No one even seems to mind its name, Christkindl Market, an anglicized version of the original German,

A local official in Knightstown was asked why a similar gesture to give tribute to other faiths couldn't be made in their public square. He said that they would have no problem with that but there were no Jews, Muslims or Pagans in Knightstown. Perhaps that's true or perhaps he hasn't bothered to check.

Meanwhile many of the citizens of Knightstown, appalled by the removal of the cross from the tree, have vowed to display crosses in every front yard in town, which is certainly their right. But it seems to me that as the self-proclaimed keepers of the holiday, we Christians could do better by keeping the Christmas spirit, not by advertising our faith, like football fans during homecoming week, but by extending an olive branch to our brothers and sisters who don't share our faith. Isn't that the true meaning of Christmas? Wouldn't that be the "Christian" thing to do?

By overtly proclaiming our faith this time of year, isn't it we Christians who are hijacking Christmas? Besides, who ever heard of putting a cross on top of a Christmas tree?

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

75 Years

Today is the seventy fifth anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the entry of the United States into World War II.


Here is a recording of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's message to the American people before a joint session of Congress made the following day:



Gives you goose bumps doesn't it? Well it does me anyway.

The war in Europe was already over two years old by the time the US was drawn into the battle. France and the rest of mainland Western Europe had fallen, leaving Britain alone to fight Germany. Then in June, 1941, Hitler reneged on his non-aggression pact with Stalin and invaded the Soviet Union. Meanwhile in the Pacific, Germany's ally Japan, whose empire already included Korea, Taiwan and significant portions of China, Indochina and Mongolia, looked to expand further south.

Despite all that, before Pearl Harbor, public sentiment in this country was strongly opposed to entering the war. Roosevelt understood the threat of Hitler and Nazism, and the aggression of Japan, but knew he could not declare war against the Axis powers without the support of the American people and Congress. In order to help the Allied effort as best he could, Roosevelt signed the "Lend-Lease" act, which enabled the United States to send food, oil and supplies to Great Britain, Free France, the Soviet Union and China, in return for their leasing us territories for the use of strategic military bases. In theory, the supplies would be returned after the war. Roosevelt, as a means to sell the still skeptical American public, likened the act to "lending a neighbor your garden hose to put out a fire."

German U-boats attacked and destroyed merchant marine vessels transporting lend-lease supplies across the Atlantic. Roosevelt ordered US war ships to protect those vessels and threatened Germany that any attack on the US Navy would constitute an act of war. A perturbed Hitler, already with a two front war on his hands, was not eager to engage the United States. He ordered his navy to withhold attacking US ships.

For Japan's part, the only thing stopping them from expanding their empire to the Philippines, Indochina in its entirety, Indonesia and beyond, was the U.S., who at the time controlled the Philippines and had significant economic interests in the rest of the region. Roosevelt imposed an oil embargo on Japan after their aggression in French Indochina.

Most likely the attack in response to the embargo on the enormous American naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii had been planned at least one year in advance.

As Roosevelt mentioned in his December 8th address, late in 1941 with relations between the two countries at all all time low (up to that point), Japan's ambassador to the US, KichisaburĊ Nomura met with US Secretary of State Cordell Hull, attempting to negotiate an end to hostilities between the two nations. Nomura went to his grave claiming he knew nothing of the imminent attack, and his claims were backed up by Hull who insisted that the Japanese ambassador was sincere in his attempts to make peace with the Americans. His bosses in Tokyo were obviously not on the same page.

Conspiracy theories abound that Roosevelt and his generals knew in advance of the attack, but did nothing to stop it in order to rile up American sentiment in favor of going to war. Plausible as it may seem, there is little evidence to back this theory up. Roosevelt's biggest concern at the time was the war in Europe and it's very unlikely that he relished the idea of his own two front war.

Not only is it unlikely that Roosevelt knew about the attack in advance, but apparently neither did Japan's buddy, Adolph Hitler. Rumor has it that when the news of the attack reached Nazi headquarters in Berlin, one of the generals present asked the assembled group where Pearl Harbor was. Nobody knew.

Hitler reportedly said after the attack:

Now we can’t lose the war. We have an ally that has not been defeated in 3,000 years of history!” 

Still he wasn't eager to declare war on the United States. He was on the other hand, eager to engage Japan in his war against the Soviet Union. Japan clearly had a bargaining chip, and demanded that as fulfilling terms of their Tripartite Pact signed with Germany and Italy in September of 1940, Germany and Italy declare war on the United States.

Despite objections from his generals, Hitler did so on December 11, 1941.

Next to invading the Soviet Union, that was his biggest blunder. Allied troops in a combined effort led by U.S. General Dwight David Eisenhower, attacked mainland Europe via the English Channel on June, 6 1944 and began their inexorable push east toward Berlin. Meanwhile the Soviet Army did the same from the east. The Third Reich met its end with the suicide of Adolph Hitler in his bunker on April 30, 1945. Germany unconditionally surrendered seven days later.

Which leads to the obvious question: what would have happened to Europe, and the rest of the world, had Japan not attacked Pearl Harbor?

Only God knows.

I for one, shudder to think about it.