This missile false alarm in Hawaii was very unfortunate, and I would be very angry if I’d been woken up to that as so many Hawaiians were Saturday.
But I doubt many people will regret the things they chose to do when they thought “this might be the end.” Some people called their loved ones to tell them how much they loved them; I doubt they’ll feel sorry they did that. People got to think about what and who they cared about most, and that’s always a beneficial exercise.
On a practical level for the government officials there’s benefit to this too, as long as they’re willing to really examine what went wrong here. They’ll be better prepared for the real thing.
In Israel, of course, we’ve lived with the real-life possibility — and actuality— of missile attacks for a long time. It’s a huge strain for such a tiny nation to have to maintain a strong standing army and air force that can respond to threats from our neighbors, large and small. But it has very real benefits as well.
This past Shabbat I had the opportunity to sit around the Friday night table with some teenagers who soon have army service and one young man coming close to the end of his army service. I could not help but be struck by how mature and balanced they seemed compared to the Americans of similar ages I know. I didn’t hear the “if I don’t get into the right college, my life will be over!” anxiety and narcissism that afflicts so much of America’s middle and upper middle class Jewish youth.
Army service isn’t the right thing for every young person. But it might be for most; I certainly think, when I look back at how lost I was in my teenage and young adult years, that I would have benefited. The required service acts as kind of a community college and an entry level job experience in a lot of ways. It forces kids to learn to function as part of a team and as part of an organization. It makes them responsible for something.
Peace. That’s what I dream of more than anything, of a time when no one — here, in Hawaii or anywhere — has to worry about missile alerts. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some benefits to living with danger not far off and to being potentially responsible for the lives of others. It’s part of what makes life so alive and intense here. I’m glad to be reminded of what I care about most; it makes my life better.