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Fear Determines Our American Destiny
My mind doesn't always follow a straight path from beginning to end. Regardless of my intentions, it strays down byways, picking up new material along the way.
I haven't forgotten the Angelone's travels. I've been comparing the places where they've lived with the unique American experience. Also chilling images from a television report about North Korea have stuck in my mind. All of this is overlaid with my disgust and concern about our current political situation.
The 1950s was an easier time. We were raised to believe that America was the best place in the world.
An old Knightstown Banner quoted the longtime superintendent of schools, L. E. Rogers: "The educational system must inculcate children in the American Way." If you had asked anyone in Knightstown to describe it, the answer would have included words like hard work, free enterprise, self-reliance, good sportsmanship, and helping those in need at home and abroad. Above all, freedom - always freedom - would be mentioned. Last week I heard a "man on the street" say on television, "America - the land of the free and the home of the brave!" That was our rosy, simplistic image of America.
As I've pointed out, the good old days weren't all that perfect. Following bitter arguments about separating from England, revolutionaries passed a law forbidding Tories to carry guns and sometimes tarred and feathered them.
Under the cannons of gunboats, we forced China and Japan to open their doors to trade. Leaders of the women's suffrage movement were jailed and even given psychological examinations. Three Black teenagers who confessed to a rape and a shooting were lynched in Elwood in 1930.
Lincoln was called an ape. FDR was thought by some to be the devil incarnate. My father voted for him once and then became so angry with him that he swore that Roosevelt was surely roasting on the hottest coals in hell. Truman's approval rating was in the cellar. Road signs appeared that said, "Impeach Earl Warren!" after the Supreme Court of which he was chief justice ordered that schools be desegregated. I personally suffered from religious bigotry and saw the impact of racial prejudice.
In one of the most shameful episodes in our history, during World War II, Americans of Japanese descent were relocated to internment camps. Then came McCarthy's witch-hunt. There were the civil rights marches and the protests about the war in Vietnam.
And today? Debates continue about the legal rights of prisoners of "the war on terror" and eavesdropping on telephone conversations of possible terrorists. For at least 30 years little has been accomplished regarding energy in spite of the predictability of today's crisis. The president, his cabinet and Congress did nothing to avert the "mortgage meltdown" that was also predictable.
Congress has managed to attain an even lower approval rating than the president because each faction is so self-righteous and determined that their’s is the only way that they refuse to compromise and accept consensus as did the founders of our government.
"I have seen the enemy, and he is us." - Pogo
The public says that they want "clean" campaigns, yet relish trash. Candidates are demonized by information that has absolutely nothing to do with their ability. For example, John McCain's first marriage has been dredged up. This kind of stuff is nothing new. Nasty gossip was spread about Andrew and Rachel Jackson. I've seen e-mails that show pictures of Barack Obama visiting his African relatives. So what? With the exception of the American Indians, everyone here originated elsewhere.
Fear is used: "If Bill Clinton is elected president, we'll have socialized medicine." Didn't happen. "If George Bush (1 or 2) is elected president, the right to abortions will be overturned." Didn't happen.
Stupidly, we apply litmus tests to candidates rather than looking at the totality of their experience and beliefs.
Instead of accepting the concept that all of us have ownership in America, extremists at both ends refuse to accept anything less than total victory and want to take America back from people like me. The American people are so fed up that they're looking for someone who combines the attributes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, JFK and Ronald Reagan to miraculously save us from ourselves. I have news for them: Not in this lifetime!
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