Disconcerting times . . . The 1960s were, as those of us who experienced it can attest, turbulent times to put it mildly.
I used to share with my students – I am a retired history teacher – that 1968, in particular, stood out. It was a year almost without parallel in American History for the momentous events that seemed to follow one another like the tipping of a domino. One after another they came: end of January, the Tet Offensive; end of March, LBJ announces he will not seek reelection; beginning of April, Dr. King assassinated in Memphis; beginning of June, Bobby Kennedy assassinated in Los Angeles; end of August, the infamous Democratic National Convention in Chicago; beginning of November, Nixon defeats Humphrey in a close popular, although more comfortable Electoral College vote.
I would tell my students that this was a very disconcerting time for those of us who lived through it. What was happening to us as a country we asked?
I would express my desire that we would never experience such a time again. Unfortunately, we are indeed in such a time again.
An individual who some argue entered the Republican primaries in 2016 to simply prop up his brand name, emerged victorious as the Republican nominee. He followed up with a stunning victory. While losing the popular vote, he secured the presidency via the Electoral College, in the same manner as four of his predecessors.
One need only to go back to the Republican primaries in 2016, to see but a sampling of what many Republicans thought about this man. He was accused of being everything from a “race-baiting xenophobic bigot,” to a “phony and a fraud” by major party leaders.
When Jan. 20, 2017 rolled around, however, those who previously had seen a most egregiously flawed man seemed to have an epiphany. Like Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, a blinding light removed the political scales from their eyes. It is as if an entire political party had sold its collective soul in the name of political expediency and power.
To be sure there are many Republicans dismayed at what has happened to their party.
In addition, who is to say that if Donald Trump had won the Presidency as a Democrat, it would not be the Democratic Party surrendering its soul? One of the most disheartening aspects of this Presidency is the assault on the truth.
We Americans cynically like to say that all politicians stretch the truth occasionally. This president has stretched it beyond the breaking point, shattering any semblance of truth with his daily lies. In the first week of his presidency, we were introduced to the befuddling concept of “alternative facts,” by a senior member of his Administration.
Since then the onslaught has been relentless. Repeated lies about the trivial – where his father was born – to the serious – claiming that the Mueller Report completely exonerated him. Any news that is not favorable to either him or his worldview is declared fake news, and his supporters nod their heads approvingly.
Who could have imagined a day would come when an American president would declare that the press is the enemy of the people and some would cheer? The political solution, in this writer’s opinion, is actually not a conundrum. It is rather simple.
It is of paramount importance for all of Congress, but especially Republicans, to take very seriously their collective oaths of office: “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same . . .” Congress does not take an oath to protect and maintain loyalty to their party or their party’s president at all costs.
The Founding Fathers provided a roadmap and framework – albeit not perfect – to guide this great Republic. They expected it to be what future Americans would have first allegiance to, not political parties, or as Washington warned factions. The gifted American Revolutionary writer Thomas Paine told his contemporaries, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”
Paine’s words echo down to us through our common history. Americans persevered in Paine’s “times” and produced these United States of America. What kind of country will future generations look back and say that we left to them as a result of our times?