The recent events in our nation’s capitol spurred numerous comments on the news, social media and in conversations.
I heard “the worst ever”, “unprecedented in our nation’s history,” “appalling”, “a dark moment” and so forth.
With the political unrest and the pandemic, combined with the unceasing media coverage of the recent past, one might think that it has never been worse in America.
Then I realized that ANYONE today who is 50 years of age or younger was born after the “Turbulent 60’s”.
It was a time of revolution and change in politics, music and society; an era of protest in America.
Having lived through those years, I thought we should remember what was going on then in our country.
In no particular order, we were embroiled in the Vietnam War, we experienced the Cuban missile crisis, the civil rights movement, the killings of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy.
Stir it up with the “generation gap”, “Beatlemania and the British invasion”, “the space race and the moon landing” and “Woodstock” and you might sense that it was a period of turmoil in this country.
TV was still cutting its’ teeth, so to speak and although it brought the Vietnam War and into our living rooms, it was generally limited to the evening newscasts on three major networks.
No 24 hour news channels in those days.
No Twitter, Facebook Snapchat.
No cell phones to put that info constantly in our hands and before our eyes.
The October, 1962 Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink on a nuclear conflict.
My Dad built a fallout shelter in our basement.
He was not the only American who did that.
We used to practice crawling beneath our school desks and covering our heads in case of a nuclear attack.
(We were in the perfect position to kiss our little backsides bye-bye if it ever occurred.)
I remember America’s U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, during an emergency session of the security council ask the Soviet representative, Valerian Zorin if Russia was installing nuclear missiles in Cuba, 90 miles from our nation.
Zorin appeared reluctant to answer, prompting Stevenson to say, “Don’t wait for the translation…yes or no?”
To which Zorin replied, “I am not in an American court of law and therefore do not answer a question put to me in a manner of a prosecuting council…you will have my answer in due course.”
Steven’s reply was a classic.
“I am prepared to wait for my answer until Hell freezes over,” followed by Stevenson sharing U-2 spy plane photos of the Soviet missiles in Cuba.
I remember the principal coming over the intercom to tell us that President Kennedy had been killed and then hearing a teacher say, “If the Russians did this, it will be World War III.”
Just what a a 13 year old youngster wanted to hear.
We saw Dallas night club owner Jack Ruby shoot accused JFK assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on live television.
We saw Birmingham, Alabama firefighters turn high-powered water hoses on civil rights demonstrators while police dogs chomped down on marchers.
We saw East German troops build the Berlin Wall and saw folks shot while trying to escape to freedom through the barbed wire and booby-trapped area called, “no-man’s land”.
So while I understand the feelings of many after the breach of the Capitol, the current political climate, the pandemic and tensions, some us us have been here before.
The real key for us now is, “Where do we go from here?”
An undocumented quote attributed to one of my favorite historical figures, Sir Winston Churchill, says, “Americans can always be trusted to do the right thing, once all other possibilities have been exhausted.”
Events of the recent past point out the need for us not to change history but to remember it.
To truly quote Churchill again, “The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.”
I also recently heard comments from some who said the world is shaking its’ head and laughing at us.
I would argue that folks who have studied our history would say, “Let’s see how they handle this.”
The civil unrest of the 60’s brought the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts into law.
We’ll have a black, female Vice-President and we’ve already had a black man as President.
I can remember hearing folks says we shouldn’t elect a Catholic president (JFK) because the Pope would be running our country.
So, who’s to blame for our current state of affairs?
Someone once told me to remember that when I point my finger, there are three other fingers are looking right back at me.
Listen, democracy, by its’ very nature, is noisy, disorganized and raucous at times.
In America, we air our grievances in public and show our dirty laundry to the entire world.
Abraham Lincoln said, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion.”
So how do we fix things?
Do something good.
Author, salesman and motivational speaker Hilary Hinton “Zig” Ziglar said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”