We are the sons and daughters of the “Greatest Generation.” We are also the victims of the War in Vietnam and Watergate. In many cases the attitudes of the children of the “Greatest Generation,” have turned sour. Many of us have become cynical and self centered and selfish. What has been the effect ? How did we get here?
Our parents built a great nation. Out of the death and destruction of World War II, and out of the despair of the Great Depression a greater nation arose. The survivors of those two epic events in history, worked together whether they be Democrats or Republicans to build the Greatest Middle Class in our history. They also planned for the future to help insure that in the future we would not bring with it another Great Depression nor another World War. Democracy grew to where we formed a more perfect Union. Times were great and optimism reigned. Voters trusted their leaders. Then things changed for the children of the great generation of men and women who changed the world.
The War in Vietnam happened. Vietnam impacted a generation. The amount of damage done to a generation can not be calculated. It tore apart a generation. It wasn’t just the deaths of our soldiers and the wounded that the war left behind. Vietnam left behind a generation that no longer believed what their President told them. Faith in our institutions diminished.
I remember a conversation my father and I had. He told me that I should take what President Johnson said on faith, because only the President knew all of the facts. I responded respectfully by telling my Dad that Johnson was lying. We had many an argument over the War in Vietnam and I am confident that we were not alone in having such discussions across our nation.
Vietnam was the first television war. The pictures and the carnage were on the evening news, graphically bringing the war into the living rooms of America. The war was fought in a far off land, that most Americans had never heard of. It was fought in jungles and rice paddies. Day after day, year after year, the war went on. Casualties mounted. Vietnam became our third bloodiest war after the Civil War and World War II. In fact, there were more casualties from the War in Vietnam than there were fighting the Japanese in World War II.
The draft made it a war that brought with it the fear of being drafted and fighting in a war that many did not believe in. Friends died! Doubts lingered, and thoughts came to mind whether or not your friends and acquaintances were fighting for a worthy cause. Many of our brothers in arms came home with mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems. A neighbor, who I met in later years, survived the worst battle of the war, the siege of Khe Sanh. He relived that battle that lasted 77 days, with hand to hand combat, on occasion, when he contemplated eating his gun, because he was reliving the war in his nightmares. Friends enlisted, others went to Canada, or even went to jail rather than go against their beliefs that the war was wrong and immoral as well as illegal. Most of our soldiers fought bravely and honorably under the worst of circumstances. Wrongfully, the returning veterans were treated miserably, as if the war in Vietnam was their fault. America never lost a battle but eventually lost the war. Losing left us damaged. Many could not understand how a great nation could win World War II, and not win a war in Vietnam. The pictures of people clinging to the bottom carriage of the last helicopter leaving the embassy in Saigon, left us an indelible image not soon forgotten.
If the war was not bad enough, Watergate came next. Vietnam was a long war but having Watergate was like piling on, to the American Psyche. It is still unfathomable that a third rate burglary led to the resignation of a President, President Richard M. Nixon. It is hard to believe that it really happened, after all of these years. After the failed burglary, 68 people from the re-election effort and Nixon’s administration were indicted and 49 were convicted with many serving prison time.
Although President Nixon did many good things as President of the United States, no one is above the law, not even the President. Our citizens got quite a civics lesson during the Senate Watergate hearings. The Nixon gang was paraded before the cameras and before the Committee, chaired by Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina with the respected and fair, Senator Howard Baker of Tennessee, presiding as the minority chair. Day after day, new revelations shocked and rocked a nation. Senator Ervin became a television star as the country lawyer who continually upbraided, embarrassed and humbled men who came to sit down before his committee. They came sometimes with huge inflated egos and went home as lambs as Senator Ervin, brought out his copy of the Constitution and his quotes from the Bible to excoriate these men who purportedly represented the President of the United States.
Watergate succeeded in confirming for what many of our citizens have often thought, that politicians are not to be trusted. Many proved to be crooks and liars. Cynicism and a lack of faith in our government went deep into the psyche after that. For almost ten years, two awful events, left an everlasting impression upon a generation of voters. Now many years later, we are still feeling the repercussions of Vietnam and Watergate. Many of our voters just plain do not vote anymore and others have been so damaged by the scars of the two events that they will always distrust government and politicians. To those who are left scarred by the events of the past no professional politician is to be trusted.
This is why I believe that in the year, 2015, we have so many candidates who have found solid footing in the race to the White House. Why,because they are viewed as outsiders! People far removed from politics. Donald Trump has never held elective office. He is a billionaire builder and developer of properties. Ben Carson is a former brain surgeon who has never been elected to any political office, not even to his own City Council. Carly Fiorina is a former corporate CEO, whose only previous exposure to politics was a failed run for the Senate in the State of California.
Some voters have talked themselves into thinking that maybe the trains will run on time if only we elect someone far removed from the nations capitol.
Be careful what you wish for! If you elect an amateur you just might get as a result, the Amateur Hour!!!