The State of Our Union is polarized. Are we at the breaking point? Have we become ungovernable? In President Obama’s eighth and, unfortunately last, State of the Union Address, he expressed this as his largest regret as president. “It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better,” he said.
President Obama went on to suggest several ways that the electoral process needed to be changed to ensure that our current state of polarity be reigned in. I can think of several other steps that need to be taken that he didn’t discuss especially abolishing the Electoral College but that could be the subject of a whole posting of its own. In the meantime, polarized we are. In his parting State of the Union address, President Obama looking to the future, warned us of the consequences of all our animosities to one another. He counseled us to have rational debates, to listen to each other without vehemence, and to make sure that every citizen has the opportunity to have a voice in our political process imploring us all to participate as citizens. We would all do well to heed his words as we go forward.
Pres. Obama’s message was exquisitely stated and brought me back to an earlier time when things in America were simpler and people got along with each other with more civility. Although that is how that time period is perceived in America’s collective consciousness, the 1950’s and 1960’s were not really that peaceful an era. In fact, it was the height of the Cold War, McCarthyism, and the House Un-American Activities Committee.
I wish that I could forget the air-raid drills we had periodically in my elementary school and high school. I wish that I could forget crouching under my desk in my classroom with my hands behind my head as if this would save me and my classmates in the event of a thermonuclear attack. Most of all, I wish that I could forget the nightmares that I had about surviving one of them. When I’d wake my parents after one of my nightmares, they’d tell me it wouldn’t happen. I’d ask them if that was the case why they had to demonstrate and attend meetings of Sane (the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy). I still remember their campaign buttons. “There’s still time, Brother.” In high school, I enjoyed telling friends that my parents were in Sane, but I was still having the nightmares.
In a moment of national unity, President Eisenhower addressed the American public farewell on January 17, 1961. Although I was only 13 years old, I remember watching Pres. Eisenhower deliver that speech. “Beware of the military-industrial complex.” As a military man, he was especially versed in what the military was and leaving office, he had that advice to Americans looking toward the future. If only we’d heeded his advice, we’d be in better shape today. I hope that there’s still time, Brother, to listen to him now.