Failing the Test
By Patrick F. Cannon
When this country was forced to go to war on December 7, 1941, not only was much of our Navy destroyed that Sunday morning in Hawaii, but our Army would be unable to put any meaningful number of troops in the field for nearly a year. But the American people were aroused, and together did whatever was necessary to win the war.
I was only three years and nine months old that day, but clearly remember the things we and other families did to support the war effort. There was food rationing of course. I remember – when I got a bit older – being sent to the nearby grocery store with a written list and a ration book. If you made bacon or other fat producing meats, you saved the fat in a container; when it was full, it went back to the butcher to be turned in to the Army to provide glycerin for explosive production.
Tin foil was saved, as were scrap metals of all kinds. People turned in their aluminum pots and pans, which were needed for aircraft production. My father, although he had three children, tried to enlist, but had flat feet and was turned down. But because he was a city councilman, he did get a bit more rationed gasoline, so occasionally we would go for a Sunday drive. I remember being awed by the recently-opened Pennsylvania Turnpike, the first of its kind in the country.
In 1940, there were 132 million Americans. Sixteen million of them – mostly men – served in one of the armed services. There were over a million casualties, including 407,000 killed in action. Almost everyone else was somehow involved in the war effort. As an example, Americans produced 300,000 airplanes, 50,000 tanks and 1,150 warships of all types; oh, and 34 million tons of merchant ships. Of course, there were some draft dodgers, profiteers and black marketeers, but the vast majority our citizens were behind the war effort.
Contrast this national effort with today’s response to the pandemic and practically every other challenge we face. As of Monday, 580,000 Americans have died of the virus, yet only some 35 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated, and there remain significant numbers of our fellow citizens who refuse to be vaccinated because they claim it impinges on some vague principal of “personal freedom.” In fact, this refusal is basically a political statement. When the public health becomes political, when ones “freedom” is more important than ones neighbor’s health and even his life, we have gone far from the kind of unity that won the war.
Frankly, I don’t see much immediate hope for a country that is so profoundly divided. The far left and right are too entrenched in their equally radical ideas. The center no longer holds. Until it becomes strong enough to actually influence events, we’re stuck, really, really stuck.
Copyright 2021, Patrick F. Cannon
5 thoughts on “Failing the Test”
I was a third-grader in a rural one-room school when we were dismissed from class one day to gather milkweed pods to turn in to make life preserver vests. It was a fun and different day but cannot imagine such an effort today by school children.
Historically, there have been deep rifts in this country like the one dating back to the Puritans of the North and the Cavaliers of the South that were overcome only by stronger common causes. The Revolutionary War temporarily joined those two factions, but only temporarily as animosities soon resumed and eventually led to the Civil War. The Second world war, and likely the Great Depression, were similar common causes that united the country.
Since WW II we’ve seen divides between Left and Right, which trace roughly to the European Stalinist-Fascist conflict, and of course lingering frictions in the 50s and 60s over race between northern and southern states that lately the Left has attempted to exploit for political advantage. Our politicized education system labors tirelessly and largely unchallenged to discredit the country’s history and values.
Our current “no prisoners” political mentality may have been triggered by the Bush-Gore election. By the end of Bush’s second term, Congress pretty much divided along party lines, a split that became complete with the passage of Obamacare late on the night of Dec 24, 2009, by one vote when senator Alan Specter switched parties from Republican to Democrat. Since then, Congress has been consumed in us-versus-them partisan battles. With the election of Trump, the conflict became even more defined, resulting in two contrived Democratic attempts at impeachment following a three-year investigation that was staged on false evidence fabricated in a dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign and supported by the media and corrupted elements in the Justice and Intelligence departments.
Our partisanship has certainly eroded middle ground, but also has destroyed much of the remaining trust American have in their government institutions. The 2020 election with millions of mailed ballots of dubious origin and validity has sown doubt about government motives. Additionally, the press in its eagerness to take sides and promote narratives has done little to restore its credibility. So we’ve seen even a potential common cause, the pandemic, splintered by partisan accusations. Are vaccines safe or not? Do masks prevent contagion or are they attempts to impose conformity? Did the virus originate as a result of risky research in a lab funded by the US and its primary medical spokesman, Fauci, or did it jump from bats to humans via soup? The truth is clouded in equivocation and open debate is discouraged.
Now we have a president and Congress determined to impose a radical leftist agenda impacting all aspects of American society and at great financial cost. Somehow I don’t see unity coming out of this. Maybe only a real disaster can succeed in bringing everyone back to their senses. But I’m not sure it would be worth it. Life goes on, for better or worse, and the only politics that matters is local.
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Well put. Not even sure old Lyndon would be able to twist enough arms to get things done.
We’ve been okay with the local politics here. The governor has kept the state on a smooth, steady course. The only fly in the ointment is our progressive mayor who seems determined to turn this town and gown town into a mini Minneapolis (or a portly Portland?), but even the diehard Dems here don’t like him, so hopefully next time around we’ll get a donkey less stubbornly doctrinaire and more tuned into less asinine concerns.
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Even Portlandia is getting tired of what’s his name.