Bob Gibson was in the second wave of troops storming Normandy’s beaches on D-day. Now 100 and wheelchair bound, NBC Nightly News filmed his return 78 years later. Bob reminisced about the …
Bob Gibson was in the second wave of troops storming Normandy’s beaches on D-day. Now 100 and wheelchair bound, NBC Nightly News filmed his return 78 years later. Bob reminisced about the estimated 4,400 Americans who died on June 6, 1944.
The television interviewer asked his reactions upon returning. “I done this for you people,” he emphatically responded. “Don’t screw it up!”
Are we? For more than 50 years I have been observing, reporting on, writing about and moderating TV talk shows on public policy issues. What I am seeing currently is a disillusioned, disgusted, discouraged, distrustful, disbelieving and disunited people. It is disturbing to see.
How bad is it? A University of Maryland/Washington Post poll reported in January of this year that 1 in 3 adults say violence against government can be justified. Thirty years ago, some 90 percent said violence against government was never justified; now it’s just 62 percent. Repeated testimony and evidence regarding the Jan. 6 attack confirms the poll’s accuracy.
I don’t care what party you belong to, what philosophy you espouse, the color of your skin or your net worth there is no other way to describe Jan. 6 than to say it was an act of sedition to overthrow our government. What amazes me is that far too many political, business, religious and civic leaders have sat quietly without expressing outrage at what happened, those who conceived it and the people who did it. Far too many of us have seemingly accepted that this is just how things are.
Is that what Bob Gibson risked his life on the beaches of Normandy for? Our acquiescence?
How did we get from a people who believed in our system, trusted our leaders and (even with political differences) were willing to unite to continue our way of life?
Issues like guns, abortion, voting rights, gender issues, race, education policies and a host of others divide us. Where once we were willing to participate in reasonable conversations and come up with compromise solutions, whoever disagrees with us now is an enemy, not just on that one position but on all. The political culture is so toxic that most just withdraw entirely instead of engaging and sticking with it until solutions are found.
Demagogues, who have personal agendas for power, sow seeds of distrust and vitriol towards our government, the media, health care, education and our election process. They know, from examples like Hitler, Putin and other autocrats that if you repeat claims frequently and with conviction, you can whip up fears and win increasing numbers into your cult. Allow me to pause here. Some have taken offense in my calling Donald Trump the leader of a cult. The Oxford dictionary defines a cult: “a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing.” Satisfied? The so-called “silent majority” has implied acceptance to bullying, lies, distrust and our unity.
Presidential historian Michael Beschloss said that 2022 could be the year that we lose democracy. “Things we assumed were permanent in America are falling apart,” he said. “Americans are resilient, but only resilient when Americans roll into action.”
I was encouraged and inspired by comments from actor Matthew McConaughey, following the Robb Elementary shooting in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas. He said, “We are not as divided as we are being told we are,” adding that we need to return to “the common table that represents the American people.” He continued we need to reclaim the middle ground, “where most of us Americans live anyway.” As he stood at the White House briefing room podium, he implored us to “re-brand ourselves on what we truly value.” We’ve got to find some real courage to “honor our moral obligation instead of our party affiliation.”
McConaughey concluded, “let’s start giving us — all of us — good reason to believe that the American dream is not an illusion.”
I like to believe he is right. That there is a majority who still believe in our country, our government and are willing to do our patriotic duty to support and defend it. There are plenty willing to sacrifice to support the common good, to trust leaders and each other until they prove we can’t. But we’ve got to stop fighting with each other and start fighting for each other.
That’s exactly what men and women who wore the uniform in World War II and in the years following fought for. Let’s not allow this generation to be the ones who “screw it up.”
Tom Campbell is a Hall of Fame North Carolina Broadcaster and columnist who has covered North Carolina public policy issues since 1965. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org .