Nothing in life is static. Everything changes, usually in stages: from day to evening to night to dawn —from child to adult to old age to death —periods of transition. The list is almost endless, and that is well and good because it provides time for us to adjust, learn, prepare, mature — to get it right.
Not to experience a period of transition can be traumatic in the extreme. Most of us remember the terrorists attacks in 2001, and some of us were alive when the United States was attacked in 1941. In each instance, on the day before those attacks, our nation was at peace; the following day we were at war — no time for adjustment, for transition.
We are currently in another transitional period, a period that threatens the very fabric of our society, perhaps even the existence of our nation.
There is nothing wrong with peaceful marches, protests, and demonstrations. The freedom to speak our mind, to publicly voice our opinion, is the essence of our freedoms and is stated clearly in the First Amendment to our Constitution.
But peaceful protests are not what is happening in America today. There is an element emerging that clearly wants to disrupt, injure, and destroy, and it is being allowed, supported, even encouraged by some of our elected legislators, mayors and governors.
In the past our nation has been guilty of racial and sexual discrimination and, though we have made tremendous progress, there is always room for improvement. But that is no justification for the violence and destruction we are currently experiencing in many of our cities, for the disrespect of and attacks on law enforcement, and for the burning of our flag. Upon reflection, I remember experiencing this fifty years ago.
Wars are fought for four reasons: to enslave people or to take their land, natural resources or food. We were not in Vietnam to enslave the Vietnamese nor to take their land, and we certainly did not want their rice paddies, water buffalo, or rubber plantations. We were there to save 17 million people from Communism, and it was the most altruistic war ever fought.
I remember that a large contingent of our population, with almost total support and encouragement of the news media, turned our valiant effort into an “Unjust, Illegal, Immoral War”, spit on us, cursed us, and called us “Baby Killers.”
I know personally that many of us were in a state of shock from combat and because of the way we were treated when we came home. Nevertheless, the vast majority of us ignored the insults and rejection and went on with our lives.
The veterans I talk with today are all proud of their Vietnam service, as I am, and we are no longer in a state of shock. We understand the nature of the current violence in our cities, but we are not willing to put up with it. We are also extremely concerned about our Nation’s immediate future.
All of this is perhaps a too-lengthy segue into discussing the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March in Forest which I attended this past February, but it is directed related to it.
After more than half a century of holding an annual march, perhaps it would be more appropriate, inclusive and less confrontational for the organizers to commemorate that great leader by transitioning from an hour’s march attended by a relatively few of only one race into a full day’s celebration attended by many of all races. I can readily visualize multiple celebrations in Forest open to the public with speeches, singing, concerts, and food sponsored by Scott County’s religious, civic, educational and government organizations.
It is apparent that some Americans are once again providing destructive leadership at all levels within our nation in their effort to bring about change that would destroy us. It is also apparent that now is the time for our constructive leaders to thwart that effort by bringing us together. From a local standpoint it would seem that a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Forest would be an excellent transitional place to start. It is a matter of leadership.