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With wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, we shouldn't avoid the lessons of the 1960's, or be afraid to choose to define ourselves because of political correctness.
Back in the mid-1960s, I was a kid headed off for college at Kansas
State University. College is supposed to widen the horizons, and it
began to broaden mine even when I retreated.
I was longing for my farm life while having my perspectives thrashed by what was around me. I was still in my box, but had the lid pried open just enough to look around. What I saw was a country struggling with its self-identity.
Students continually had “bull-session” discussions about the Vietnam War and racial issues. Vietnam was always part of male conciousness.
Most young men who didn’t remain in college had two choices: be drafted by, or volunteer for, the military.
As did many students, I went through ROTC because I thought with the inevitability of military service it would be better to be an officer
than an enlisted man—not correct thinking, but that’s another story.
As the anti-war demonstrations and draft-card burnings progressed
through my time in college, I remained basically what I considered
pro-American but wondering why the government wouldn’t turn the military loose to win the war instead of sending young men to die piece-meal.
The effort to define what was “a good American” and what was traitorous was accelerating. Being a member of groups on the un-American activities list could automatically lead to your being defined as a “security risk,” subject to law enforcement surveillance.
I was from rural, white Kansas, and made my first two black friends at K-State. Darnell and Roy were as different from each other as any two white guys would ever be.
Roy was focused on his education and doing well in life. He grew up with a self-employed successful-in-business family in Kansas City. We did things together like going to a movie and playing dirt-lot basketball.
Darnell and I mostly spent the time in bull sessions discussing hot
issues, racial politics, often taking radical positions that for me
sometimes went beyond how I really felt.
I remember pushing his buttons by saying, given a choice, I would sit by a white girl in a class rather than a black girl because the white girl might have potential for dating, or maybe even marriage, while a black girl never would.
Darnell must have passed the word among his friends because at a K-State Student Union dance, a beautiful black girl named Paula asked me to dance while Darnell glared at me from a corner. I was surprised when she hugged me to dance very close, but the girl did prove her point.
It was about this time that Darnell got kicked out of Air Force ROTC
because he was an admitted member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. SNCC was defined as un-American and a security risk.
There was no pretense at the modern conception of political correctness in such a case.
A prominent un-American came to campus to speak as part of the K-State effort to make its lectures reflect all of society. He was George Lincoln Rockwell, the president of the American Nazi Party.
He was a lesson in the fact that evil can be overwhelmingly charismatic.
He was unfearful of anything, very fierce in his speech, somewhat like hearing Adolph Hitler himself, I guessed. The thousands of students listened spell-bound to his predominantly anti-Jewish rhetoric while also seeming obligated to jeer at him.
The black students carried signs protesting his visit on the outskirts
of the crowd, and at times tried to shout him down. Rockwell ferociously shook a hand at them, and said their actions showed they were apes barely removed from the jungle.
It was a spectacular performance that left me thinking about freedom of speech, and what society should tolerate for its own well-being.
Rockwell’s dead now, assasinated probably as the result of his own
Roy was a very successful person, and he generously donates money to K-State. Darnell, according to an Internet search—if indeed it is the same Darnell—went on to become an attorney and sociologist dealing with racial relations in Chicago.
I have little doubt that this is my Darnell. Darnell and Roy, both “good Americans.”
Looking back on those times, and considering the political correctness in vogue as we continue to search for American identity, causes me to daydream about how things ought to be.
With the Soviet Union gone, communist organizations and the un-American lists of the FBI seem to have faded, too. The Nazis hardly appear real at most times, although fears of the ultra-right surfaced with the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Our main enemies now are defined as Islamic radicals, and they seem to again be giving us pause in identifying ourselves.
Politicians puzzle over what to do with the worst of them that have been conveniently kept far away in Guantanamo.
The Americans of the 1940s seemed to have few qualms at hanging Tojo or hanging the Nazis found guilty at Nurenberg. But our newfound political correctness hesitates with the Islamic prisoners.
Back when Darnell faced judgment, nobody would have considered allowing foreign-born Nazis and communists to immigrate into the United States, even those who promised to stay peaceful while continuing worship within their “atheistic religions.”
Now our society spends a disproportionate amount of its time telling Americans that muslims are a peaceful people with a peaceful religion, that the vast majority of them do not subscribe to the murderous activities of the radicals.
It is popularly pointed out that many people have been killed in the
name of Christianity, too. But that ignores that the founder of
Christianity, Jesus the Christ, taught peace and mental wellness, while the founder of Islam, Mohammed, taught the killing of the infidel, and demonstrated this upon gaining power by slaughtering non-believing inhabitants of Mecca and Medina.
Should the “peaceful” followers of Mohammed be allowed to immigrate here in the millions, as they are doing, any more than the “peaceful” followers of Vladmir Lenin or Adolph Hitler?
Darnell was peaceful SNCC. Should that credit Muslims somehow in my mind?
Maybe we need to choose which way we are before circumstances make our choices for us. I have learned the values of what is good in liberalism, but I have no fear of the politically incorrect.
It is right and good to decide what kind of society we will become
without malice or persecution of anyone. This is true when it comes to deciding who should immigrate here. We should be free to tell Muslims not to come here without hating them.
Perhaps you would rather consider me a person who shared a dream of Paula, and call it good. But I know that I lived through desperate times of self-definition that shouldn’t be tritely avoided now.
Jerry W. Engler
Reader Reviews for
"Desperate Self-Definition Times for America"
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|Reviewed by Regis Auffray
|Certainly substance to reflect upon, Jerry. Thank you. Love and peace to you,
|Reviewed by Elizabeth Price
|Fantastic article. I was in high school in the later 60's in Kansas City. We ended up under martial law with a curfew after rioting broke out. 50,000 men gave their lives in piece meal attempts to stop the north Vietnameze. How many lives will it cost in Iraq and Afghan this time? 2 boondoggles if I've ever seen one. I can still remember the smoke on the horizon of KC. Love it. Liz|
|Reviewed by JASMIN HORST SEILER
|Jerry I feel, having seen both sides, the trouble in this world begins defining ourself's by the pencil mark of a cartographer of lands, and religions, not human brothers and sisters together on this planet, but it seems divisions are more easily in our mind, then our common true heritage. It would be a dull carpet of all the patterns of differences in shades and colours were erased, we should practice more keeping the fibers intakt and the vibrancy or the total. Have we got the wherewithall to get there some day? I mean we are, apparently, such an intelligent species, but then it might, I suspect, just be a rumour. I too believe in the sacred, the love that Jesus taught, but if I truly practiced it, and lived like him as best I could, would enemies want me destroyed, I doubt it, pretend christianity though, especially aching to a nearby religion, is going back to the beginning, and makes his cruxifiction a farce,
this my friend makes enemies of any sort. Most religions have a pretext to bring the universal, or God, into their consciousness, ignorance of, and the unbelieving, Kings, President, Dictators, inluding religious ones, will use this to benefit their gain, no matter what the pain. Look back into our own history, and see what so called good Christians have wrought, for the love of God, I just read the expulsion of the Cherokees by Ed, Davey Crooked must have been a real Christian and politically correct when he resigned, where were all the others? In church on Sunday singing Hallelujah,
where were the so called German Christians when the Nazis killed millions? I am proud of America, as a bastion of Civil liberties and goodness, and yes mistakes happen, we don't have to encourage them though do we. I can see your side, I can also see the other, I ask myself which side would Jesus have choosen, or would he?
You certainly know how to tell a story, and you know how to dig into ones heart and mind a bit deeper. Love! Jasmin Horst
|Reviewed by Jeanette Cooper
|Jerry, someone sent me a picture today of Obama taking off his shoes to kneel with his Muslim friends to pray to Islam. Further, Obama cancelled the National Day of Prayer service traditionally held at the Whitehouse, and instead, had an Islamic Prayer Day last week at the Whitehouse.
As he digresses from recognizing American's cultural heritage, and from the concept of government for and by the people, he tends to be using his position to make way for the growing Muslim population in this country. His actions appear selfish, certainly not patriotic to those whom he is supposed to be serving. It is a terrible insult for him to offer a Muslim Prayer day in the white house--that belongs to the tax payers of this country--especially after the 9/11 crisis.
Government is not listening to the people. They are trying to rule the people.