This article title comes from the eponymous song by R.E.M off of the Document album back in 1987. I remember this distinctly because I listened to it often on my Walkman while in between classes while in college. The song wasn't about the end of the world, but on how people overreact to events, change, death, etc. and simply think the worst is going to happen. In the end however, life goes on, and gets better, and worse, and better again and again. November 9th 2016 is nothing like September 12th 2001, or December 8th 1941. On these other days, and many like them, Americans of all ages reflected on dire tragedy these days and with steel resolve vowed to overcome the day after wards.
While I was in elementary school, one of our projects was to interview our grandparents about their reactions to the attack on Pearl Harbor. My parents were too young to truly understand the details in the moment, but my grandparents on both sides shared unique perspectives about their reaction to the devastating sneak attack in Hawaii on December 7th. They explained how overwhelmingly horrifying it truly was. What was especially frightening was the lack of visual information of the carnage that we see instantaneously in the technical media of today. People were imagining all sorts of terror which was confirmed or found even more unimaginable when the newsreels finally hit the movie theaters. People wept on that day as they listened to the radio about the visceral descriptions of the aftermath. On the next day however, young men were lined up in the streets to enlist, and a steely conviction was shared by most Americans to avenge the death of so many.
I vividly remember the day the World Trade Center towers fell. I felt as if I were going to vomit. Everyone watching knew that thousands of people were dying in the wreckage; some instantly, some slowly, but in the end the death toll was staggering. People all over the country were in shock, and later in mourning for those who were lost. The next day, we looked up to the skies and only saw the con-trails of military aircraft, since every commercial and private plane was grounded. But the day hadn't ended before t-shirts were being printed with slogans like "These Colors Don't Run", and a national resolve was forged to avenge the death of so many.
Most of the young adults, students, and activist protesting today, with epithets like "F*ck Trump" weren't alive in 1941, or barely old enough to remember 2001. They certainly don't remember an even more tumultuous time in our nation's history that even predates this humble narrator. The late 1960's was a continuous upheaval. Protest was growing and dissent was spreading about the US involvement in Vietnam. The civil rights movement was in full swing, with events that completely eclipse any BLM demonstrations of today. Two of the boldest and most prolific leaders of Black America were murdered in cold blood. Malcom X(1966) and Martin Luther King Jr. (1968) weren't celebrities that overdosed on alcohol and prescription medication. They weren't damaged souls who succumbed to addiction, drug abuse, or suicide. They were killed. They were shot down. Their absence destroyed the momentum that took so many lives to gain.
I was born in April, 1968. Some people remember that year for Woodstock, or the Summer of Love, but it was a year in which a popular presidential candidate was assassinated in cold blood, just a few weeks after King was assassinated. Two bright stars were extinguished before the year was half over. Left with a secondary candidate in Hubert Humphrey, the Democrats had no hope of winning the election and Richard Nixon was elected POTUS. I can imagine that many people alive at that time, might have thought the world was going to end. A second Kennedy was dead, a second new hope was crushed, and the US involvement in Vietnam was going to continue for another five years where nearly half of the almost 59,000 KIA's occurred (including half of 1968, see graph).
Many of us may be upset, disappointed, and even angry with the results of the Presidential election, but it took place under the very promise of liberty and freedom that has attracted the world's immigrants for over 200 years. We have a unique democracy in the United States. It's complicated, sluggish, counteracting, but it is what makes us the greatest nation in the history of the world. There are nations with better literacy, and perhaps better health care, social programs, and perhaps even a higher level of "happiness"; but it is the United States of America where the world turns to find hope and a future.
After the 1960's, the world however, didn't end. Those surviving veterans returned home to horrible treatment from protesters. Their experience was used as an example of how our veterans should never be treated again. The Nixon presidency had ups and downs, ending with a humiliating scandal and subsequent cover up which precipitated the resignation of The President of the United States. The whole world watched as our national leader read his resignation on television on the eve of his impending impeachment. The world however, didn't end. Our involvement in Vietnam however did, and as Saigon fell, hundreds of South Vietnamese fled to the US embassy for evacuation, and many settled in the US. In that same presidency came The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The EPA and OSHA have been vital in keeping business from over polluting and putting workers in harms way. Neither is perfect, but industrial accidents have plummeted since the formation of OSHA. Out of every seemingly bad situation, or horrible occurrence comes some measure of good.
How many of us have visited the Statue of Liberty? While you take your selfie with her in the background can your read Emma Lazarus's quote :
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Well,maybe you should, because that is what makes America Great. Immigrants built this country, and they have died defending it. They have educated their children, started small business, and made large fortunes. For those of you that think President Donald Trump is the end of our nation, you are forgetting what our government is built on; a system of checks and balances that keep watch on each other, and prevent tyranny. Have some faith, because it hasn't failed us yet, the world hasn't ended, and neither has our nation. We have endured far greater challenges than a blowhard demagogue who will soon learn that bridge building and leadership are a give and take. Perhaps he will learn it the hard-way when his bullying is met by a congressional loggerhead. Our nation is too great to be stopped by one man. Our citizens won't stand for it, nor our elected representatives. Perhaps this situation is the catalyst to initiate serious improvements across party lines. It is hard to say, but in the end, we will remain a great nation, because that is who we are.
Tomorrow is the next day of the rest of our lives. Today, some have wept, while some have burned flags, and still others have yelled at the top of their lungs in guttural dissent. But tomorrow, we must keep building our nation, and doing what has always made America great. Put the crying towels away, and get to it!