America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.
When I was in college, many of my professors were partial to blue book exams. I got the first C of my academic life my freshman year in my Intro to Political Science class. The semester final was a blue book with just one question. Why is American in more danger from attacks within than attacks from outside our borders?
This was in 1979. We were experiencing a time of relative peace and prosperity as a nation. I looked at the question – 50% of my grade for the semester – and had no idea what the answer was. I eventually filled my 6 pages with everything I could think of that Dr Loy might be alluding to which, based on my grade, read like the drivel that it was. I simply didn’t know. I have a better idea what he meant today.
Hopefully, by Wednesday morning, the election will be over and the man who will serve as the President of the United States for the next fours years will have been selected. Wednesday morning some percentage of the country will be very happy. Probably about the same percentage will believe the end of the world is near. Regardless of the outcome, I’m guessing the majority of Americans will be slightly optimistic or slightly disturbed or slightly indifferent.
This isn’t really a post about politics. It’s a post about attitudes and civility and camaraderie. It’s a post about baseball and apple pie. My Dad was a very good baseball player. He was good enough to be named Outstanding Athlete his senior year at Indiana State and good enough to play semi-pro ball.
One of his younger friends was better. Dad coached him when he tried out for the Major Leagues. His friend left baseball and became famous for other reasons. His name was Birch Bayh. If you’re not from Indiana, that may not ring a bell. He represented Indiana as a Democratic Senator from 1963-1981 when he lost to a Republican, Dan Quayle.
My Dad liked Birch. I don’t know if he voted for him or not. Dad was a life-long Republican. I do know that he only had kind things to say about him. I guess what started me thinking about my Dad and Birch Bayh was an interview with Chuck Hagel, the retired Republican Senator from Nebraska. He said:
Gone from our political scene today are the World War II generation leaders. Now those were men and women, Democrats and Republicans, of significant character who always put America first. They didn’t put their parties first. They put America first. They understood their responsibility to help govern our country, find consensus on the big issues, solve the problems and move our country forward. They were never confused about that.
Birch’s son, Evan, became Indiana’s 46th Governor and then was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1998 to the seat that was once held by his father. He chose not to run for a 3rd term and became a Fox News contributor in 2011. Yes, he’s a Democrat and yes, I did say Fox.
My Dad and Birch Bayh were Christmas card friends. Their card to us was always a family photo. Evan and I are just a year apart. I always had a pretend crush on him. I looked at those Christmas cards a lot!
I never met the Bayh’s, but I recently read Evan’s reflections on the changes in the political climate in Washington between the time his Dad was first elected in 1963 and when Evan decided not to run again in 2011. Speaking of his Dad he said:
It really was a different generation. There was trust. There was camaraderie that people had forged together by casting tough political votes. My father’s first re-election was in 1968. You can’t imagine this today. The leader of the Republican caucus came up to my father on the floor of the Senate, put his arm around his shoulder and asked what he could do to help with his re-election. You would never see this today. That sense of camaraderie, of country first, it’s dissipated and our nation is suffering because of that.
Evan’s right. It’s just about impossible to imagine that happening today and that’s sad.
With Malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds. ~ Abraham Lincoln
What happens Wednesday morning is up to us. What if we take President Lincoln’s advice and begin to bind up the nation’s wounds? Maybe we can find our way back to camaraderie and civility? I don’t think we can wait for it to start in Washington. I think it’ll have to start with We, the People. It’s as American as baseball and apple pie.