It is 50 years beyond 1968, and today on April 4, 2018 it is EXACTLY 50 years beyond the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. While I prefer to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King on the anniversary of his birth, this year because of reaching the half century mark I will do it on this anniversary of his violent death.
Sometimes words remain appropriate, not only for the era in which they are spoken, but for multiple eras, and perhaps for the length of humanity’s struggle to overcome the worst aspects of our collective nature – greed, avarice, hypocrisy, racial, ethnic and religious hatred and the bondage of others to forward one’s own self interests – in other words, as long as humankind walks the earth.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of April 4, 1967 now known as his “Beyond Vietnam” speech are such words. They illustrate the depth of Dr. King’s comprehension that Civil Rights are the struggle of more than one race in one nation at one point in history.
These words, spoken exactly one year to the day before his assassination, are why some pause periodically to remember and celebrate his life; while others are simply reminded of why he was and continues to be so hated by others.
While specific places, ideologies and circumstances may have changed, the underlying themes are a constant in the conduct of both our personal and national lives. To ignore Dr. King’s words of 51 years ago is to – well, I fear collectively we HAVE and look at where we find ourselves today as a nation and a people: bitter, fearful – all too often of the wrong things, the wrong people – and divided; with that division fed daily by the angry, “alternate fact”-fed rhetoric emanating from someone I would imagine has never reflected on the words below offered to all of us for yesterday, today and tomorrow as a challenge of our spiritual and social depth. Due to the speech’s length, some introductory comments and other details on the Vietnam era have been edited out – deletions are indicated by (…) – and some points have been emphasized with bold highlights.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
I come to this great magnificent house of worship tonight because my conscience leaves me no other choice. I join you in this meeting because I am in deepest agreement with the aims and work of the organization that brought us together, Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam. The recent statements of your executive committee are the sentiments of my own heart, and I found myself in full accord when I read its opening lines: “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” … The truth of these words is beyond doubt, but the mission to which they call us is a most difficult one …
Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government’s policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one’s own bosom and in the surrounding world … Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. And we must rejoice as well, for surely this is the first time in our nation’s history that a significant number of its religious leaders have chosen to move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history … For we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us …
“Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?” “Why are you joining the voices of dissent?” “Peace and civil rights don’t mix,” they say. “Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people,” they ask?
And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live …
Since I am a preacher by calling, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others have been waging in America. A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam, and I watched this program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such …
My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North over the last three years, especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent …
Now it should be incandescently clear that no one who has any concern for the integrity and life of America today can ignore the present war. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.” It can never be saved so long as it destroys the hopes of men the world over. So it is that those of us who are yet determined that “America will be” are led down the path of protest and dissent, working for the health of our land.
As if the weight of such a commitment to the life and health of America were not enough, another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. And I cannot forget that the Nobel Peace Prize was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the brotherhood of man. This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances.
But even if it were not present, I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ. To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war. Could it be that they do not know that the Good News was meant for all men – for communist and capitalist, for their children and ours, for black and for white, for revolutionary and conservative? Have they forgotten that my ministry is in obedience to the one who loved his enemies so fully that he died for them? What then can I say to the Vietcong or to Castro or to Mao as a faithful minister of this one? Can I threaten them with death or must I not share with them my life?
… Finally, as I try to explain for you and for myself the road that leads from Montgomery to this place, I would have offered all that was most valid if I simply said that I must be true to my conviction that I share with all men the calling to be a son of the living God. Beyond the calling of race or nation or creed is this vocation of son-ship and brotherhood. Because I believe that the Father is deeply concerned, especially for His suffering and helpless and outcast children, I come tonight to speak for them. This I believe to be the privilege and the burden of all of us who deem ourselves bound by allegiances and loyalties which are broader and deeper than nationalism and which go beyond our nation’s self-defined goals and positions. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for the victims of our nation, for those it calls “enemy,” for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers.
And as I ponder the madness of Vietnam and search within myself for ways to understand and respond in compassion, my mind goes constantly to the people of that peninsula … They must see Americans as strange liberators … We have destroyed their two most cherished institutions: the family and the village. We have destroyed their land and their crops … Now there is little left to build on, save bitterness … They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Their questions are frighteningly relevant. Is our nation planning to build on political myth again, and then shore it up upon the power of new violence?
… At this point I should make it clear that while I have tried in these last few minutes to give a voice to the voiceless in Vietnam and to understand the arguments of those who are called “enemy,” I am as deeply concerned about our own troops there as anything else. For it occurs to me that what we are submitting them to in Vietnam is not simply the brutalizing process that goes on in any war where armies face each other and seek to destroy. We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for they must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved … and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor.
Somehow this madness must cease. We must stop now.
I speak as a child of God … I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.
This is the message of the great Buddhist leaders of Vietnam. Recently one of them wrote these words, and I quote: “Each day the war goes on the hatred increases in the heart of the Vietnamese and in the hearts of those of humanitarian instinct. The Americans are forcing even their friends into becoming their enemies. It is curious that the Americans, who calculate so carefully on the possibilities of military victory, do not realize that in the process they are incurring deep psychological and political defeat. The image of America will never again be the image of revolution, freedom, and democracy, but the image of violence and militarism.”
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit … and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing “clergy and laymen concerned” committees for the next generation. They will be concerned about … Guatemala and Peru. They will be concerned about Thailand and Cambodia. They will be concerned about Mozambique and South Africa. We will be marching for these and a dozen other names and attending rallies without end, unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.
And so, such thoughts take us beyond Vietnam, but not beyond our calling as sons of the living God. In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution … It is with such activity in mind that the words of the late John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investments.
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin … the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.”
It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of South America and say, “This is not just.”
The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them, is not just … America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood …
We must not engage in a negative anti-communism, but rather in a positive thrust for democracy, realizing that our greatest defense against communism is to take offensive action in behalf of justice … It is a sad fact that because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries … A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies … This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one’s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind … When I speak of love I am not speaking of some sentimental and weak response … I am speaking of that force which all of the great religions have seen as the supreme unifying principle of life. Love is somehow the key that unlocks the door which leads to ultimate reality … This Hindu-Muslim-Christian-Jewish-Buddhist belief about ultimate reality is beautifully summed up in the first epistle of Saint John: “Let us love one another, for love is God” …
We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late … Over the bleached bones and jumbled residues of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words, “Too late.”
There is an invisible book of life that faithfully records our vigilance or our neglect. Omar Khayyam is right: “The moving finger writes, and having writ moves on.” We still have a choice today: nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation. We must move past indecision to action. We must find new ways to speak for peace … and justice throughout the developing world, a world that borders on our doors. If we do not act, we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark, and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight … Now let us begin. Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world …
As that noble bard of yesterday, James Russell Lowell, eloquently stated:
Once to every man and nation comes a moment do decide,
In the strife of truth and Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.
Though the cause of evil prosper, yet ‘tis truth alone is strong
Though her portions be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
And if we will only make the right choice, we will be able to transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of peace. If we will make the right choice, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our world into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. If we will but make the right choice, we will be able to speed up the day, all over America and all over the world, when justice will roll down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.
George Banks remembered fondly
A distinct feeling of loss came over me this morning as I sat in my room in South Carolina and read of the passing of former councilman and Mayor of Front Royal, George Banks.
The words that kept coming to my mind were, always a gentleman always a friend.
I had served with George on the town council in the mid-nineties. It was from George that I began to learn to disagree without being disagreeable – a lesson I still have to work on. But for George it seemed almost natural. No matter if you disagreed with him or not, one never left a meeting angry at George.
It also always seemed to me that he had a love of Front Royal, and in some existential way Front Royal loved him back.
My sincere condolences to his wife Cornellia and to his family and friends and in a different way, to the town and people of Front Royal.
Former FR resident, mayor, and councilman
Shifting of a Legacy?
With Martin Luther King Day approaching, I have thought a lot about the man who, more than anyone else, historically represents the Civil Rights movement and social justice. At the same time, I have noticed something strange. Is it possible that the keepers of King’s legacy is shifting right? I am not talking about the far right but the right of today’s progressive movement and somewhere in the realm of moderate Democrats and Republicans. I’ll explain what I mean.
King introduced himself to the world when he took over leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. His charisma, talent, and message of non-violent protest quickly made him a household name and, depending on your viewpoint, became either the most famous or infamous man in the Civil Rights movement. The left claimed him as their champion as he fought to change the status quo and demanded equal rights. The right feared him and saw him as dangerous when he said things like, “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”
To the right, especially in the South, King wanted to fight against 400 years of racial superiority. He wanted to change the only way of life they knew. King would feel the brunt of their fear as it was personified in hatred. He, his family, and friends dealt with threats, violence, prison, and even death to stand for what they believed in. Yet King never backed down from what he knew to be right while also never turning away from his belief in non-violence, or as he once said, ““Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
It is said that time heals all wounds, and that seems to be the case with the legacy of King. Moving into the 1970s and 1980s there was racial progress. Race relations were not perfect, just like they are not today, but when comparing life to the 1950s our nation has come a long way. Somewhere along that journey, King went from being a hero on the left to a national hero. By the time I began school in the early 1980s, King was being celebrated by all. I remember listening to his “I Had a Dream Speech” in school when I was a young kid in Virginia. Martin Luther King Day was signed into law in 1983 and done so by a Republican Senate and Ronald Reagan, a champion of the right.
The fact that the right accepted King is not what’s surprising. It’s the idea now that many on the right are seeming to champion his cause. Think about what you see or read in the media. When groups like Black Lives Matter chant their slogan, what is the response from the right? “All lives Matter.” Then somewhere someone will undoubtedly quote the most famous of King’s speeches when he said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I have thought on this a lot recently and tried to pay attention to what different people are saying. From my very unscientific survey, I have found that people on the right outnumber those on the left when citing King in arguments. Granted, most are cherry-picking his quotes, mostly from the “I have a Dream” speech. Probably few have read King’s “Mountaintop” speech where he called for wealth and power redistribution, yet King’s major message may not resonate as much with some on the left as it once did. Especially with the young and progressive wing.
In the 1960s and with the older and moderates today, the goal of the left was a color-blind integrated society. For them, King’s statement of character over skin color plays perfectly. However, for others on the left today, racial goals include categorizing people into races. It’s not that progressives are wrong but are different from what King wanted. King founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with the mission statement of “one nation, under God, indivisible, together with the commitment to activate the ‘strength to love’ within the community of humankind.” With organizations like Black Lives Matter, their mission statement says, “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes. By combating and countering acts of violence, creating space for Black imagination and innovation, and centering Black joy, we are winning immediate improvements in our lives.” These are minor differences but also important ones.
In some ways I wonder if parts of the modern movement are more influenced by another important but lesser-known Civil Rights leader, Stokely Carmichael. Space is too limited to give his entire background, but Carmichael is worth looking up. He was a veteran of Freedom Summer and the Freedom Rides and took over leadership of SNCC. It was Carmichael who began to push the idea of “Black Power,” which called “for Black people in this country to unite, to recognize their heritage, to build a sense of community. It is a call for Black people to define their own goals, to lead their own organizations.” As for King, he did not outwardly criticize “Black Power” and said he understood where Carmichael was coming from, but ultimately opposed it.
I am in no way trying to criticize either side here, right or left. It is simply an observation and historical curiosity. I also see it as incredibly positive how most on the right have embraced Dr. King as a hero. I am grateful that the entire nation can honor what Dr. King did, but, historically speaking, it does seem as if his legacy has gone through a shift from left to center.
Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.
Oh boy! A cabal
Wow, a cabal! – I want to join. I worked for the Federalis for 30 years, and if that isn’t a cabal, nothing is. But here: Threats of destruction, secret sources, dead drops, random accusations of conspiracy, strange titles like interim (fill in the blank), dog attacks, now publicly admitted marital infidelities, threatening people who had nothing to do with things. Yep, it sounds like a normal workweek for me. But they have gone over the line now – they pissed Roger off. But be careful Roger, you might be walking down the street and get mauled by friendly bullmastiffs (if there is such a thing). That’s it, throw down the gauntlet, Gentle Knight, the gloves are coming off.
As fun as this may sound, you have to think, “Why can’t the Town ever do anything without lawsuits, accusations of wrongdoings, threats, intrigues, and temper tantrums. We remember such laughs as:
“We have no moral requirement to pay for the police station” (although the Town had the thing built and rapidly moved into it – I mean, it wasn’t like it just sprang up overnight).
The famed “trash-poop bust” at the Bentonville county dump. “Everybody in the County should be fired if not pilloried, ending with “THE Tederick” tantrum: ‘We’ll take our poop elsewhere; that will teach them a lesson’.” This letter penned by THE Tederick is a classic fire and brimstone saga.
The famed Afton Inn – finally being rebuilt without one scratch of Town help (although THE Tederick claimed he was responsible for the deal) even after they wanted to send a letter to the forlorn contractor threatening untold violence if he did not start construction by July. Which money tantrum do you want to have? – The “We aren’t getting our fair share of COVID money” or the “Why doesn’t the County pay for the pipeline” screaming fit.
And more recently the mayor accused his neighbor who reported his loose dogs attacking her and her son of “trying to beat the system” for a lack of proper business permitting.
So you say, “This sounds like a bunch of 10-year-olds battling over who is playing in the sandbox.” THE Tederick gets on the Grand Jury and then eliminates the Mayor with later dropped charges. And then, using his wealth of municipal leadership, he slides into the now vacant seat to begin his “interim” empire. This coup was a classic “THE Tederick” move.
Next, he invents a Town EDA, shuffles people around to temporarily run it while, what – waiting for his anointment as the Head?
You know, with all this intrigue, you would think they could get other things done like getting rid of the eyesores. But instead, with Admin help from inside Town Hall, the Mayor hustles the Planning Commission to fast-track his personal construction project of questionable physical dimensions. Yikes! Somebody leaked a document that would soon or had already been revealed. The “fast track” was not illegal, but it sure looks shady. This is after THE Tederick “right sizes” the staff, much like Cartman for “not obeying his au-thor-a-TY”.
You can have, at the local level, confidential personal information, confidential legal information, and at certain stages, contract-restricted data. But unless the Town has gotten into building stealth bombers (doubtful), there is no SECRET information. I take you back to when Jennifer claimed that all information regarding the EDA was SECRET, which caused people in my office to chuckle.
You give him way too much credit. And please, don’t give him the sobriquet of being a master of disinformation. Roger, you’ve got the whole Counter Intelligence thing wrong. At the level that he was in, there was no “spy vs. spy” activity. Counter-intelligence resembles intelligence, as military music resembles music.
Anyway, I want a cabal T-shirt. Wow, real secret stuff. Let me know where our next midnight meeting will be held.
Warren County, Va.
P.S. Just as I was ready to fire this off, THE Tederick exploded again. However, Chairman Cheryl Cullers interrupted to tell Tederick, “If this is going to be another personal attack, I won’t allow it.” “If it turns to personal attacks, I will ask you to be seated,” Cullers responded, leading Tederick to counter, “You listen to my comments and then determine if they’re personal attacks.” For the second time, Tederick requested and was granted a restarting of the three-minute clock manned by Board Deputy Clerk Emily Ciarrocchi, at which point he restarted his remarks.
“Sir, I’m going to stop you. This is turning into a personal attack. If you feel,” at which point Tederick interrupted to ask, “Is that where you’re going with this? Let me know today if you’re going to stop me.”
“Yes, sir,” the board chair replied, leading Tederick to leave the podium, but not before adding, “You’ll be hearing from someone.” Wow! A threat. He didn’t say who or what, but it sounds like somebody might sleep with the fishes. Be careful young Matthew; the Cabal is watching you.
Due diligence and ‘Second Step’ curriculum
With respect to the recent vote among our School Board to hit pause on the “Second Step” Social and Emotional program after two citizens expressed concerns at the most recent school board meeting:
The idealist in me opines that every parent and community member should, actually, read the “Second Step” program, and make an informed decision as to what they feel is best for their children. I have read it. It is well done. Equally, depending on who presents it and how it is presented (as is the case with many curricula) I can respect the concerns of those wanting to make sure that their children are not subjected to a narrative, as opposed to a hopeful civil dialogue and some good life lessons, as opposed to growing up talking with their fingers, as opposed to their mouths and growing up emotionally and socially inept.
Granted, it is only fair to articulate that parents should be guided to the appropriate resources through the schools themselves: first, maybe even have an open forum with the admin, counsellors and other presenters of the curriculum, and then decide if they are OK/not OK with their child participating. Perhaps the summer months can be used by school board members to educate themselves to curriculum of the upcoming year, and be part of open community discussions with the parents and even children, so that mutual respect can occur, as opposed to narrative-driven dialogue by confused and misguided elected officials.
The realist in me asks the following:
- How many School Board Members did not read the curriculum prior to this meeting, in order to make a fair decision for all, and just said to themselves: “Sounds good! Let’s do it!!”? In all fairness to whom I did and did not vote for, there is no question in my mind that at least two school board members were well aware of the curriculum, and had their personal thoughts/concerns entering the meeting. Whether these were narrative or information based is on them. I will give respect that I have no doubt that they read it.
- How many parents would actually show up for a meeting to hear a presentation on the curriculum, or take the time to read it? (I agree wholeheartedly that parents should pay more attention to school board meetings.)
- Since I do not know how well informed the School Board was on “Second Step” before this matter came up, I actually applaud the board for hitting the pause button, so that they could be more informed before their next meeting, and not just blindly vote for what is put in front of them. How nice would it be if we all did this before elections, as opposed to accepting “sample ballots” and punch lines, and just drinking the juice of a chosen narrative?
- I think all School Board Members should be personally polled and asked at the next meeting if they have taken the time to educate themselves to the program?
If not, they should recuse themselves from voting for not doing their jobs and, quite frankly, should reconsider if public office is for them. If they have read it, kudos and vote your conscience, not a political narrative.
Please stay well,
Front Royal, Virginia
Matt Tederick: Public Nuisance?
Tree-slayer Matt Tederick, during his attempted public commentary at the January 4 Board of Supervisor meeting, has expanded his campaign to disrupt the functioning of county business. His personal attacks on county board members are disgraceful and uncalled for.
Moreover, his threat to Supervisor Cullers that “You’ll be hearing from someone” after she disallowed his harangue is seriously out-of-bounds. Has Mr. Tederick become unhinged?
Front Royal, Virginia
How the rest of the world sees us
Recently, my wife and I had the opportunity to visit our daughter and her husband’s family in Germany and travel to Greece on business. It was a long time coming due to the challenges of Covid, trying to find an opening in the outbreaks to spend time in both places.
Witnessing the effects of this Covid wave in other countries and the attitude of a clear majority of the people living under the new normal was extremely interesting. At the outset, we were apprehensive as to what freedoms and restrictions would be put in place. It was amazing what we encountered. EU countries are not going to fall into the situation that caught the world off guard the first time with massive shutdowns of business activities. Most surprising was the resilience of the people to adapt quickly to a fast-changing environment.
The flight from the US was uneventful and pleasant. Vaccination cards and passports were in order. Germany did not require a negative Covid test to enter as long as we were up to date with our vaccinations and wore masks during our time in the airport and on the flight. We witnessed no grumbling protests against wearing a mask, including passengers with children on both legs of our trip, and the flights up and back to Greece. Adult behavior, civilized. Maybe the Old World has some lessons for us.
When we arrived our daughter and son-in-law picked us up and took us to his parent’s home where we would stay for most of our visit. While Germany did shut down most traditional Christmas festivities, it did allow shopping and eating at restaurants at most locations, along with the normal tourist attractions.
The requirements to participate in these activities mandated a visit to the local pharmacies to show your vaccination card and a valid ID. If you were not vaccinated, you had to show a negative Covid test within the last 24 hours. The availability of testing locations was not an issue. Mobile quick testing sites are readily available, results within 10 minutes. When either criterion was met, you received an EU bar code document that would be shown when entering stores or other public places. Simple isn’t it. No shouting matches, no signs, no protests or counter-protests. No nonsense.
As we were leaving Germany, updated measures in anticipation of the next virus were being put in place, with stricter rules for unvaccinated individuals to help reduce the need to shut down their economy and reduce the danger to the health of friends and neighbors.
The item that was most notable was the attitude of those we encountered. Most were deeply concerned about everyone in their communities and each other. People worked together to address a common problem with the cooperation of villages, towns, and cities and elected national leaders. Cooperation rather than confrontation.
Whenever we talked about our situation in the US, they were quick to point out, from the outside looking in, that Covid had been made a political issue among manipulative politicians to maintain power, misleading the very communities they were elected to protect and serve. The anti-mandate, anti-vax fringe certainly bears this out. What could I say but agree that the misinformation that has been blasted across our county is for the benefit of a minority, a Pied Piper thing, power addicts.
The general attitude of the people we encountered was one of great respect for our country and what we stood for globally. They are hoping that our democracy will survive the upcoming challenges over the next several years. They are very concerned about the divisions they are observing from partisan reporting.
A number stated that their history has been full of similar challenges that the US has been spared over its 250-year history. Unfortunately, the US has also allowed itself to be driven by outside interference that promotes dangerous misinformation to support partisan positions that create division in our country, a divide and conquer scenario. Several pointed out two examples of outrageous misinformation: the Jan 6th insurrection, and the Senator who said that Covid can be stopped by mouthwash. I had no response.
Now, I imagine there will be some who ask why anyone would support a country that is correctly or incorrectly perceived as socialist. What I find is that most people who take this position do not understand that Germany is a democracy with over 28 political parties. They must have a majority of the parties, a coalition, in order to agree on the direction of the country. For some issues, this may offer an even greater opportunity for representation of the diverse interests of the people than a two-party system. Like our system it works. Each has its plusses and minuses. Both democracies.
There is nothing wrong with being ignorant. The definition of ignorance is simply not knowing about a subject or topic. We all own that from time to time. The danger we now face as a community and country are listening to the misinformation of facts about things deliberately intended to divide us. Arrogant ignorance will be the true danger moving forward in our country’s future. Look Up neighbor and see the danger coming. Don’t listen to rabble-rousers. Heed your own good common sense.
Note: The author’s reference to “Look Up” is from the latest Netflix movie, “Don’t Look Up.”