I’ve been doing research in our Town Hall for the past few months on a crucial period in our local history. A great struggle was taking place over how our town should be governed. Citizens, and family members often took opposite sides of the issue. And the town was awash in anger.
This last week, I reached decision time when the people of Ipswich were choosing between two different forms of government. As I was working through a large notebook of primary source information, I found this quote.
“In this great country of ours, one of the foundations stones of our government is the belief that we are governed by the will of the majority. . . Yet our administration for the greater part of that time (the last 3 years) has been continually and constantly attacked by a conspiracy of disloyalty to our laws and to our government.”
“The opposition has shown little understanding of the problems of modern government, little regard for truthlessness, and an overwhelming ambition to possess political power. They have shown a willingness to distort and to slander to achieve their goals. They have offered us nothing constructive. They have talked about democracy and have given us examples of the most irresponsible kind of democracy. They offer us nothing- except to go back to what we have already repudiated. “
I was stunned by the simple power of these words and how perfectly they applied to our situation today. I was deeply grieved that they were describing the current actions of the Republican Party I had supported for so many years. Surprisingly, these words were written 58 years ago.
When the Republican party lost the election in 2008, the country was facing a terrible financial crisis. Banks had gambled away most of their money. The plunge in property values had cost most American middle class families 40% of their net worth. Hundreds of thousands of people were losing their jobs every month. Surely this was the time to honor our national tradition to unite for the good of our people and our country. Surely this was a time to honor our democratic foundations and respect the choice of the American people. Following this path was the absolute obligation of Republican leaders.
I have had some experience with the concept of unity in time of crisis. I can still remember one special Sunday afternoon though it was many years ago. I was listening to a Redskins football game on the radio. Suddenly, I could hear in the background an announcement that crew members of a certain ship should report to their ship at once. This first announcement was followed by a second and then another and another. Something big was clearly going on, but no one knew just what that could be. This was well before instant news, so some hours passed before we got the explanation. Our country had been attacked at Pearl Harbor by Japanese airplanes. Many ships had been sunk and many people killed. We all knew that we were now at war. The idea of war was very terrifying to a timid child like myself.
The country rallied together. Young men flocked to enlist. Businesses worked night and day to change over to war production. For the first time in my life, I found that I was useful, that I had a significant part to play in achieving victory. I helped collect scarce materials like tin cans and used rubber tires. I did extra chores around the house, so I could buy my own War Bonds. The children in my school raised enough money to pay for a jeep. And one wonderful afternoon, a jeep arrived at our school, and we proudly rode around our playground in it.
When Civil Defense was organized, I was given the job of airplane spotter. I had to memorize the outlines of the German planes so I could report kind, number and directions of German planes making the dreaded attack on Washington. During air raid drills, I sat at an upstairs window with a cool pair of binoculars scanning the dark sky. Surprisingly, having important responsibilities made me much less timid. Nothing builds self confidence quicker than being useful.
Because the people of our country had united to face the crisis, we were confident that we would prevail in the end, no matter how much we had to sacrifice along the way. And so together, we got to celebrate that wonderful moment when our country achieved victory. By that time, I was many miles from Washington, and now in high school. My friends and I squeezed into a car and drove a few miles to the nearest large town to participate in the celebration. Thousands of joyous people shouted and sang, glorying in what we had achieved together as a nation. It was the experience of a lifetime.
Fast forward to 2008. Instead of joining in a united effort to overcome the financial crisis and to support the government that the American people had chosen, the leaders of the GOP took the path of division and confrontation. As we now know, on the night President Obama was inaugurated, my party entered into a “conspiracy of disloyalty.” They have not wavered from that path since. They have divided our country into angry segments. They have done everything they could to prevent the democratically elected government from governing in time of crisis. They have deprived us of the empowering effects of working together for the benefit of the country. They have put our country in a very different place today than we would have been had they put country ahead of ideology. They failed to fulfill their democratic obligations.
We cannot honor their failures with political power.