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The Great Divide

John W. Pinkerton


A few months ago, a young friend called me via telephone to ask me a question: “Is the divide in the country any worse than it was during the Vietnam era.”

My response was immediate: “It's much worse now.”

My “young” friend probably wasn't even alive during that era.  He had been viewing a documentary on the war and how it affected the American public and wanted someone who was alive during that time to give him a little perspective.

I'm eighty now.  Of course I was alive then.  I was even in the Army during that time…and, yes, I was paying attention.

Vietnam was ugly. The Allies” deaths (over 58,000) were huge.  Of course, as usual, the enemy deaths were many times this number…yet, North Vietnam prevailed, and our exit was less than ideal.

Our involvement there was based on the principle that if South Vietnam fell to the Communist North, then other countries would follow---the domino effect.

Our involvement covered four Presidents: Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon---two Republicans and two Democrats.

Johnson was the primary pusher for greater and greater commitment to the war.

Vietnam was our first TV war.  Each evening we would see images and reports from Vietnam which were disturbing.

Finally we got out.

Along the way, some folks made asses of themselves.  The easiest to point to was Jane Fonda who actually went to North Vietnam for a photo op and an opportunity to praise North Vietnam.  Then there was John Carey who served in Vietnam and then turned on his comrades to create his political career. 

Young people began to protest and some even went to Canada to avoid the draft.

As to which side had the correct view of the war…that's hard to say.  The domino principle, although undoubtedly valid, never really proved true in the Far East.

We healed pretty quickly, but we still have the scar.

Back to the question my young friend asked: how does the current divide in the country compare to the divide during the Vietnam War?

Back in the Vietnam era there wasn't much difference between the Democrat and Republican parties nor their adherents.

The divide during the Vietnam War was over an actual issue which involved life and death---not a self-inflicted wound.  The issue was real.  Attempting to resolve it was worth our time and efforts.  I think that most folks regardless of party or race or income level wanted what was best for the United States…and the world.

The world is different today.  The difference has many fathers but the internet is probably the primary one.

During the Vietnam era, folks did not have billboards on which to declare their ignorance and stupidity and self-glorification.  Today, social media provides billboards to anyone choosing to use them.

The internet has separated the folks who believe in unicorns into the Democrat Party and folks who are more pragmatic into the Republican Party.

The Democrats are on a mission from…I almost said “God”…a mission to save the Earth.  People on a mission will never give up their positions---regardless of what reality presents to them. 

In the meantime, the Republicans are just trying to hang on in the hope that the folks on a mission will see the errors of their ways.

This ain't going to happen.

The divide is permanent.  Get used to it.