This is a searching generation. We search for a way to peace. We grope for solutions to massive domestic problems. We agonize over crime, revolution, pornography, and outlaw industries polluting our environment. We bicker among ourselves about the meaning of our own constitution. We disagree about almost everything. We want out of the war in the Middle East, but we don’t want the whole world to be swallowed up by the Muslin world. We want an end to stifling, poisoned air, but not an end to our automobile, and our industries. We want an end to huge defense spending, but don’t want to lose our jobs in defense industries. We want good results from evil purposes. We want blessings for sin. We want life as we heedlessly struggle to die.
Korea confused us and Vietnam almost killed us. We don’t want ot die, but we don’t understand why we live.
It’s not too late for America to see the vastness of her sins, just as she has recognized the vastness of her wealth. It is not too late for a spiritual answer to our deepest problems of the spirit. But it is much later than you think.
The measure of a nation’s greatness is not its industrial capacity, not is natural resources, not its GNP. It is the quality of the character of its people. America is (or has lost) it character.
We are sick, and we don’t like to admit it, or even hear the symptoms diagnosed. Our cities are great centers of crime, pollutions, sickness, joblessness, urban blight, racial tensions and stifling traffic jams. Many of them are virtually uninhabitable, if you consider the true state of daily life for those large majorities unendowed with sufficient income to escape the worst a city has to offer by enjoying its best.
Our colleges and universities appear as much like centers for the fomenting of violence and revolution as tradition-bound, honor-clad institutions of study and research. Our youth turns inward upon itself, seeking escape from a frightening unacceptable world by addling its mind with weed or chemically induced daydreams.
Our homes and families disintegrate, and while tens of millions deplore it, the effects of broken homes, crime, juvenile delinquency, drug abuse, veneral disease growing epidemic, and the explosive growth of violent revolutionary groups grown faster than ever before.
Our aged and poor look about in bewilderment at rising costs and taxes. Unemployment soars, Moral plunge, we are sick!!!
But oh, how we hate to look at the thermometer. We seen smitten with a nearly obsessive, hypnotic belief that if we can somehow avoid mentioning our myriad problems, they’ll just go away.
If we can just talk about “what’s right about America,” say some of the “Super-Patriots,” maybe the problems will grow less and less.
It would seem incongruous for a cancer patient to accuse his doctor of “bad-mouthing” him for patiently diagnosing his disease and informing him of his most likely chances of survival.
There are those who scream “bad-mouthing” when America’s great problems are mentioned. Today, Americans disagree over America. Millions are not sure what she once was, or what she is, or what she should become. They don’t know what her place in the world should be. And they don’t know where America is going.
After September 1945, Americans could get back to the business of their own private lives. That global conflict, which had called upon Americans for the highest kind of sacrifice, was over. The world had been made safe for democracy, we thought.
Americans had fought against the very embodiment of evil, and they had, together with their Allies, won. With the last enemy vanquished, and the documents of total surrender signed, it remained the task of a few professionals to clean up the loose ends of the war. For the majority, it was time for a transition into an era of peace and prosperity.
But there were still tigers in the world. Almost immediately, Americans sensed something had gone wrong with the plans for world peace. Almost from its inception, the United Nations seemed to falter. Russian vetoes made headlines, while a bewildered public wondered about Yalta, Potsdam, and the beginning of the “cold war.”
The men who could well have met their Russian Allies in the cities of Poland, or along the Oder had been ordered to wait, instead, for half of Germany to be swallowed up, and half the capital city of Berlin to be occupied. Later, the free world wondered why.
From the quickly squelched attempt of Soviet power to subdue Greece in 1946 until the beginning of the Korean conflict and the growing tensions in Europe, Americans soon began receiving an insistent and obvious message. The world had not been made safe, after all, for democracy. World War II was not, after all, the war to end all wars. Suddenly, the specter of all-out nuclear wear loomed large.
Words like “ground zero,” “fallout “and “radioactivity” were frequent fodder for fear, along with Communism and the Cold War. The “cold war” changed America. Korea changed America. Few have realized how drastically.
The cruelest thing one human being can inflict upon another human being is to take away his confidence, his pride. To strip the manhood, the moral courage, the volition from another is to subject him, utterly, to the cruelest sort of torment. It kills his spirit.
The unsatisfactory conclusion to the Korean War was a cruel blow to the manhood of America.
Americans grew sick of Korea. They wanted out and they finally succeeded in getting out. But they left behind a part of America’s manhood.
Most Americans would never understand painful, prolonged struggle over worthless real estate for limited, political objectives. They could understand fighting against the forces of evil, and to make the world safe for Democracy. But they would never understand fighting for limited goals, to “demonstrate” to an enemy, or to “inspire” others.
The parallels between the Korean debacle and the war in Vietnam are inescapable. First it was a land war in Asia. Next, it was fought, from the beginning, with an enemy granted safe sanctuaries for his war material, and for regrouping and recuperating areas. It was fought in a narrow country, running North and South, generally, and divided by a purely fictitious “parallel,” which is only an imaginary line drawn on a map. That “demilitarized zone” (a sickly humorous term) in Vietnam remains just what the 38th parallel was in Korea, a line but ignores important topographical features, strategic hills, railways, road junctions, cities or towns, and is, therefore, indefensible from a practical military standpoint.
Shockingly, fully fifty percent of the battle causalities of the Korean War were inflicted after the peace talks had been joined.
Now look at the incredible irony of Vietnam, and ponder its futilizing effects on our spirit. In December, 1970, American battle dead in Vietnam had exceeded 44 thousands young men, more than half of them were too young to vote. Incredibly, about half of all these battle deaths have occurred since the “peace talks” began in May, 1968! Whatever had been learned from Korea was somehow forgotten.
Never have so many spent so much to purchase so little. It has been said, “You get what you pay for.” But in Vietnam, only a little additional time was bought. The enemy is still there.
Is the United States at war, or not? It has massive numbers of men in the field. Its soldiers are killing, and being killed. Yet, at home, there is a semblance of “peace.” Millions live daily lives lost in the usual materialistic pursuits blithely unaware of the isolated, vicious struggles in deserts of Iraqi and Afghanistan.
Americans have been taught to avoid war like diphtheria. But, once it is forced upon you, they have been schooled by experience to react with swift, total force. They knew it took total commitment, and that victory was the only goal worthy of costly warfare. They had grown accustomed to winning.
But in Korea and Vietnam and now Iran and Afghanistan the tiresome minor defeats in between, have bewildered the American people. American cannot accept war as a part of politics. War is utterly distasteful to Americans, notwithstanding their penchant for petty violence, western movies, and gangster novels. They can fight “holy wars” with a will, fight them and win, so long as they are fighting against an enemy who is regarded as the embodiment of evil.
The American spirit cannot accept the vision of empire, or of the need for professional legions. Still, in a world filled with real and potential enemies, a country so richly endowed as the United States makes a potentially fatal omission if she fails to choose between two alternatives. She must either trust in her God, or trust in her armies.
But since a liberal, pragmatic society cannot stomach the kind of armies which comprise legions, since American families cannot stand to see their sons and daughters become cold, professional killers, America remains distrustful of legions. She could never submit to a purely military government, and remains distrustful of each restrictive measure which seems to indicate more of a “police state, in the offing.
In short, America is unwilling to maintain either the determination of spirit, or the kind of a battle-toughened, professional military organization that can survive too many more protracted test of her willpower in far-off lands. Is America seeing the world pass her by? Does she belong perhaps, to a different era? The pride in our power is gone, our spirit has been broken.
Korea and Vietnam started it and the war in Iraqi and Afghanistan could well finish it. Something has been steadily killing us. What is it? We have no single grand goal toward which we unitedly press. We envision go great purpose which calls from us individual and collective sacrifice. We are ennobled by no special, unique pursuits which are righteous in a world filled with unrighteousness.
We have compromised our morals, made the more futile our religions destroyed our families, corrupted our youth, destroyed our military’s will to fight, and only wait, now, for events to overtake us. We have ceased to innovate. We are not leading. Why? What caused it all?
We did. We forgot the God who gave us our liberties. We forsook the Creator who blessed and enriched us above all peoples who have ever walked the earth. Our laymen plunged into materialism with greedy delight, and our churchmen gave them all their blessings calling the breaking of God’s Ten Commandments a “new morality.”
We have forgotten God. We do not keep His laws. And that God says to us, “And if you will not yet for all this listen to me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power.”
It’s been broken. We don’t keep the Ten Commandments. Can you, in good sense, deny the connection? “And I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass, and your strength shall be spent in vain” (Lev. 26:18-20).
We have and are still spending our strength in vain. We have wasted our energies, our vast wealth, our young, strong men; we have spent enormously, vastly, prodigiously. And we have done it all in vain.
We have spent our homes and families, our farms and produce, our factories and their products. WE have spent our time and our concern. We have spent dearly, in vain.
If I wanted to kill a people, I would give it too much. I would have it sick, greedy, on its knees with lust and depraved sensual desire. I would destroy its homes and families with empty religions false moral values, and situation ethics. I would futilize its youth by double standards, incredible hypocrisy, and useless wars always looming ahead in which they can vanish in some far off land. I would confuse its leaderships, destroy its national confidence, and take away its willingness to sacrifice for great causes.
That is, if I wanted to kill a people. But most of all, I wanted to kill a people, I would see to it there was a continued conspiracy to make that people forget its God, it Protector and Creator. I would impugn spiritual laws, righteous values, and all absolutes.
I would destroy Christian conscience, and make religion an empty, meaningless jargon of semi-sick, irrelevant ceremony. I would turn the people inward, upon itself, in a spate of hateful witch-hunting, minority-baiting, useless violence, and part-time revolution.
Something terrible has happened to the United States of America. When people cannot look back with satisfaction, it may find it difficult to look forward with courage. Is there any willpower left? Any spirit of sacrifice?”Any dedication to great cause? Have we forgotten how to repent? If we have, we are only waiting to die.