In 1956, the year I was born, the world was a much different place than it is today. My generation came into a nuclear-armed world where the possibility of global annihilation rested on the shoulders of opposing powers, Democracy and Communism.
Or so we were told as we learned to duck and cover under our desks in case of nuclear attack. A mere twelve years before, in 1944, the world still faced Hitler, the Final Solution, and raging war. The end of the war still more than a year, and hundreds of thousands of more deaths, away.
There were no cell phones, websites, or Facebook.
Twelve years later, in 1968, America was being torn apart as much as our military forces were tearing apart the country of Vietnam. The ’68 Tet Offensive, live on TV, brought the war into the American living room as the body count climbed. The military defeat of the Viet Cong lost in the outrage over America’s continued spending of the blood of our young men and women for a failed policy.
Twelve more years pass and, by 1980, Americans were held hostage in Iran, and a new President came into office promising to win their release. What first appeared to be the success of a firm and effective policy later turned out to be political subterfuge.
In 1992, a new chapter dawns. A President takes office who would reopen relations with Vietnam and start the healing process for those who fought there, and then go on national television and lie to the American people. An unnecessary and foolish lie.
Another twelve years, 2004, would find America embroiled once again in an endless war, with no clear goals and no end in sight. A President would commit troops to combat and tell the American people to go shopping.
He would go on to declare “mission accomplished.”
Twelve years later, 2016, the troops were still there. Except, of course, for the ones who’d been wounded or killed after the mission was accomplished.
We also had a new President. In the peculiar institution of our electoral process, more people voted against him than for him but he won the Electoral College. It gives one pause to consider if we should rethink the accreditation of this college.
Nevertheless, he is the President.
Since taking office, he has shut down the government unless Congress meets his demand for money to build a wall most people agree is an ineffective solution to a complex problem.
And so it goes.
It would seem Americans have an attention span of fewer than twelve years. We repeat the same mistakes, or conveniently forget about them
If I am fortunate enough to enjoy the full extent of my life expectancy, I have two or three more twelve-year cycles to go. Let’s hope we get better at it.