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The value of unity

When I see the reprehensible political ads on television, I often refer to the following factoid, which is a reminder that most politicians should be taken to the woodshed.

With the stock market crash in 1929, the nation’s losses amounted to $30 billion dollars. The advent of World War II, just a dozen years later, brought about the war bond drive which raised $85.7 billion dollars, roughly one-half the cost of the war. Everybody across our great nation was given to lending a helping hand. Everybody was pitching in.

Those illuminating statistics reflect the greatest team effort that our great nation has ever known. That good news came about because of patriotism and unity, Americans joining hands to protect and preserve freedom. Not only did the Allies defeat two war-mongering dictatorships on two fronts, it was a classic case of the home guard doing its part to aid and abet the guys in the trenches—many of them raw teenagers. From Rosie the Riveter to the thousands who helped build Liberty ships in four-plus days to the mothers and grandmothers who spent time on their knees praying for sons, husbands and grandsons who were willing to give their lives to bring Axis governments to their knees. Everybody did his or her part.

There were no political agendas, no attack ads and thankfully no television to bring about dissention, promote distortions of the truth and insult everyday Americans. Our nation was never more united. We sacrificed and endured sugar, coffee, meat, cheese, shoes, tire, automobile, kerosene and bicycle rationing without finding fault, carping bellyaching. We followed the recommendations of our government. Nobody demonstrated against anybody or anything. Remember the slogan, “Loose lips sinks ships?” We were on the same page when it came to patriotism and loyalty.

The Marshall Plan followed the war with a generous financial aid program enabling Europe to get back on its feet. It also became a deterrent to Communism and Joseph Stalin whom none of the Allies, especially Winston Churchill and the United Kingdom trusted. The rehabilitation of Europe could only have come about by the Marshall Plan. It was firmly established that our government wanted to also rehabilitate our former enemies—Germany and Japan. However, soon thereafter came the Cold War and the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

While I am not a historian, I can see, like most Americans, that there is too much bitterness and contempt among our leaders today. I like to think of coalitions such as senators Sam Nunn of Georgia and Richard Lugar of Indiana working together to bring about the “Cooperative Threat Reduction” program to destroy and eliminate nuclear weapons and materials when the old Soviet Union came apart.

Thomas O’Neill, son of former House Speaker, Democrat, Tip O’Neill, once wrote a piece for the New York Times in which he said of his father and President Ronald Reagan, “While neither man embraced the other’s world view, each respected the other’s right to hold it. Each respected the other as a man.” Another Speaker, Republican John Boehner, used to sneak into the White House, avoiding the media, to meet with President Barak Obama. “I understand him, he understands me and while we had big disagreements, we were able to get an awful lot of things done, somehow. Don’t ask me how,” Boehner once said.

Perhaps, philosophically speaking, there has never been an odd couple like Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, who had decidedly different judicial philosophes. Yet, they maintained a close friendship for years. They even spent holidays with each other’s families. Scalia: “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of the law and yet be friends, get another job for Pete’s sake.”

Ginsburg: “As annoyed as you might be about his zinging dissent, he’s so utterly charming, so amusing, so sometimes outrageous, you can’t help but say, ‘I’m glad that he’s my friend or he’s my colleague.” At times such as these, I hark back to the author of this poignant one liner: “The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.”