Remember when John Lennon sang, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”? What was he thinking?
I’m having a crotchety current-events-fueled senior moment. Even with the Vietnam War still on and Watergate yet to come, there were dreamers in 1971.
The world is a better place for having had John Lennon, but after the recent spate of gun violence, last January’s breach of Capitol Hill by protesters, and the occasional Brexit blurb from the United Kingdom, I wonder how, or if, “Imagine” would have even been written today.
When I ponder why civility has dropped over the years, I always end up with social media as the major culprit.
Maybe the cause of our disharmony is staring back at us from the mirror.
Were past leaders just better at getting things done or would social media’s influence have diminished them too? They were certainly flawed. President Lyndon B. Johnson’s best efforts failed in Vietnam; John F. Kennedy had the Bay of Pigs incident; Ronald Reagan stumbled through the Iran-Contra affair.
If you look deeper, though, there’s more to the story. Johnson’s Great Society produced, among other things, Medicare, and civil rights legislation was passed with bipartisan support. Reagan and then-House Speaker Thomas “Tip” O’Neill were able to work together without disagreements turning personal.
Kennedy’s administration gave us the Peace Corps, and unlikely allies Alabama Gov. George Wallace and New York U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm teamed to get minimum wage for domestic workers legislation passed. Earlier, Chisholm, despite criticism from her own supporters, visited Wallace in the hospital after he was shot.
Think about that. Wallace was a segregationist, and Chisholm was a Black congresswoman, yet they found common ground. It could be done.
We’ll never know how social media would have altered American history from the 1960s on. Naively, I like to think that civil rights progress and Medicare would have prevailed anyway.
I said that finding common ground could be done. Maybe it still can. I hear it’s easy if you try.
— Jim Newton, Itasca