Thinking about the time when I was in the Marines a long time ago (as you can tell looking at the photo and see what type rifle I was issued) I wonder what has happened to the country I love. There were no such things as Red or Blue states. There was the United States.
Wondering about that I looked to see when the designation of states by color first came into use. It was given to us by a television news channel back in 1976. I should have figured that. It appealed to the folk watching television by simplifying things with colors.
Back during my time of wearing the uniform I do not recall one being judged by the area of the county he came from or the political philosophy he held. Yes, I use the masculine “he”, women in uniform were heard about, but hard to find.
There were no people saying they hate libs or Democrats or Republicans like some do today or calling others Socialists without a basic understanding of Socialism. During basic training, I was assigned to a fire team that consisted of four Southerners and myself. Aside from our accents we had no differences. We worked and trained together without any difficulty. We did not have Southern squads and Northern squads. We were all mixed together to do the job which was to protect our nation.
I got thinking of that when I read these words in Thomas Friedman’s New York Times column the other day. He had gone to Afghanistan twenty years ago right after the Taliban were driven out of Kabul. After spending some days there with Joe Biden who was on the Foreign Relations Committee he was on his way out sitting at the Bagram Airbase hoping to catch a military flight out to Pakistan. Later, he wrote in his diary,
“I looked around the room at the Special Forces A-teams that were there and could see America’s strength hiding in plain sight. It wasn’t smart missiles or night-fighting equipment. It was the fact that these Special Forces teams each seemed to be made up of a collection of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and white Americans. It is our ability to blend those many into one hard fist that is the real source of our power. This is precisely what Afghans have not been able to do in recent decades, and it has left them weak, divided, and prey to outsiders.” (my emphasis)
Then noting he had written the above 20 years ago he added in parenthesis: “Reading that particular passage 20 years later I confess that I wonder if we have become more like the Afghans and not the Afghans more like us. Our diversity is only our strength as long as we can forge “out of many — one.” But lately, our parties and politics have become so tribalized it is not clear anymore that we can do that.”
Yes, that is what is was like when I was in the Marine Corps. No matter where you were from we would blend “into one hard fist” to fight for the United States. Friedman was writing about 2001. My time was back many years before that to the 1960s. Others could tell how in the 1940s during WWII that was the case.
We have a choice. Do we want to descent into the chaos of hell and become the new Afghanistan or rise up into the “hard fist” where a “collection of Black, Asian, Hispanic, and white Americans” unite together to stay as the United State of yore where we all worked together to form a more perfect union?