Once upon a time one could read a newspaper or listen to the radio or watch television and get information on current events. One might hear a report about our nation’s involvement in a war for example. I was born in 1943 so my first war memory is from Korea. Perhaps Korea might provide war tocsin again.
Anyway, I recall news reports about General MacArthur and President Truman. I do not recall anybody calling anybody else a liar for expressing their views or positions. Issues as raw and visceral as Commander-In-Chief versus commander in the field were discussed and analyzed without resort to epithets. About the worst MacArthur ever said about Truman was he was only a captain in WWII and about the worst Truman ever said about MacArthur, even as he relieved him of command, was that MacArthur failed to salute him.
The conversations and arguments as to the relative merits of civilian control over the military and the authority of Congress to declare war were presented as honorable people with differing views. I do not recall my parents or my teachers in school using ad hominem arguments instead of evidence-based analysis. In other words, each side accepted their views were merely opinions based on facts, as were the opposition’s views. Neither side was so sure of its own omniscience and the other side’s venality as to assert its own opinions were synonymous with unmitigated facts.
While I was not sent to Vietnam I did serve in the military during that war. When I returned to my college campus after receiving my honorable discharge, the country was embroiled in a bitter and divisive argument about the draft and the war.
When Vice President Hubert Humphrey came to IU to present the Administration’s position on the war, students protested but without violence and without accusing the speaker of false motives. Most students were against the war and our government was supporting it. It took millions of arguments and another several years but finally we left Vietnam. I never heard Humphrey call any students liars nor did I or any of my fellow students attempt to prevent him from speaking. We certainly felt free to disagree and to loudly say so.
The media reports of the latter half of the 1960’s and first half of the 1970’s were often hard hitting on the recitation of facts with which President Johnson was confronted. But I never heard a national news figure say about the President, “He flat out lied!” Such argument quashing language was reserved for pool halls and bar room brawls.
So, assuming I may be at least somewhat correct in my impressions that our civil society is now just a society, how did we get here? You probably have a thought or two on this topic. If so, you probably have plenty of friends and family who never let you voice them. I know I do. Thank goodness I can get my views published in several newspapers. Well, at least, I think that’s a good thing.