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Mike Hendricks

Mike at Night

Mike Hendricks recently retires as social science, criminal justice instructor at McCook Community College.

Then and now

Friday, August 9, 2019

For those of us who lived then, the í60s were the greatest, scariest, most productive, most violent decade in the history of the world. During that decade we were engaged in a war in Vietnam that millions of Americans opposed and because of that, things were happening that shocked the sensibilities of most Americans. There were demonstrations in the streets, business shutdowns, college shutdowns, the killing of American students at Kent State University by American National Guardsmen, race riots from coast to coast, three political assassinations including the President of the United States, the cold war and the space race all combined to create a pervasive feeling that America was falling apart at the seams and those who were opposed to the sudden changes we faced were sure it was. There was never a decade like it before and there hasnít been a decade even close to it since.

However, in spite of the strife and dissension that was occurring in this country during that decade, there was also a lack of violence that is pervasive today. There were only six mass murders in the United States during the entire ten years of the decade and none the year I graduated from high school. Fast forward 50 years and you find a far different story. People had their guns in the í60s but they were much different than the guns available today. They were almost exclusively rifles and shotguns used for hunting and almost all young boys learned how to hunt and shoot from the dads or the paternal figures in their lives. Today Americans possess 265 million guns, almost one for every man, woman and child living in this country. According to the most recent research, as of July 31st of this year, 248 mass murders have occurred in 2019 which averages out to 1.2 per day. In those mass murders there have been 979 injured and 246 killed.

The question everyone is asking is why and there are almost as many answers as there are people. But there are puzzling exceptions to the status quo as well. Weíre no longer involved in a war where, according to the Pentagon Papers, we continued to send American soldiers to Vietnam to fight and die when the administration knew they were in a war they couldnít or wouldnít win. Consequently, we donít have massive protests against that war anymore. Race relations, although still unsatisfactory, are better than they were in the í60s so we donít have race riots across the country. And we donít have two groups of people diametrically opposed to each other in regards to whether we should be fighting a war or not.

But we do have a conflict although itís being fought, for the most part without bullets, except for the mass murders occurring almost daily. Itís a war against illegal immigration and itís the primary issue that elected Donald Trump. Although itís doubtful that very many illegal immigrants got jobs that American men wanted, American men use that as a rallying cry in opposition to illegal immigration. I, too, am opposed to illegal immigration but it has never entered my mind to take up arms against my fellow men as is happening with frightening regularity today.

Unfortunately, itís our President who is fanning this base. Presidents before Trump also fought illegal immigration but did it in a diplomatic, reserved way that didnít draw attention to their policies or their actions. Trump does it primarily for his own ego. Iíve been following him since his ghost writer wrote The Art of the Deal about him decades ago that propelled him into national prominence and he has managed to stay there ever since. In running for President, he strung together an unlikely string of supporters including white nationalists, skin heads, Neo Nazis, the KKK and the Pentecostal religious movement who supported him on one major issue and that was anti-abortion. I even noticed the other day while I was flipping through television channels that the disgraced former Assembly of God minister, Jim Bakker, now has another television program on the air with his new wife and was comparing Trump as the reincarnation of Saul.

Leadership always comes from the top and it doesnít matter if youíre talking about leadership of a family or leadership of a country. Our norms, values, morals, attitudes and behaviors are learned from those weíre closest too and if theyíre living their lives as good examples, the likelihood is that we are too but if theyíre not, the likelihood is weíre not either.

For us to turn society around, something drastic has to happen. A group of us were discussing the latest mass murders when a biker acquaintance we know walked in and remarked that the killings in El Paso was ďa good start.Ē That attitude and belief isnít going to make things any better and in fact, will make things worse because it forces people to choose a side.

Weíre headed down the wrong path as a society and something has to be done to correct our direction or the worse is yet to come.

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