Commentary: Will we come through?

Keith C. Burris, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on

Published in Political News

And both believe the other to be the aggressor in the cold, and sometimes hot, war between them.

In the shadow of the Vietnam War (1972), the great political philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote a book called "Crisis of the Republic." It dealt with three manifestations of the legitimate political system breaking down — civil disobedience, lying in politics and violence as a response to broken politics, or what she considered to be the absence of true politics.

We have been in that crisis for the past four years.


Vietnam seemed to rend us in two. A "little" war that we were supposed to win handily (we would see more of those), had gone terribly wrong. A party's presidential nominating convention turned into police rioting and chaos in the streets (in 1968). Prophets were assassinated (also '68). And then a "law and order" president was elected whose own disrespect for law brought him to the brink of impeachment — "Watergate."

To many of us, from about 1966 to 1976, it felt as if the country were two countries, and the two hated each other.


Cops were called pigs, and spat upon. Soldiers too. They left their uniforms at home if they wanted to walk the streets of Washington, D.C.

Peaceful protesters, also, were threatened and spat upon and called filthy hippies who deserved to die protesting (George Wallace).

In my little Ohio hometown, I went to Sunday school on the weekend after the killing of four students at Kent State University, and the godly man who taught the class told us, "They should have shot more of them." That would put an end to it, he said. It being the right to assemble and speak and protest.

I told my mother, who ran the program, "I am not going back to that man's class." And I told her why. She agreed.


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