My parents and relatives for the most part were pretty staunch Republicans during their lifetime as, I think, were most people in small-town Minnesota. They supported small businesses, conservative fiscal spending, farmers, strong military, and American values like hard work and citizenship.
Since the 1850s we have had the Democratic party and the Republican party and both parties have served the United States very well. The question is, “Can they continue to serve us as well beyond this Memorial Day?”
The first time I voted in a presidential election, I voted for Nixon. The reason was that he was Eisenhower’s vice president and I liked Eisenhower. I liked Ike’s smile, the way he talked and, of course, the fact that he led us through World War II. The Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, has been an integral part of our political scene for decades. The party of Eisenhower, Ford, Reagan, both H.W. Bush and G.W. Bush has done its part to keep America great. We didn’t always agree with some things they did but they did keep America strong and respected.
Democrats, the party of equal rights, unions, government assisted programs, education and immigrants, also have served us well and, like the Republicans, they too did things that did not sit well with everyone. Our differences of opinion, provided for a civil discourse, has helped make us a better democratic country.
I think we all could agree on that. In other words, our two-party system based on a solid foundation of interests formulated and seasoned over time, has been a good thing. The reason, I believe, was because both parties shared a mutual respect and maintained a pretty high degree of time-tested values. In other words, we could agree to disagree while at the same time voters expected their leaders to uphold the values on which this country was founded.
On Memorial Day we honored those people that have served our country and, in many cases, who have made the ultimate sacrifice by dying for our country. My father and father-in-law served during WWII as did my uncle who flew a flying fortress and was shot down over Germany. He spent a year in a German prison camp where he tried to catch sparrows to supplement his diet. I had another uncle who served during the Korean War as well as several cousins and a brother who served.
I was wondering how my father and family members and other veterans would view our present day situation in the United States. Would they be jumping for joy or walking away with bowed heads in shame due to our failure to come together? As my mother would say if she were still living, “What a shame.” She would be right. What a shame we can’t even agree to build a new bridge or fix our highways -- highways that were initially built by Eisenhower. Why can’t we find a solution that prevents Americans from shooting Americans?
As we paid tribute to our fallen heroes, this would be a good time to think beyond Memorial Day and hope that our leaders will come to their senses and restore a system where both parties could agree to disagree and then work together to create the more perfect union.
We have so much in common it’s a shame we have to allow our differences to divide us. For example, “We must never remain silent in the face of bigotry. We must condemn those who seek to divide us. In all quarters and at all times, we must teach tolerance and denounce racism, anti-Semitism and all ethnic or religious bigotry wherever they exist as unacceptable evils. We have no place for haters in America -- none, whatsoever.” This sounds like something Robert Kennedy would say or even President Joe Biden. Actually, it is a Ronald Reagan quote.
Reagan also said, “There is no limit to the amount of good you can do as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.” We are experiencing difficult times and it’s not the pandemic. The difficult time we face is not being able to come together to do what needs to be done regardless of who suggests it or who gets the credit. We are one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all. We can’t provide justice for all as a divided people.
As a scout and also as a member of my high school band, I used to march in the Memorial Day parade in my hometown. The parade would end at White Water Creek where the soldiers would give their gun salute, flags would be waving and flowers would be thrown into the creek in memory of those veterans who had given their lives so the rest of us could live peacefully.
It has been said that when our Memorial Day flags wave in the breeze, it is caused by our deceased veterans giving their last breath for our country. They deserve more than what we are currently giving them.
Riddle: A boy and girl were standing on the same piece of paper facing each other but they could not kiss. Why? (Answer: There was a door separating them.) A country can be separate and equal at the same time but doors have to be open before we can love one another.
Congratulations to all of the graduates this year at all levels. Now you can turn around and remind others to graduate.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.