- Politics and Social Issues
The Cockroach Factor
By: Wayne Brown
I am one of those post-World War II babies, you know, the generation they refer to as the “Baby Boomers”. According to statistics, we are a generation that is large in number, a significant bubble, if you will, moving through the generational aging of this great country called America. The timing of my birth has allowed me the opportunity to experience a great deal of change in this country both emotionally and technologically. Much has been good, some not so good but eye-opening to say the least. Now, as I enter my senior years, I must say that there has been no time for me in America that is more disconcerting than today. I find myself wondering if we, as a once great nation, are only living on the dying quivers of our historic reputation.
America of the 1950’s was to say the least a rather simple and naïve society. We still lived in the shadow of the great world war and were coming off the backside of the struggles of a war in Korea. Social Security was still a relatively new concept but one that added a sense of security to those who had seen past generations of their families reach an age at which they could not long provide for themselves. Money was still relatively scarce in the early fifties but a dollar also still went a long way for most families. America was moving away from the farm to a greater extent. Industry had seen the potential for output as a result of the war effort and investment in manufacturing in America was creating jobs in the industrial sector. Capitalism was truly at work in the USA. As a people, we generally believed what we were told because we wanted to believe it. For all the good things happening in America, we also were living in the shadow of fear, the memories of Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The bomb was ever present in our minds. Others, like the Russians, now had it and were bent on wiping us from the earth with it. We lived in fear on a daily basis and some of us even bought bomb shelters. But, never doubt, we were a patriotic country and we would kick your ass if you messed with us.
As the 1960’s era arrived, we continued to grow the cold war experience globally. Our posture militarily called for stopping the spread of communism around the globe, preventing the domino effect of country after country falling into the hands of the communists. We looked at particular geographies with a jealous eye, our military leaders subscribed to the “Rimland Theory” that basically stated that any country controlling the warm water shorelines would control the entire continent known as Asia. Between the dominoes and the rimland, America quickly found itself in Vietnam for the duration of the 1960’s. It was a bloody and controversial era. It was without a doubt the time at which America lost her innocence. We had witnessed the assassination of a President, wrestled with the notion of conspiracy and now the body count in Vietnam was served up to our families each night on the television news in an attempt to sway our thinking with regard to the so-called “conflict” in Vietnam. It was an era that would take a heavy toll on the “Baby Boomers” in terms of war casualties and in terms of differences of opinion on the war. For many, it would be a life altering time that would set them on a life journey that required them to live from cause to cause. Life would not be possible for them without a cause. That would become their purpose in life. For others, me included, it would be a time when I would wrestle my personal fears in terms of war and patriotism. I would confront myself on many issues. Was I too good or too privileged to go to war and serve my country? Would my potential death solve anything? Where was the future that I felt was owed me for some unknown reason? I was the oldest son of a WWII veteran of Normandy; a man who had left a part of himself on the battlefield and almost died as a result of his wounds; a man who had never complained or looked back. He simply put his Purple Heart in a drawer and went on with life. Was I any better than this man not to serve? The answer was a resounding “NO” and I like so many others of the “Baby Boomers” gathered myself up and went off to serve in yet another war. Some would not return. I was one of the lucky ones.
As the 1960’s drew too a close, America was still very much entrenched in Southeast Asia and looking for a way out. Not a way to win mind you, but a way out. We were a country who had endured politicians starting with the likes of Lyndon Johnson who cried on television over the loss of American lives in Vietnam yet could not muster the strength or the guts to use the force and strategy necessary to bring this meat-grinding to an end. This was the man who brought us here as he strutted forth after the Gulf of Tonkin incident ready to kick some ass on anyone firing on American vessels. This was a man so afraid of the issues of the Cold War that he could not bring himself to use the force of America but could shed tears for the blood of young America spilled on the jungle floors of Vietnam. With the coming of the 1970’s decade, Nixon inherited the hell that Johnson had created. America was tearing itself apart from the inside. Nixon only wanted to know where the backdoor might be. He, like Johnson, was not willing to risk political ruin on the chances of finishing what we had started and doing it right. We slipped out the back in the dead of night and came home looking back over our shoulder to see if anyone was following us.
Vietnam never really healed in America. It just slipped underneath other issues and the veterans of that cause faded into the dim history of the era along with the bitterness and resentment that many of them felt as the public shunned their patriotic service to their country. Kennedy’s assassination and the years in Southeast Asia had given the American Press a voice like it had never had before in the lives of Americans. Nixon’s fateful encounter with Watergate would actually create “Stars” in the media who would become super-journalists as a result. The era of investigative journalism was new and fresh. No longer did journalist want to just write about topics and deliver the news. No, it was a new day of investigation and influence. Now, the media would not only tell America what had happened, they would analyze it and tell Americans what they should think. The unfortunate side of this development was that far too many in America fell for it hook, line, and sinker. The job of the politician in America had suddenly changed. No longer did those seeking or holding office need to court the individual voter to win. They simply needed to get the media on their side and the public could be swayed. Technology was putting more information in front of Americans than they could decipher so they just swallowed it without too much of a litmus test. That’s about the time that the good ol’ boy, peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, showed up on the scene. America seemed ready for some socialism and Jimmy was just the man to deliver it with his Georgia grin and “aw shucks” demeanor.
With Carter in the White House, America began to see the bills come due. The cost of Vietnam, the cost of Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”, and the added cost of Carter’s social spending were creating a demand for money within the U S government that was unmatched in the public sector. Inflation was through the roof in double digit levels. Interest rates were going steadily up and reaching into double digits. The American Dream was rapidly becoming a disaster yet many in America were actually happy because they were getting 10% wage increases and the value of their homes had increased by 30%. Never mind the fact that a dollar now only bought about 30 cents worth of merchandise at the store. We were a country on the way to pricing ourselves out of the market place and we were happy. Could it be because the media was telling us that we were “happy”?
The decade of the 1980’s saw an attempt to take hold again and gain control of the inflation and spending. Conservatism returned to the voting booths, change came to the White House in the form of Ronald Reagan. The media did not care for Reagan and the feeling was likewise. In fact, Mr. Reagan did not give a rat’s ass what anyone in the press thought of him. Here was finally a politician who had some balls and was willing to risk his political future on anything that he believed in with all his heart. The press attacked his “Reaganomics” as a faulty theory of trickle down growth. America was told that Reagan was simply a puppet of the rich upper class of America sent to Washington to manipulate the little man and keep the lower class American in his place. Some of us bought that argument and most of us were too impatient to wait for the impact of the economics of those times. Reagan would depart office before those days would arrive and many would forget who put the tools in place thanks to all powerful analysis of the American media.
With the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, and Watergate behind us, no one could say that America was entering the decade of the 1990’s as a naïve nation. Quite the contrary, we were a nation that saw a conspiracy behind every bush. We were still trying to figure out who killed Kennedy and what had really happened at the Watergate Hotel. We had watched the press battle Reagan and now they worked on his crony, George Bush Sr. as he occupied the White House. The media, true to form, was serving up the Gulf War on our nightly dinner plates and steadily painting Bush as a man who cared little for his fellow American’s welfare; a man more at home wrestling the issues of foreign diplomacy while his country went to hell. America was quickly being swayed back to the idea that socialism had been waiting in the wings for much too long. The polls would open to a new and glorious day for the American media as their sweetheart stepped to the forefront. America was about to put William Jefferson Clinton into the big office.
Americans may not have been naïve in the early 1990’s but we sure as hell needed someone to tell us what we wanted to hear. In walks Bill Clinton with all the swagger of a door to door Fuller Brush salesman, more than willing to say whatever was necessary to gain the White House and fully aware of the impact that the American media could have on the voting results. He quickly became the media darling and it did not take the press long to recognize that this was a powerful package in that it came with a husband and wife team who were more than willing to lead America to a new social order. Oh what a time in America!
Now, let me stop and say this because I need to get it on the table. The 1990’s was a very special decade in America for me for one particular reason. That reason was one that I fondly call “The Cockroach Factor”. It was not really anything that was totally new; it was just something that has slowly grown to a size that had to become noticeable. Somewhere in the aftermath of the sixties, as a society, we began to grow a sector of the population that seems to be educated illiterates. They go to school, graduate and earn degrees in some instances due in large part to the liberal leanings of our current education system. Ultimately, they are nauseatingly ignorant of the democratic process and capitalism in this country, and they have no idea of the potential consequences of their vote. They are a voting block that seems easily swayed by anyone willing to offer something from the government that will be “free” for the taking. They do not recognize the link between government spending and taxation growth in this country. The have the right to vote yet they do not possess the knowledge or the responsibility of one who should be allowed to vote. By the 1990’s, America was like a house fully infested with cockroaches and no one living there was willing to call an exterminator. Politicians like Bill Clinton and Barrack Obama know what cockroaches look like. In fact, had they not been President, they might have had a future as successful pest control technicians. Clinton saw the factor in the 90’s and capitalized on it at the polls. Obama basically repeated that process again in 2008 and used it effectively to push Hilary Clinton out of the race. On the conservative side of the aisle, heads are still being scratched and asses are getting kicked. Conservative politicians have yet to grasp the “Cockroach Factor” and use it effectively in their pursuit of office. It may not be possible.
So given that backdrop, we arrive at where we are as a country today. We sit here with a healthcare bill that has been rammed down our throats and truly offers nothing in terms of the claims of reform, progress, or actual benefit to the American public. It is significant in that, like many of the landmarks highlighted in this discussion, it will mark the point of departure by America from the democratic path on to one of socialism and never before seen power-grabbing by the federal government. Don’t get me wrong, this is not America’s first brush with socialism but it is such a radical step in that direction that nothing in our past compares to it. This is the reason that America is not more outraged over the issue, we have nothing to compare it to and realize what an atrocity has occurred here. As a public, it behooves each one of us to continue to fight in some manner to stop it. If we cannot turn things around here at this juncture, this crossroad, we will forever be headed down a path of socialistic reform that will eventually erase all that was good and wonderful about America and its people. It will singularly be the mechanism that provides the platform for the continued growth of socialism and the eradication of capitalism from our society. We will all truly become victims of the Cockroach Factor.