I was born before the outbreak of World War II. As a child in Nebraska, I became aware of the fears and anxieties in the conversations of the adults around me. The talk of war and when and if the United States would enter into the European conflict was everywhere. Eventually, we had no choice after we were attacked at Pearl Harbor.
In those days, the most common method of staying informed was to read the local newspaper, listen to the radio commentators or watch the newsreels in the theater between cowboy westerns and Bugs Bunny cartoons.
Eventually, movies began to appear about the war. We watched the battles of Pearl Harbor, Corregidor, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, Midway, Bataan, Normandy, the Battle of the Bulge. In many of these, John Wayne’s character was the one whose leadership saved the day. One had the impression that, whenever John Wayne came on the screen, everything was going to work out just fine. He embodied the true American spirit and he was fearless.
Certainly, these portrayals were contrived for an American audience desperate for good news. Few of us had lived through the World War I, so we had fears for the future of our country and the world. In later years, I came to understand that a great public relations campaign had swung into motion almost from the outbreak of the war in an effort to boost morale and sell war bonds.
Nevertheless, Americans felt a great pride in their military and government leaders. Unfortunately, that sense of pride is missing, today. It has been replaced by a leadership whose only foreign policy is a series of posturing and red lines intended to tell our adversaries that America will go only so far and no further (but we will extend the line so as not to be perceived as too nationalistic or bullying).
Today, we are being led by a president, politicians and, in some cases, military leaders who strike a menacing pose but are viewed as “pranksters” and incompetents by our adversaries, allies and own citizenry. They stumble from one crisis to another while assuring us they are being firm in their commitments and the enemy is “on the wrong side of history.”
What balderdash! This administration is performing no better than a group of grade school children fighting over a tether ball in the playground. History will record this generation of leaders as useless and ask those who voted them into office “How could you have been so dumb?”
Francis X. Barden