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Chester County Press

Editorial: Parallels with a summer when everything felt wrong

07/25/2016 01:54PM ● By J. Chambless

In the sweltering summer of 1968, the world seemed to be coming apart at the seams.

The war in Vietnam racheted up to apocalyptic levels. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy died at the hands of assassins. Riots raged, the police were labeled “pigs.” The races clashed, and at the summer Olympics, two American medalists, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, raised their fists during the National Anthem, silently protesting racial discrimination in the United States.

The summer of 2016 has the same air of rudderless chaos, as if nothing good can counteract the downward spiral and the air of menace everywhere.

On the heels of the Republican National Convention that saw Donald Trump take his place as a candidate for President, the Democrats are gathering in Philadelphia this week with high hopes to turn the tide in their favor. They are facing currents unlike anything in recent memory.

Discord is as old as politics, of course. Bigotry is never far from the surface in American life. Awash in guns, this country is becoming a war zone. Angry people shoot first and don't ask questions. Technology overwhelms us with instant information about everything, and nearly all of it is biased.

The two candidates for President are presiding over a crucial time in this country. The people who have propelled Donald Trump to victory are blindly angry. They rage against entrenched politicians, they look for scapegoats, they bluster and boast. They are so mad, and so obsessed with changing something – anything -- that they've nominated a man who could not be less suited to lead a nation. Trump is narcissistic, ignorant of the facts and proud of it, a bully and a liar. He fears people who are not “American.” He denigrates women. He casts himself in the starring role in his one-man show, promising that he will fix whatever's wrong without caring at all for the people who support him. What will happen if he sits down with a head of state from some country he decides he doesn't like? Think about it.

On the other hand, people don't trust Hillary Clinton. She has been through too many investigations, and she is married to a man who cheated on his wife. She doesn't know how to use secure email properly. She doesn't come across as the kind of person you'd want to share lunch with. A little emotionally chilly, maybe.

But why should that determine her ability to lead? How many of us are going to sit down for lunch with either Trump or Clinton? Why do we have to regard our Presidents as potential friends? How about if we judge them on their ability to calmly lead, and not on their choice of pantsuits, or the way they can shout down dissenting opinions?

In the blinding flash of social media and 24-hour news, much has been made of Trump's rhetoric and its resemblance to that of another little man who took advantage of a nation's blood lust by telling them that he would make them great again. The Trump cult of personality, his racist comments against people from Mexico and Muslim countries, his baiting of crowds at his political rallies, his smug grimace when confronted with the actual truth – it does sound eerily familiar.

In the next four months, we will continue to be splashed with the spittle and blood of the brawl for the White House. But let's not lose sight of the stakes. Let's not forget who we should be as a nation. Let's stand on the side of reason and compromise, instead of raving and confrontation.

Let's remember 1968, when the world hung in the balance. And let us not make the wrong choice.