Jim Crawford: Five decades later… another long, hot summer

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 27, 2022

The 1960s in the U.S. were one long, hot summer, all rolled into a decade of change.

The culmination of a time of challenge to the nation was the summer of 1967, when 157 race riots broke out across the country. We were torn apart by the war in Vietnam, stalled in the fight for racial equality, stunned by the first liberal Supreme Court in decades and facing the beginning of efforts to drive a gap between the richest Americans and everyone else.

During the decade, our president was assassinated, his brother murdered while campaigning for the presidency and Dr. Martin Luther King, a historic peace figure, gunned down, fulfilling his own prediction.

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It was a time of strain upon the very institutions of democracy, but the middle held and we remained a nation of laws.

We are in another long, hot summer in this second decade of the 21st century, and this year, the summer of 2022, will challenge us as we have only been challenged during the Civil War and the Vietnam War. Whether the middle holds, or whether our institutions will continue to bind us together remains to be seen in this unparalleled moment.

The pandemic introduced us to the chaos that was to follow, and it continues to kill and constrain a return to normality with spot shortages in goods and services. Climate change is attacking food resources, and extreme weather, a by-product of climate change, is showing the increasingly destructive force of nature.

Like those of nations across the planet, our economy is out of balance with unpredictable surges and ebbs. We have the lowest unemployment in decades, the fastest increase in GDP in decades, significant wage growth and more jobs than workers across the labor spectrum. But we also have inflation destabilizing our economic growth.

Moreover, our institutions face challenges never anticipated by our forefathers. Most significantly, the Trump attempt to overthrow our democracy resulted in the Jan. 6 Insurrection and continues today with an ongoing intent to re-install or re-elect the defeated president to office.

The Jan. 6 congressional committee is, this week, revealing acts and actions that can only best be described as treasonous, not only by Trump, but by several of his government officials and perhaps by elected senators and representatives. We do not yet know the extent to which the U.S. Department of Justice may charge many for their criminal acts.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, constructed by Republican willingness to abort the intention of the constitution, is ending the right to abortion, overturning Roe v. Wade, a law with precedent and support of a broad majority of Americans.

And all of this is just the summer of the second year of the long, hot summer.

But there is hope — hope in our history of surviving other great challenges, and hope in the knowledge that under the veneer of divisive politics of today lies the opportunity for good men and women to step out of their safe political towers and stand for the good of the people.

Beyond political ambition, beyond personal gain, lies a path forward for those who looked away when our President placed his interests above those of the nation.

There is a place where our elected officials can pledge their promise to protect and defend the United States and mean it, even if it means they must risk their ambitions, their careers, for the good of us all.

Our leaders once had to drive a criminal, Richard Nixon, from the presidency.

There was a day when racism that remained institutionalized in the South demanded confrontation, and it was.

Courage, political courage, may be rare, but it is not yet extinct.

Jim Crawford is a retired educator and political enthusiast living here in the Tri-State.