While I have spent most of my 60 years as a newspaperman and photojournalist, I took an ill-advised sojourn into the toxic world of national politics in 1981 with a claim that it would be “just two years” so I could learn more about how our government worked. It turned out to be too many more years.
That included work with three members of Congress — all Republicans — and one president — GOP one-termer George H.W. Bush — and side trips as a political operative for presidential and Congressional campaigns.
Thirteen years after beginning what I said would be just two, I walked away from politics and joined Alcoholics Anonymous, which was not a coincidence.
Today, I continue to work part-time in my chosen profession as a contract reporter and photographer for Lee Enterprises, owners of The Floyd Press, The Roanoke Times, and many other daily and weekly newspapers in the Commonwealth.
But, I wonder as we recognize Independence Day on this long, holiday weekend, do we have much to celebrate. Are we either free or independent?
America is divided. Some say our divisions are worse than what the nation faced as we headed into Civil War in the 1860s. We cannot discuss differences of opinion without resorting to shouting and, too often, violence. Most Republicans, the party that lost the White House less than two years ago, still claim to believe in a lie that their candidate won but was denied his claimed victory through fraud that did not exist.
As a one-time employee of the GOP, I do not recognize the party as it exists today. It listens to a disgraced, corrupt former president who should be facing criminal charges for his attempt to seize power by overturning a legal election in 2020.
I am amazed and frightened as I watch people continue to support and praise Donald Trump. When I worked for the GOP, he would have been laughed out of the room if he had tried then to run for any office, even local dogcatcher.
Evidence presented in televised sessions of the Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot that defaced the Capitol, killed too many, and disgraced America, shows clearly that Trump is a corrupt, criminal con artist bent on taking over America through an orchestrated coup. Why is he not rotting in jail?
Understand that I’m not viewing this as a journalist who watched from the outside. I was a trusted aide to the party with an 85% record of election victories who later managed what was then the largest political action committee in campaigns as Vice President for Political Programs for the National Association of Realtors.
I’ve served this country more than once in wars and on Capitol Hill. I’m missing body parts from a helicopter crash suffered in a far-off land while in service to America. I love America but I detest what is happening to it.
Those who died in the American Revolution paid a high price for their belief that we had a right to be free and independent. So did those who fell in too many wars in too many places around this globe over the years. This nation fought a bloody Civil War that was supposed to reaffirm our freedom and independence but we are more divided today with states once again talking about secession.
On too many mornings, I hear racial slurs uttered during breakfast at local restaurants. I see too many Confederate Flags flying from pickup trucks. Many have bumper stickers that espouse racism.
Floyd’s Town Council is currently facing the antics of a self-declared “nationalist” whose demands cost the governing body thousands of dollars that could have been used for many other things.
Floyd has an illegal “wannabe militia” that has no justification for existing under the law. Thankfully, mistrust within its ranks has made them nonfunctional as well but their existence reminds us of just how many “assault-style” AR-15s and other unnecessary weapons they carry as pathetic attempts to prove a non-existent “manhood.”
Ironically, such groups exist because they can in a free and independent nation but they spend far too much effort trying to subvert the freedoms of others who hold differing opinions.
This leaves America this weekend celebrating not a nation without rancor, violence, or distrust but, instead one that must deal with a lack of common sense, reason, tolerance, and the rights of others.
Amy, my wife, and partner for 43 years will join other women to kneel whenever the Nationa Anthem is played in public, a silent protest to the loss of freedom that all women lost when the rabid, right-wing Supreme Court dumped federal protections for the right for them to have legal abortions.
I will join them and shall continue to do so until America has, someday, real independence to celebrate.