I recently had the opportunity to watch all ten episodes of the brilliant Ken Burns’ documentary, “The Vietnam War.” In episode nine, I was introduced to the phrase (which was the title of the episode) – “A Disrespectful Loyalty.” Seeing the Vietnam War era footage of mass protests reminded me of the broad spectrum of local and national protests that have been building momentum since the presidential election about a year ago. And then this recent headline (October 28, 2017):
Americans are facing the largest social and political crisis since the Vietnam War, according to new poll results
Results of a new poll released on 10/28 reveal a stark and growing divide among Americans, suggesting that distrust, unrest and unhappiness with the US democratic system of governance is driving the biggest political division in the country since the Vietnam War, according to the Washington Post.
The survey, conducted jointly between the newspaper and the University of Maryland, showed stark political divides as a result of the nine-month-old presidency of Donald Trump and suggested that his policies, method of expression and his tactics have done more to alienate Americans from each other than anything that has occurred in the country in the past 45 years.
About seven in 10 participants agreed that political divisions in the US are similar to the time period surrounding the Vietnam War, according to the results. Almost six in 10 agreed with a statement suggesting that Trump is increasing the dysfunction of the US political system.
In “A Disrespectful Loyalty” (Episode 9), Ex-Marine John Musgrave, who has been described as the representative heart and soul of The Vietnam War’s witnesses to history, says that while he was proud to serve with the 1st Battalion 9th Marines — he was first and foremost a citizen of the United States of America:
“And being a citizen, I have certain responsibilities,” Musgrave says. “And the largest of those responsibilities is standing up and saying no when the government is doing something that you think is not in this nation’s best interest. That is the most important job that every citizen has.”
No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it’s clear that we haven’t seen this magnitude of dissent between the American people and the government since the Vietnam War. That being said, Ken Burns’ documentary provides a unique insight into the lessons and perspectives from both sides of the spectrum that could be insightful, and perhaps even instructive, to our current social and political crises. I highly recommend you check out Ken Burns’ documentary “The Vietnam War” because although history may not repeat itself, it does rhyme from time to time. For me, the high water mark of the documentary series was John Musgrave’s living example of civic responsibility as he spoke his truth and helped turn the course of the war in Vietnam.