"And so tonight--to you, the great silent majority of my fellow Americans--I ask for your support."--Richard Nixon, 11/3/1969
That was what Richard Nixon said in 1969, when talking about his plans for the Vietnam War.
He also said this:
"My fellow Americans, I am sure you can recognize from what I have said that we really only have two choices open to us if we want to end this war.
--I can order an immediate, precipitate withdrawal of all Americans from Vietnam without regard to the effects of that action.
--Or we can persist in our search for a just peace through a negotiated settlement if possible, or through continued implementation of our plan for Vietnamization if necessary-a plan in which we will withdraw all of our forces from Vietnam on a schedule in accordance with our program, as the South Vietnamese become strong enough to defend their own freedom."
He chose what was behind door number 2.
Remember: he said this on November 3rd, 1969. The war ended, for all intents and purposes, May 1st 1975. April 30th was the day the US Embassy in Saigon was evacuated. So, 4 years 5 months and 28 days later, the war ended as badly as it would have had he just cut and run in 1969.
Except for this: 58 thousand Americans died in Vietnam, twenty percent of which (about eleven thousand) died after
November 3rd, 1969. The source for these numbers is here
58 thousand Americans dead. It's a bit of an abstract number. So, I thought I'd put it into real terms. Here's a list of cities that have a population of around 58,00o
- White Plains NY
- Lancaster PA
- Chapel Hill, NC
- Sheboygan WI
- Shawnee KS
- San Clemente CA
- Carson City NV
Imagine every man, woman and child in one of those cities being killed. Not all at once, of course. Do it over a decade and a half. That's the Vietnam war in American terms.
So far, we've only lost 1,800 Americans in Iraq. Only
1,800. In two-and-a-half years. Of course, that's the same number as were killed in the first five
years in Vietnam (1961-65).
But we're not going to be in Iraq for 14 or 15 years.
Oh, except Rumsfeld said we may be in Iraq for up to 12 more years
I know, I know--apples and oranges. This isn't Vietnam. But we are heading down the rabbit hole.
Which leads me back to the opening quote of Nixon's. When he used the phrase 'silent majority,' he was referring to those folks who weren't protesting the war. The ones who, more than anything, wanted a sense of order. A sense that everything was going to be OK.
I know. I came from a silent majority family.
Nixon's gift was that he appealed to these people. He made them believe that the war was winnable. It wasn't, as we now know, but that didn't matter.
What mattered is that he was able to reach them.
I believe there's a silent majority out there still. One that's not too happy with the way things are going, but are reluctantly standing behind Bush because they believed that he was the better choice.
I'm not talking about the rabid redstaters--the ultraconservative evangelical pseudochristians who have hijacked the Republican Party and this country. Lord knows, they make enough noise.
The problem is, and remains, that we on the progressive side need to stop being patsies. We need to stop being righteous. We need to stop being incredulous. We need to start standing up together and making sense. Because it's not enough to just speak truth to power.
We must speak common sense to our neighbors.