50 years ago this week, the United States was rocked by a series of events.
On Jan. 15, 1973, President Richard Nixon announced the suspension of offensive action in North Vietnam. On Jan. 20, Nixon and his vice president, Spiro Agnew, were sworn in for what would turn out to be ill-fated second terms.
Two days later, the U.S. Supreme Court issued the historic Roe vs. Wade decision, which took away states’ rights to set laws on abortion and former President Lyndon B. Johnson died at his ranch in Texas.
The next day, Nixon announced that a peace accord had been reached in Vietnam, leading to the signing of the Paris Peace Accords on Jan. 27.
Each of these events in themselves had connections to significant events of the past and had great bearing on our future.
Johnson, of course, first ascended to the presidency in the wake of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, an event which has reverberated through our history since.
Johnson’s presidency occurred in one of the most tumultuous times in the United States’ modern history which saw the struggle for Civil Rights and deep, deep divisions in our nation revealed by the opposition to and the support for the Vietnam War.
The nightly news brought images of the war into U.S. homes, making real the tens and thousands of American men and boys who died in that nation. It was eerie that Johnson would die as the conflict which was among his biggest legacies was ending.
Later in 1973, Agnew would become only the second vice president to resign the office, and in 1974, Nixon would follow suit, becoming the only man to resign from the U.S. presidency in the wake of the Watergate scandal. The Watergate scandal and the revelations which came to light as a result brought distrust in the federal government to a fever pitch, sowing seeds of cynicism and suspicion which have now borne rotten fruit over generations.
And, of course, there was the Roe decision, which stood until it was overturned last year, just shy of its 50th anniversary.
While it’s difficult, if not impossible, to find an exact number on how many legal abortions have been performed in the U.S. Since Roe was issued. The pro-life National Right to Life Committee estimates that 68 million babies were aborted in the last 50 years.
Regardless, abortion has become one of the most divisive issues in our nation’s discourse, being a deciding factor in many people’s votes and also a center of ongoing conflict over the political and cultural soul of our nation.
I wish I could say that the ending of Roe was the end to the issue of abortion and also to the vitriol which the issue often inspires in others.
The divisions which this week 50 years ago touched on also remain. Of course, we’re not still fighting over the Vietnam War, but the “sides” that were drawn remain, as does the undercurrent of support for communism — or at least socialism — which unfortunately arose within the anti-war movement.
I’d like to believe that the Civil Rights movement was effective and that those wounds have been healed, but it seems that someone’s ripping them back open on a daily basis. We still have a lot of work to do on that front.
Our nation has changed in many ways since that week in 1973, but if we don’t break out of this cycle of division, fear and distrust for our fellow countrymen, we’ll never be able to move forward as a nation.
History certainly repeats, but what if we never move past it in the first place?