Just a few things that didn't happen.
| Surely you have heard people express their belief that something wasn’t going to happen. They might say, “Well, that ain't gonna happen”, or, “That’s not happening.” Whatever colloquialism might be used to express the belief, it all boils down to one thing; something isn’t going to happen.
Most people will admit that they did not care for history in school. But, especially in our case, history is a wonderful reminder of things intended that didn’t happen. Can you not imagine that Adolf Hitler truly believed that The Third Reich would last for a thousand years, but it didn’t. He only missed his dream by 888 years.
Surely some of you are old enough to recall how science and advertising promised that the 1950s would be a decade of marvelous wonders. Homes would be almost completely automated, relieving those new post-war brides from the drudgery of day to day housekeeping and cooking. Science would solve the problem of hard work with the push of a button or the wave of the hand, but it didn’t.
In 1950, the United States was the strongest and most prosperous nation in the world. World War II had opened the door to what came to be known as The Cold War. Communism stood as a menacing threat to the democratic nations of the world. Suddenly, The United States found itself embroiled in yet another conflict. The North Koreans had crossed into South Korea in an attempt at unification and the assurance that the unified nation would be communist. General Douglas MacArthur was tasked with stopping the North Koreans. The United States Military, wielding its military might, would easily crush the North Korean advance, but it didn’t. U.N. and U.S. forces were taken by surprise by nearly 100,000 Chinese People’s Army forces. Bitter fighting lasted until 1953 when a cease-fire was signed. The only thing good to come from the conflict was that South Korea remained independent and does so to this day.
Shortly after the 50s had packed its bags and left we found our country caught up in a strange conflict in an even stranger place that few Americans knew the first thing about. Yes, Vietnam was that strange place. We had been there in an advisory capacity in the 50s. But, As the 1960s rolled around, United States involvement escalated. The term ‘Police action’ had been coined in the Korean conflict but here again it was used to explain our presence in this strange far off place. The United States, as the world’s most powerful country, saw itself as protector of the free world. Wherever Communism reared one of its many heads we would be there to cut it off. We were assured that America’s righteous might would prevail to stem the communist tide, but it didn’t.
And then, on what seemed to be a very dark horizon, a bright star appeared. John F. Kennedy was our new and vibrant president. America fell in love with this man who exuded a well-spring of hope and promise. He convinced the nation that peace was the only thing that would save us from extinction. And that peace would come if we had the courage to reach out to the suffering in the world, but it didn’t. History never allowed us to see what John Kennedy would have done. An assassin’s bullets laid such anticipation to rest forever. The war in Vietnam escalated, claiming more and more lives. John Kennedy’s dream of peace seemed to have died in Dallas Texas with the crack of rifle fire.
But, as is the case with dreams, when one dies another is born. President Kennedy had been dead for nearly four years when a group of young people believed that they could indeed change the world. This phenomenon occurred in the Haight Asbury district of San Francisco. The year was 1967 and has come to be known as The Summer of Love. First, they arrived in their hundreds and then in their thousands. They congregated in the park where they danced and played music. They collected food from stores and restaurants and provided free meals. They developed a free-store where those in need of clothing could find assistance. It was all one big socialist experiment that appeared in stark contrast to the turmoil of the civil rights movement and Vietnam. These young people really believed that in their collective energy resided a solution to many of the nation’s problems, and to the problems of the entire world. The number of youth grew until it overwhelmed the resources of the district. People resorted to living in communal housing and even on the sidewalks. At one point a message was sent out telling people not to come. Residents of the area called for something to be done to save their city from these long-haired invaders. Eventually, the Summer of Love gave way to the Summer of Hell. There was no housing, medical facilities, or any means of caring for the many young children there. The great social experiment of 1967 had ended in dismal failure. These young had believed that if they turned their backs on hate and violence, peace would guide the stars, but it didn’t.
And could we not go on and on? There are just so many things in this world as well as in our very lives that are never going to happen. There was a time when citizens, young and old, believed that their government would never lie to them. Young men who answered the call to arms believed that the sacrifice they were making would make a genuine difference in the world. They soon found that the time when that was true had long since passed.
But that is the world in which we live. For the most part, things aren’t easy or fair or pleasant, and you cannot help but weep over all that has happened to destroy the dreams of millions, or that will happen to destroy the dreams of millions more. But no amount of summoned happiness will change our sad estate. And to all those beautiful young ladies who graced the Miss America Pageant and said with such poise that they prayed for peace to change the world. Well, ladies, it didn’t.