IN THE CLIMACTIC SCENE of Saving Private Ryan, the dying Captain Miller draws Ryan close and gasps, “Earn this.”
Every baby boomer in the theater wondered: “Have I earned it?”
Do we deserve the freedoms that our parents bequeathed to us? Would we have fought as they did? Would we have had the guts?
Maybe not, says Tom Brokaw. In his book The Greatest Generation, Brokaw implies that the shoes our parents left are too big for us.
Our parents proved themselves at Iwo Jima and Omaha Beach. We lose our composure if the NASDAQ hiccups. Next to them, we are Lilliputians.
Or so Brokaw implies.
How strange, then, to find ourselves confronting a threat that our parents never anticipated in their worst nightmares: an attempted takeover of the U.S. government.
On November 8, we woke up to discover that there were men in the White House who appeared to have no intention of leaving, no matter how nicely we asked them.
Glued to our television sets, we waited for someone to do something about it. A month passed, and we are still waiting.
Monday’s court decisions have renewed hope, in some quarters, that the system may be working.
Yet, behind the scenes, Republican electors are still being pressured, by phone, fax and e-mail, to change their votes. Florida elector Carole Jean Jordan got an e-mail so menacing, she turned it over to police.
“It was ugly, threatening,” she told the Washington Times. “It was telling me I would be sorry for this.”
If three electors can be bullied or blackmailed into switching their votes on December 18, Gore will win - concession or no concession.
Complacency has always been our Achilles’ heel. Our system has worked so well, for so long, that we Americans cannot conceive of it breaking down.
But it is close to breaking now. And no one can fix it, but us.
In July, I attended a lecture by Charlie Cook, editor and publisher of the Cook Political Report. A woman from the audience asked about vote fraud.
“Sure there’s voter fraud,” Cook replied. “My guess is that in Ancient Rome and Greece there was probably voter fraud. It’s been around forever. … but frankly I don’t think it’s terribly widespread.“
In other words: Don’t worry about it.
Prior to the election, the Indianapolis Star asked Indiana House Speaker John Gregg (a Democrat) to comment on the problem of “phantom voters” - people who have moved, died or gone to prison, but whose names still appear on voter rolls, and can be used to cast illegal votes.
In Indiana alone, one in five registered voters may be phantoms. The potential for abuse is staggering.
Gregg’s response? "This is about the most boring topic," he said. "You guys are really scraping for a story."
Gregg’s ho-hum attitude is typical. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” has long been the rule governing vote fraud in America.
As a result, the problem has grown wildly out of control. It has brought our country to the brink of chaos.
Through their books and movies, Tom Brokaw and Steven Spielberg have urged us to emulate our parents’ heroism.
Now, when we need heroes most, where can we find Brokaw and Spielberg?
World War II hero Bob Dole spoke in Fort Lauderdale on November 24, protesting the exclusion of military votes.
“I hope… that I can speak for the service man … who's proud of his country,” said the former senator. “Let’s count their votes.”
Brokaw didn’t cover Dole’s speech in his broadcast that night. So much for the Greatest Generation.
Perhaps the Private Ryan Syndrome was just a celebrity fad, like yoga classes and high colonics.
Perhaps Brokaw’s watery eyes and lumpy throat were just an act for the talk shows.
But former congressman Rick Lazio was not acting when he appeared on the Sean Hannity radio show on November 24, to talk about the election crisis.
Following his defeat by Hillary in the New York Senate race, Lazio has emerged as a new kind of politician, tempered in the flames of Clinton’s America.
“It’s not going to be a governor or a senator or a congressman that’s going to save the American people. It’s going to be the people themselves that rise up… You just cannot count on elected people, people who are well-known names, to go out there and do it for us.”
Now that’s more like it.
With talk like that, maybe there’s hope for this generation after all.