Goldwater’s conservatism a time for awakening

I believe my political awakening began in 1964.

In 1964, we Americans were knee-deep in a horrific war in Vietnam. In past columns, I have written about seeing several of my high school classmates killed or maimed in Vietnam.

Also in 1964, Sen. Barry Goldwater (R-Arizona) decided to run against the incumbent President Lyndon B. Johnson (D-Texas). Goldwater wrote the book “Conscience of a Conservative.”

In 1964, I was a second-year undergraduate student at Ball State University. The book was required reading in one of my classes. Prior to this time, I really had no interest in the body politic, but I do remember that my professor was extremely liberal. He ridiculed Sen. Goldwater. The senator’s wife was from Muncie. Our professor wanted us to picket an event that the senator was going to attend.

I thought this was an odd request, having been raised in a middle-class home where my dad was a staunch Democrat. However, even as a second-year undergraduate student, I could see the beginnings of liberalism creeping into our universities.

Incidentally, Goldwater was soundly defeated by L.B.J. What does that have to do with 2017? The answer is plenty.

We are now faced with a new group of youths. They are called millennials. We are also faced with more complex situations than we were in 1964. Or are we?

I submit the problems of 1964 were as complex as they are today. The difference is that due to the internet, social media and a 24-hour news cycle, we communicate much differently.

Interestingly enough, a large part of this generation appears to be akin to the youth in Hitler’s day.

I was appalled when I opened another newspaper’s comment feature, in which a commenter wondered if the country would be better off with a benevolent dictator for a period of time to reset our corrupt government. I never thought I would live long enough to see something like this in a major newspaper.

Why did I say this probably came from a millennial? Simply because I just do not think that this age group, or for that matter the American people, realize what a great country we have.

I suggested this column be titled “Conscience of a Conservative.” Perhaps I should have titled it “A Time for Awakening.” The reason I suggested the former was to use 1964 as a time reference. I submit that today we need more of a conscience.

What really caught my eye were the words “benevolent dictator.” In searching history I really find the term “benevolent dictator” to be an oxymoron. I am reading a biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer written by Eric Metaxas. Time does not permit me to discuss the entire book. However, the word dictator would certainly apply to “the Fuhrer.”

When Hitler rose to power in post-World War I times, he promised the German people that he alone would restore national patriotism. He alone would be the chosen one to lead the proud Germanic nation to a place in world prominence. In retrospect, he did restore Germany to a place in world governance, but look at the way he — or any other dictator — would do it.

Hitler and the Third Reich became an abomination to this planet that we call home. “(Yes, I am aware of Goodwin’s Law of Comparing events to Adolph Hitler.)

Do we have corruption in our government? We do. But would a dictator, benevolent or otherwise, solve the problem?

I submit that it would not. Putting the power of the United States into one man’s hands would be a grave mistake. When our Founding Fathers created this great experience called democracy, they were smart enough to establish three branches of government: the legislative, the executive and the judiciary. Together our democracy has a set of checks and balances.

We in America have been blessed by many freedoms. We have the right to disagree with our government. We have the right to elect our officials to govern us. If we had a “Benevolent Dictator,” would we have this freedom? I submit that we would not.

I get it that I am a septuagenarian. What I do not get is why, in 2017, we have an entire generation that wants to destroy the very fabric of our nation. They want to tear down old monuments and become revisionist historians.

I do thank God that not all people in this age group feel this way. Just as God Almighty preserved his plan for Christendom, I believe at this most holy time of year, he still has a plan to preserve his will.

Would the 1960s have been different if Goldwater had won? Would we have less bureaucracy and corruption? I doubt it.

C.O. Montgomery of New Palestine is a former teacher, Sugar Creek Township trustee and co-director of the Hancock County Character Council. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfield