CaseythoughtsOK. So it's been awhile, if you consider eleven years 'awhile'. So much has happened in the interim since I 'retired' from radio that I'm sure I could come up with a million excuses why I haven't written home for so long. I promise I'll let you in on every one of those excuses in the coming columns.

The important thing is that I wanted to share a view of the world (mine, hopefully yours, too) since leaving radio, and the Lansing Star Online and Dan Veaner immediately came to mind. With encouragement from Kate Merriman, as well as a positive push from Eleanor Henderson of Ithaca College, both fine writers, I asked Dan to consider me as a commentator and he agreed (what went through his mind will probably remain his secret. So, thank you Dan, Kate and Eleanor, and all of you who will try to stick with me as I ramble (or, perhaps, focus like a laser) on various and sundry local and national topics, random thoughts which might make you wince or laugh, and make an attempt to renew my relationship with the Lansing and Ithaca communities.

I'll start this week with a look at the current national 'situation' which I consider to be akin to the troubling, divisive and painful era we call the 1960's. By the end of that decade, the nation was as cleaved by anger and deadly passionate politics as any of us still alive can probably remember. Assassinations, race riots, violent demonstrations, men fleeing to Canada, families was all there for the world to see ('The whole world is watching...' remember?) And, of course, the issues of patriotism, flag burning, and the loss of national icons to assassins' bullets.

I wouldn't want to carry the analogy too far, but in many respects, we seem to be reliving the sixties, when our baby boomer generation came of age, and we are just as riven and divided now, perhaps more so. And, perhaps many of us deeply and privately unnerved how our country can shout and scream across an apparently insurmountable divide before we devolve into a sorry state from which we cannot escape. Sometimes it seems like the opening shots of a civil war, doesn't it? Deja vu all over again.

We survived the sixties, I think, but were scarred by those years, whether by the war experience, the burning social questions, the questions of civil rights and so many events that, let's admit, we are still wrestling with. I personally think that our constitutional right to freedom of expression, the First Amendment, kept us bound to the principles of 'Of the people, by the people and for the people', prior to the advent of social media, twenty four hour news channels and ranting talking heads. But I fear that the current state tens of millions of people not listening to each other, this so called 'lack of civility' is threatening our way of life and our freedoms that we may not recognize until we all collapse in an exhausted and defeated heap, screaming at each other until we are spiritually hoarse, and being oblivious to the demise of American ideals that have survived civil war, crooked presidents (more than one you know), depressions, two world wars and questionable electoral returns (more than one, you know), have slipped away into a hazy reverie of forgotten ideals. Bye, Bye, Miss American Pie: the media, talking heads, and 'experts' have taken over and sounding like a dirge for our shared right to express ourselves. It seems, from this writer's vantage point, that underneath the cacophony, the possibility of the death throes of our late, great constitutional republic are going unheeded.

I served in an aviation battalion during my second enlistment in Korea, with the famed 'Hueys' that were spread out just south of the Korean Demilitarized Zone (more on Korea in a forthcoming column). We had an unblemished safety record, but we also had a marvelous policy/protocol that I would like to share with you. If an accident occurred with one of the aircraft, the entire battalion 'stood down' for twenty four hours. Pilots, crew members, air traffic controllers, everyone in the battalion, stopped all activities, including flying, were basically grounded, to review and think about safety rules, issues, protocol, and to contemplate how complacency or inattention can be deadly.

So, dear reader, here goes my thinking:It may be impossible (is anything impossible?), but think about a 'standdown' for all of us: media, talk shows, talking heads, experts, and most especially the 'Tweet in Chief'. Suppose we just stopped in our tracks, stopped all the political rhetoric which passes for opinion, name calling, Facebook bashing (yes, the vitriol and epithets, judgments about each others' character based upon political preference/belief). Now, maybe, we can't imagine a 24 hour standdown, but what would happen if we tried getting all networks, all social media, all talk show hosts to just adopt a minute of silence in honor of the First Amendment rights, one minute to remember how this country has survived so much, and sacrificed so much for.

Could we ask them to honor this with a minute of 'nothing'....a stop to all the rhetoric, all the face bashing and name calling. Could we maybe all turn off the radio, television, iPhone and computer, and for one minute be rid of the gut busting yell/yell/yell that is giving us a case of national heartburn? On Holocaust Remembrance Day in Israel, the sirens across their country are fired up and the entire country stops in silent honor and respectful silence. In many parts of the world church bells ring the 'Angelus' at noon to remind us to pray for peace. Quaint? More than quaint, I daresay.

Why couldn't we take one minute, as a free people, to start a movement to just 'shut up' and think about the constitutional right to express ourselves, and how precious that right AND RESPONSIBILITY remains before we tear our national purpose and destiny to shreds. Or, perhaps avoid that bloody possibility, praying that our ugly words do not turn to ugly and unchangeable deeds. We almost destroyed ourselves in the 19th century, with the result of hundreds of thousands of brothers, fathers and cousins killed, and a bitter legacy which still shows in Ferguson, Charlottesville and Charleston, and in public parks across the old confederacy. We almost gutted ourselves in the sixties around issues much the same as today. The current ugliness is starting to look as bad, as potentially disastrous, and the world is watching us with baited breath.

Wouldn't it be possible for us to all take a united and quiet breath for a national moment of.....silence. And just listen to our own quiet, hopeful, national breath. Just for a minute.