There’s an old saying that youth is wasted on the young. The older I get the more truth I see in the cliche. When we were young, growing up in the 60’s we thought we had all the answers. It was a time of extremism, opposition to a failed war in Indochina, a President who lied to the nation, wholesale violations of civil rights by the FBI and “The Man.” Race riots over segregation and assassinations of our leaders fueled anger and created a huge schism between the young and those over 50.
The youth rebellion made for a tumultuous time. The result was a serious conservative backlash against the hippies, war protesters, Blacks who demanded their rights and women who also wanted equal rights. The Woodstock generation has somewhat of a foggy memory of those days, fogged somewhat by all the drugs. The Sixties were a decade of sex, drugs and rock and roll and our elders either resented us, hated us or simply tried bashing in our brains. The Chicago 7, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Gene McCarthy, George McGovern existed to the soundtrack of our lives, the folk song protests and the anti-war music defined our lives growing up. You didn’t trust anyone over 30.
The result was the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 as conservative Democrats, mostly middle aged white men, crossed over to the GOP and led a conservative movement which held the White House for most of the next thirty years. The price paid by the Sixties generation has been steep because we had everything but wisdom. Wisdom only comes with age and many times, even not then. I watched “The Last Lecture” by the late professor Randy Pausch and something he said stuck with me: “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”
We didn’t get what we wanted in the Sixties. We wanted an end to the Vietnam War (it went until 1975), free love, deregulation of soft drugs, an end to the Lyndon Johnson Administration and its credibility gap, honesty in politics and government, leaders with character and charisma, great music, and equality for all. Young and idealistic it was a magical time in which to come of age because the goals were lofty. Unattainable but worthy, goals, most of which, we continue to seek today. Was it worth the price we paid for repressive Republican Presidents? No.
Today we’re witnessing those same white, middle aged men doing the same outrageous things to turn off the mainstream voters. The Politics of Hate has overcome people for whom the Sixties passed by, who sold out once they got over 30, were left out because of a lack of education, or who blame minorities and women for their personal failings. It’s still the hippie’s fault, still those wild, rebellious youngsters who started the sexual revolution, still everyone else’s fault. Once again we find ourselves in an unpopular war, one which we entered because of a President who lied to the country, a government which represses our rights, an uncertain future and a lack of accountability. Today these people are organizing themselves not to protest an unjust war, not to protest the massive debts run up by their chosen GOP leaders, not to protest the shredding of our constitution by George W. Bush, not to protest the torture of human beings, not to protest continued inequality for every citizen, every person, but to protest their own failures.
Where were these people the last ten years? They were Nixon’s Silent Majority as long as it was someone else’s ox being gored. It wasn’t their sons and daughters being sent to Iraq under false pretenses to be blown up by IED’s, it wasn’t their taxes going up to pay for Bush’s Folly, it wasn’t their fault outsourcing took their jobs to Asia while they shopped at Wal-Mart, it wasn’t their fault Fox News lied to them about it all. No they aren’t responsible for anything, especially falling silent when voices needed to be raised most of all.
Now they are preaching the Politics of Hate because we had the temerity to elect a Black President. The virulent racism was evident before the 2008 election and has now manifested itself in the Tea Party movement, rise of right wing militias, the lack of pretense of the GOP as anything but the Party of Hate, attacks upon anyone publicly identifying ourselves as liberals. This too will pass but not before we expose every one of them for the foolish racists they are, not before we make sure the good American people understand exactly what the RNC and its Tea Party stand for, the hatred they engender and the violence they embrace.
The next generation must remember these lessons, remember what it is these people are doing, the America they wish to bring back, the hatred which would destroy America’s values. The difference between then and now is that in the Sixties our goals were worthy, idealistic and worth fighting for. Hate and violence are never worth fighting for. I don’t apologize for the 60’s but I am sorry for the end result. Today it is time to reorganize to fight the forces of hate and defeat them now that we’re older and wiser.