Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Young'uns - Oh, How Times Have Changed

Bob, whose blog, A Ridiculous Raw Youth, is consistently articulate, clever, sometimes quite naughty, but always interesting and surprisingly insightful for such a young man, provided a comment to one of my prior posts which asked the following:

I am wondering where the young'uns are with regard to Dubya's war "...that never ends..." in Iraq. I listen daily to John Fogerty's (on my iPod shuffle as I run my two miles) "Deja Vu (All Over Again)," every morning:

Day after day another Momma's crying
She's lost her precious child
To a war that has no end

and, I guess I'm wondering where the spirit, the energy, the altruism, the idealism of the young'uns is. Where are they? Why are they not in the streets questioning a war predicated on lies and deceit? Was my generation so different from today's generation of young people that we simply should not expect today's youth to question authority; to be able see the "...writing on the wall..." that seemed to be so clear, so undeniably clear to my generation?
Bob's comment:

Well, I can't speak for all the young'uns, but I can try to explain, for me, at least.

There was an article in the Onion when Bush got first elected, it had something to do with outrage fatigue. You had all of these people with deep concerns and cares, with the drive to go out and change the world, but after the first month, it just got to be too overwhelming. There's just too much to protest. The war isn't the only huge catastrophe of our generation.

Plus, nothing seems to count. I mean, I can sign all of the online petitions, I can picket, I can make signs and shop selectively. But Bush doesn't seem to listen to the people, he 'listens to God' or, more likely, Karl Rove. The 49% that didn't vote for him don't count.

My generation doesn't trust politicians. We grew up with the Republican outrage. Most of our memories of the govt consist of the impeachment trials and the various '-gates' of the Clinton era. Everytime someone tries to speak to our generation, they get destroyed. Republicans have killed off the Democratic heroes.

Bob's comments brought back some memories that, I hope, are relevant if, for no other reason, than to point out (I am understanding this "truth" as I write it) that time marches on; that it is probably quite ridiculous to hold each new generation of Americans (the young'uns) to the standard that was established by prior generations. Let me set the scene.

The word "ominous" was on a lot of people's minds in 1963 (I was in middle school at the time). And, by the end of the decade, people would look back and use phrases like "social catharsis" to describe that ten year period from 1963 to 1973.

Indeed, the social eruptions in '63 came in Chicago, Philadelphia, Birmingham, Savannah. These great American cities saw cops using dogs, fire hoses and cattle prods against black citizens. And, all of it in living color on the nightly news.

In 1964 a bomb threat emptied an all-black high school in Jacksonville, Florida. When the cops arrived the students let loose with a barrage of Molotov cocktails and rocks. In New York City, a crowd of angry black kids smashed windows of businesses after a cop killed a kid who had attacked him with a knife. Days after the shooting, police were still battling black mobs in Brooklyn and Harlem where Molotov cocktails had started uncounted fires all over the area. When the mobs started throwing bricks and bottles at police and firemen, the cops responded with gunfire. The National Guard was called to Rochester, New York after two days of street violence. Two nights of mob violence in Philadelphia followed the attempt by a police officer to move a stalled car from an intersection of a black area of the city.

In the summer of '65 the National Guard was called into Watts, California where, following the arrest of an intoxicated driver, the city erupted like a powder keg laid too close to the fire. In all, 4,000 people were arrested, thirty-four people were killed and property damage was estimated to be about $35 million.

In 1966, Chicago police officers turned a water hydrant off where black children had been playing. A mob formed and started throwing rocks and bottles ... windows were smashed out and fires were started. On the next day, police who responded to emergency calls from that same black neighborhood were met by gunfire. The firebombings and looting continued and, finally, forty-two hundred National Guardsmen were called in. That same year in Cleveland, rioting continued for four nights and resulted in the deaths of four blacks.

The National Guard was called to Jackson, Mississippi in 1967 to disperse black crowds which had gathered after the arrest of a speeder on the campus of Jackson State College. In Houston, Texas, police were met by rocks and bottles thrown by students at the campus of Texas southern University. Gunfire from the men's dormitory brought police reinforcements who returned the fire.

The summer of 1967 provided the same pattern of violence in Newark where twenty-five people died. Forty-three were killed in Detroit. Tampa, Cincinnati, Atlanta ... these great American cities were seeing what had, by then, become a familiar pattern: a relatively minor incident involving blacks and the police in each city would initiate violence out of all proportion to the incident.

With this backdrop--throughout this "cathartic" decade from roughly 1963 to 1973-- to include the intense frustration and rage with the "...war that has no end..." in Viet Nam, the young'uns of my generation took to the streets with an intense distrust of politics and politicians and with a demand that the promise of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution necessarily be fulfilled.

In May, 1970, the Ohio National Guard killed four and wounded seventeen students on the Kent State campus where anti-war demonstrations had persisted for several days.

Night, after night, after night, the American people were assaulted with the most vivid (living color) blood, gore and guts that was the essence of Viet Nam; the t.v. journalists did not sanitize the horror in those good ol' days. It was right there in front of us every single night, year after year after year. The racial/cop violence in America's cities--the burning, the looting, the killings, the confrontations--were, too, vividly reported on the nightly news.

That decade--from 1963 to 1973--could not help but give rise to the supposition that the whole world was standing precariously close to the abyss, the final abyss and quite ready and insanely willing to take the leap into oblivion.

The Internet was not then at our fingertips. No blogs. No Google. No chat rooms. No Internet petitions. What we had then was, simply, ourselves and our solidarity; our bodies and voices and, certainly, our persistence.

I understand Bob's argument, above. I also understand that while I may have wondered if the whole fucking world had gone insane way back in that infamous cathartic decade, '63 to '73, I also understand that Bob's generation may face an even more insidious threat to humanity. Islamic and Christian fundamentalistically justified violence in the name of Allah or the Lawd is probably more dangerous than anything I or anyone experienced during the sixties and seventies.

Bob, thanks for taking the time to comment. I don't get many comments and I do appreciate the thoughtful articulation of your views.

No comments: