The 60s were not a happy time.
There was a huge political divide. Nixon was a narcissistic basket case. There was a land war that had dragged on for years, coupled with the imminent threat of nuclear annihilation. Talented young people were overdosing at an alarming rate. There was an entrenched poverty class. Athletes raised a fist in protest when the national anthem played. Racism and sexism were huge problems, while homophobia was so commonplace there wasn’t even a word for it yet.
In a lot of ways, their America then is the same as our America now, with one key difference:
They had hope.
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” ~Noam Chomsky
Not just in politics, but in most fields there are possibilities that are immediately discarded without discussion.
It’s something to be on guard against.
Because of Donald Trump’s rants, standing for the national anthem now feels more like an endorsement of his policies than an act of patriotism.
I always thought it was kind of weird to have a national song that is only sung prior to sporting events, a song so difficult to sing that even professionals have a hard time hitting the notes, a song that’s really just a lyrical version of the fight scene in Cool Hand Luke. I only stood up for it because the song seemed to mean something to the people around me, even if I didn’t quite get it myself.
But now I don’t feel like I can stand in good conscience.
One of the books I’m reading currently is America’s Part in the World War by Richard J. Beamish, ©1919. Here’s a brief excerpt:
How the flower of America’s youth, answering the call to battle, sprang to the support of the colors; how America’s army of democracy was raised almost overnight, trained in an incredibly short period of time and made ready for the front line trenches in the battle for civilization, is a story that will go down through the ages as a monument for all time to the patriotism of America’s young manhood.
It’s sort of a bittersweet thing to read.
One of the things I enjoy about it has nothing to do with the subject matter. If you’ve ever read an interview with Tiny Tim, you know he talked like that all the time. It’s a pity he wasn’t born a half a century earlier- he would have been one of the cool kids. The style is entertaining.
But the facts are staggering. The disruption to lives, the death and human suffering were immense. Colorful words and flags can’t conceal the awful tragedy of it all.
And always in the background is the sad side that the author wouldn’t have known in 1919: he truly believed that good had triumphed over evil, that the world was now safe and free, and the story was ended.
He had know way to know it was only the prologue.
If this were a Dickens’ novel, Steve Scalise would awaken and renounce his mean spirited, racist, homophobic past, and work tirelessly to ensure that all Americans have access to the same level of health care that saved his own life.
Sadly, this is not a Dickens’ novel.
Steve Scalise pushed through a “health care” bill that will strip coverage from millions of people, resulting in the deaths and suffering of– at a minimum– thousands.
They will die one at a time, surrounded by family or alone. They will live lives of poverty, crushed by overwhelming debt. They will linger in pain, even though cures and medications exist, because they don’t have the means to access them.
Violence doesn’t always happen with a bang.
Sometimes it’s as quiet as the stroke of a pen.