As I sat down to write these words, a pervasive nostalgia enfolded me like an embrace, and I had to wonder if there is anything I DON’T miss about the Sixties. But I’ll try to focus on the concerns that prompted this blog, and resist slipping into an autobiographical flashback.
So many things have changed, and yet some things persist. Instead of a spiral notebook and a cheap ballpoint pen, I’m writing this on my “smart phone” with my thumbs, and later I’ll post it on my blog, where it can and will be seen by unknown others…and I wonder, in this age of instant communication, why it is that we’re so fragmented, so lacking in unity and so difficult to mobilize?
In the 60’s, we had no internet and no mobile phones, yet we turned out in unity of purpose, clarity of message and huge numbers. Something to ponder.
I tend to be auditory, so the first memory that arises is of the music. In the 60’s, music was our voice. We were always singing. Our politics were expressed in our songs. The songs of the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-War Movement are still standards for human and economic activism. We listened to vinyl recordings in 45 and 33 rpms. We tuned in on transistor radios. The sound quality today is far superior, but where are the new protest songs?
We had an illegal war then and we have two illegal wars now. But back then we still had the draft. To suggest that i miss the draft would be a stretch, but I sincerely long for a mobilized younger generation with all my heart.
Whose brilliant and diabolic idea was it to eliminate the draft? It was a stroke of strategic genius. When fighting in a war is voluntary, resistance is limited to the returning veterans, the families of veterans whether or not they survive, and the established base of pacifists, always a small minority. Hopefully the cost of war will awaken resistance, now that the permanent war economy has turned against the American people.
In the 60’s there was more at stake for those who didn’t volunteer. It seemed at the time that peace was popular. Perhaps that was an illusion. But the traditional notion that war is good for the economy has backfired. The majority of Americans are not benefitting financially from the permanent war, and the decision-makers who watch safely from a distance will find it an increasingly hard sell to a populace that is watching its standard of living fall for the first time in memory.
The mainstream media assists in our innoculation from the horrors of war, which unfold on the other side of the world and affect people who don’t look like us, sound like us, or pray to the same deity as us. But returning soldiers are visibly underserved, underpaid, under cared for and living under bridges that are under-maintained. Soldiers are the new underclass, which makes sense in a volunteer army. The upper classes have better things to do and they don’t need enlistment bonuses or the GI Bill to pay for college.
But the 60’s were above all a time of optimism. We danced and sang with determined confidence that the world could and would be put right, and when all else failed the Supreme Court would always be there to rescue us from the forces of oppression.
We voluntarily gave up the American Dream. Today, I don’t think there is any illusion that it still exists.
Roseanne Lasater is” stillwalkn”