SHARE

Being 63, I just made it under the wire to have “OK, Boomer” shade thrown at me by Gen Zers. In 1969, that hallowed year of Woodstock and Altamont, I was only 12, much too young to be traipsing about nude in the muck of upstate New York or dancing to “Under My Thumb” while dodging a Hell’s Angel’s knifeblade. I still witnessed your standard boomer historical signposts: that trio of assassinations (JFK, MLK, and RFK) that rocked our world, the Vietnam War debacle, and Nixon’s well-deserved fall.

More personally, I remember how in the early ’70s, the reading at my local Stop N Go changed from paperback covers with scantily clad young women to politically charged books like Eldridge Cleaver’s Soul on Ice and Abbie Hoffman’s Steal this Book, which I almost did. But I also remember well when the zeitgeist changed and the book carousels, no longer needing to be relevant, returned to safe, apolitical softcore porn, as God intended.

Because of my age, I missed all the big demonstrations of the 1960s and ’70s. I was only 13 when, during the Moratorium Day protests in Austin, more than 10,000 demonstrated against the Vietnam War. By the time I got to the capital, you were lucky to get a hundred. Then political engagement by young people was on life support. In 1987, maybe 20 protesters and I demonstrated against Reagan’s Central American policy of funding death squads, assassinating uncooperative nuns, and giving big, wet besos to right-wing strongmen.

Copy of Copy of Untitled

Our numbers were so low we didn’t walk on the street but took the sidewalks down Congress Avenue all the way to the Guadalupe River, where folk singer Charley King serenaded us with his trenchant “Vaguely Reminiscent of the ’60s.” We all knowingly laughed at this tongue-in-cheek song delivered with a Dylanesque nasal twang, which mocked the consensus in the ’80s that protesting was an anachronism led by dead-enders stuck in their tie-dyed, hippie-dippy days.

In the 1980s, conservatism was ascendant. The cultural ferment of the ’60s that had made protesting cool disappeared. Rapacious, wealthy right-wing think tanks set the narrow terms of political discourse. In one of that era’s most popular movies, The Big Chill, Jeff Goldblum plays a once radical journalist who has sold out. Instead of power to the people, he pushes pop entertainment pablum at People magazine. In one scene, he reads aloud an impassioned piece he wrote during his radical past but responds to it with little more than a shrug and a cynical acknowledgment that he had nailed the overheated rhetoric of the ’60s left.

In this 2020 COVID summer of widespread discontent, thousands have taken to the streets to protest the continuing murder of people of color by police, the misappropriation of public safety funds, and statues memorializing racists. I’m incredibly proud of these mostly young people who have sacrificed their time and too often their safety for the greater good, but my inner grandfather worries about them because I know what’s coming.

Their greatest transgression is to have succeeded. Statues have tumbled. Memorials have been moved. Attitudes have shifted. Cities from Minneapolis to Fort Worth have had to grapple, however haltingly, with long-standing issues of race and police violence. Because of that, in the coming years, the entire weight of a well-funded conservative reaction will bear down on these brave protesters. Never underestimate the damage deep pockets with no scruples or empathy can do.

A quote often ascribed to Mark Twain goes, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” So it won’t go exactly like the ’80s, but a reaction will come –– probably with violence.

Will today’s demonstrators look back on this summer of George Floyd years from now with jaded eyes? Perhaps, but we better hope they retain the real lesson of 2020: that democracy is no abstraction but an action and that “a tolerant … inclusive America of perpetual self-creation” is only possible if we are willing to put our bodies on the line, damn the consequences. –– Ken Wheatcroft-Pardue

 

The Weekly welcomes submissions of all political persuasions. Please email Editor Anthony Mariani at anthony@fwweekly.com.

5 COMMENTS

  1. This is a horseshit take. 2020’s riots are nothing but regressive opportunistic crap to push false political narratives.

  2. Scott, what false political narratives are you referring to — Black Lives Matter, institutional racism, or is something else bothering you?

  3. So the author missed the fully merited youthful outrage against Democrat LBJ’s Vietnam lying and deceit leading to the involuntary draft and killing of young American males, and wants to favorably compare young underachievers who want to tear apart the country and burn it down if they don’t get their far left crazy agendas enacted. There is no comparison.

  4. Ed, you’re able to tell the difference between the majority of peaceful anti-Vietnam War protesting and the violent extremists, like the Weather Underground. So why can’t you see the difference between the vast majority of protests these past few months that have been peaceful and the extremists who’ve rioted?

    • I can’t how are you doing? I hope all is well . Interesting peace . Actually, my friends from the Seattle and Portland area are pretty freaked out about the continuous violence and the obvious impact when you don’t have police there to protect you from violent people and continue to let them commit violence. With a large amount of the population and the mainstream media slow to denounce the violence they’re just promoting an increase and a push toward a war that no one wins. Friends that have lived there for 30, 40 and 50 years are trying to sell their houses and move out of state. They’re afraid that there Progressive friends will get violent or possibly lash out if they find out they’re conservatives because people have turned that hateful. Saw the same thing in Ohio last the month. My friends in Cleveland had to sleep with their guns out because the riots were down the street. I’m talking about laid-back couple in their late 60s- they said that people pop off firecrackers all times of the night continuously and they’re not sure if people are shooting people in between when they’re setting off the fireworks but they wish they could move to but real estate is already lay down and they have no place to go but they’re not sleeping with this tension. I always wonder why people are protesting about the poor little kids of all colors but especially black kids getting shot down in the street and the Millions upon millions of unborn babies that are violently tortured to the barbaric death? Don’t those black lives matter? And she when trafficking is as high or higher than ever – especially and the Middle East and China’s taking it further with Oregon harvesting not to mention the concentration camps and lockdowns! In the meantime kids are getting snowed-and not protesting or speaking up about losing our freedom and being manipulated bikes cheap – along with everyone else- about a mystery virus that they have to inflate the numbers for , can’t decide from one minute to the next the treatment or if the masks work or if the test work and even the Great de populator or Bill Gates admits the tests salty but they’re still administered and treated like gold even at the risk of causing people to lose their jobs. So this funny virus can have all kinds of radically different symptoms- so resolve this why aren’t kids protesting about the loss of freedom and right to not have to wear a life endangering mask or take a toxic vaccine. Oh, that’s right it’s okay if you’re rioting and looting then you don’t have to obey public distancing or anything like that! I see a lot of hiphoprisy- on both sides but- there seems to be a lot more violence coming from the side that Advocates the censorship of free speech and freedom but supports the torture and murder of helpless Unborn hurricane babies.

LEAVE A REPLY