Reflecting on my 80 years I find myself still dreaming of a better world. Not some “Kumbaya” singing fantasy world, but one where people, at the very least, try to find ways to understand and appreciate each other. A loving world.
But that was not the dream of my generation. Getting our hands dirty in pursuit of a world where concepts like “peace and justice and equality” rang true, just wasn’t something we cared to do.
We were called the “Silent Generation” and that we were, through and through, as quiet as an opossum playing dead.
Oh, there was so much we could have done to make everybody feel welcome in America, but we mostly chose to side with the “norms” of our times.
We came of age, somewhat, during the “Better Dead Than Red” era. So, I’m assuming, joining a struggle for civil and human rights with a bunch of “lefties” and “commies” was, for a significant number of us, way too “unpatriotic,” way too fearful.
I remember seeing that fear on the faces of a large number of students on my college campus when I, along with Students for Equality, was protesting Tucson’s Jim Crow Laws. They looked at us as though we were escaped tigers from the zoo.
And these were people who had, for years, in their young lives, stood proudly reciting “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Did we really want that?
Where would we be today if that pledge really meant something, if it had encouraged us to devote our energy, say, to aiding Martin’s beautiful dream of letting “freedom ring?”
What a gift to humanity we could have made if we had felt the pain of people who were mauled by police dogs and firehosed down streets and worked on their behalf to see that all Americans had the vote, and could sit and eat and drink and swim and lodge anywhere they chose, no questions asked, no hoops to jump through…
Not enough of us joining the fray was one thing, but claiming, after the fruits of the struggle came into view, that these new opportunities, constituted “reverse discrimination” – that was a breakthrough in not giving a damn.
And Ronald Reagan. How did we come up with “great” as an adjective for him? Really? The Gipper?
The man who gassed students at Berkeley for fighting for freedom of speech?
The man who badgered Angela Davis?
The man who stood before the country preaching “the right to bear arms shouldn’t be infringed” after having once denied those very rights to Black Panthers who needed weapons to protect themselves from the Oakland police who ran roughshod over their communities?
Didn’t the Black Panthers deserve a pat on the back for feeding hungry children breakfast, for providing their community medical care? For caring deeply?
And where were our critical thinking abilities during the 2016 elections when we voted for the man now occupying the presidency in high numbers, with apparently no thought that he represents everything our parents tried to steer us away from?
Our folks taught us to be nice to people yet this man bullies Mexicans and Muslims practically every day and he’s told Pocahontas jokes to Native Americans, mocked disabled people on TV, and bragged about grabbing women inappropriately, saying it’s just the kind of talk dudes engage in in the locker room after P.E.
Our folks taught us to be careful of who we associate with and this man is pals with Nazis and the KKK and praises leaders from other countries who, like him, conduct themselves in thuggish ways.
The shame of it all is astounding. But, what can I say when “progressive thinking,” obviously, has never been our forte.
But, hey, life goes on, and as I look around me, in spite of the meltdown in the West Wing of the White House in Washington D.C., and the House’s and Senate’s complete lack of integrity, I like what I’m seeing in our young folks.
So many of them are becoming “woke,” and that gives me a feeling deep down in my soul that the future is in good hands, that hope sits on a horizon right in front of them and they’re going to grab it and breathe life into it, as they seem very much in tune with the notion of “creating a better world.”
I’m thinking that what could have been can come to be.