Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Strange how history is for some people. If you're under 40 this might help. As the saying goes you only know what you know.
For the first time in my adult life I am about to experience the leadership of a President who is a democratic liberal. My thoughts, feelings and emotions are now more historical and philosophical than political.
I feel happy and peaceful. Historic events of magnitude lead me to have great and wondrous emotional feelings of hope and bittersweet melancholy. I’ve had many personal experiences that have translated into many great emotional feelings, but communally, as an adult, nothing comparable to the inauguration of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.
So with all these emotions flowing I guess its best to write them down. Put these feelings into context. Understand my nature, human nature, find out what’s going on for me, and share it.
It's hard to believe how many historic events have happened over the last 100 years. So many changes, more than at anytime in the history of mankind. Imagine 15 generations working in the same cabbage batch during the dark ages! Ouch!
My Childhood, like many baby boomers, or at least those middle-aged people with a shred of memory, was quite a bit different than my adulthood.
Take from this what you will. As a child of working poor parents in the 1960’s I was lucky enough to benefit from what then President Lyndon Baines Johnson called his “great society”. A plan that saw my rural Appalachian third grade class go from thirty screaming kids to 15 in one October afternoon. I was a bit saddened of course to see some of my little chums leave the room and take that walk across the building and file into the newly hired Miss Washbaugh’s classroom, but I was also excited to be able to have more attention from Mrs. Farquar. I remember going home that night and my mom saying the reason for the splitting up of the class was because of the Presidents great society plan. Sounded good to me.
Most children, even today are naturally hopeful and positive regardless of their circumstances. During my childhood we were surrounded by and part of severe rural poverty. President Lyndon Johnson acknowledged that, and through the “Great Society” took action to change it.
It was a hopeful time for the poor and down trodden in America. A time set to a soundtrack that included Johnny Cash’s I walk the line and Herb Albert’s Tijuana brass for my parents and Otis Reading, James Brown, and the Beatles for the kids. This music, all heard for the first time ever, on vinyl 33 rpm records! But yes, according to the conservatives of the 60’s the American people were out of control, flying off to the moon, talking about equality, listening to crazy music that has yet to be duplicated, yes madness was seething thru the population. It was a beautiful time indeed. This was John Kennedy’s legacy that he never got to see.
A legacy heroically carried forward by Lyndon Johnson, Johnson was a leader from Texas who challenged the Dixiecrat mentality of segregation. he signed into law many a historic legislation, truly an unreal awakening and change for America.
1964: Civil Rights Act of 1964
1964: Urban Mass Transportation Act of 1964
1964: Wilderness Act
1964: Nurse Training Act
1964: Food Stamp Act of 1964
1964: Economic Opportunity Act
1965: Higher Education Act of 1965
1965: Social Security Act of 1965
1965: Voting Rights Act
1965: Immigration and Nationality Services Act of 1965
1967: Age Discrimination in Employment Act
1967: Public Broadcasting Act of 1967
1968: Bilingual Education Act
1968: Fair housing
1968: Gun Control Act of 1968
in the end Johnson’s presidency would become bogged down by the never ending Vietnam War and the protests against it. It was his support of the war that led to a collapse of the new deal based Democratic Party. He decided not to run for a second term, grew his hair long, and as the Nixonian Republicans would come to say, join the hippies on the farm. Ironically Johnson in the end did stand in solidarity with the very peaceniks whom protested the war and caused his demise.
With Johnson deciding not to run for a second term it opened the door for Bobby Kennedy to run for president. Robert F. Kennedy was possibly the greatest human to ever live. His efforts and beliefs about poverty in America both rural and urban are legendary and mythic. Robert spent long hours investigating hunger in the Mississippi Delta, joblessness in the Northern ghettos and squalid conditions in the migrant camps of central California, all while being a sitting U.S. Senator.
Robert Kennedy and Johnson came from different regions, social classes and generations; they shared the common trait of their New Deal Democratic Party -- identification with the underdog. What seriously divided them, apart from personal chemistry, was the struggle to lead that party in an era of domestic turmoil and political change.
That identification with the underdog was the accepted cultural norm of the sixties. The spirit of fair play, trust, respecting everyone and their potential, be it bricklayer or noble permeated the country. So much so that respecting others less fortunate than I and rooting for the underdog is a personal bug a boo for me today. I've always got to temper the urge to not see things as gods will. So, as a child I was lucky enough to be raised in a living morality play of hope directed by our government.
We lost Martin Luther King in April of 1968. I believe it was in that instant, that what I’ll call The war on goodness and equality was declared. It was never the people who wanted Martin to stop. Quite to the contrary, unionized whites, middle class whites, were cheering him on. Cheering reminiscent of these past 2 years and President Barack Obama’s campaign, it was the youth culture that saw the importance of Martins change also.
Of course there were the racists of the day that would say things like, “I bet it was one of his own who shot him”. In general, the people of the day loved Martin, regardless of color.
All humans love truth when they see or hear it.
Three months later, I was lucky enough to hear my mother shriek “Oh no not again”. She had just found out that Robert Kennedy had been assassinated. She would listen to the radio as she washed the dishes, by hand, the same way each and everyday. She was washing the dishes when she found out about Bobby. I was playing with the neighbor kids in the backyard when I heard her scream, I ran into the kitchen to see her in tears. She was a registered Republican. My father was a registered Democrat.
The war against goodness and equality had won another battle; through death not discourse a battle that would take our country into a realm of hate and inequity. The dream of an egalitarian society where all people are created equal and can maximize their potential would be philosophically, economically, and systematically destroyed over the next 30 years.
The final blow in The Great War Against the People would come with the impeachment trial and resignation of President Nixon.
I remember the day when Nixon boarded that helicopter-waving goodbye, with an evil smile on his face, as if to say to the American people, now your really going to get screwed.
It was the last gasp of the idealist democracy in an age that altruistically believed in better government, by the people and a government that regulated society and itself.
Nixon’s resignation and almost impeachment would lead to a cynicism by the American people in both parties that would prove to be fatal.
From the Nixon resignation we moved into a system of mockery and hate among people. Jimmy Carter became hamstrung by the seething hatred of politicians by the now jaded general public and a republican party out for revenge. Instead of demanding more from our government, America was now distrusting all who entered public office.
The door to fascism was blown open because of our own lack of respect for government and citizenship. It was because of that disrespect and disappointment of and with our government that we would look away from it and give up on governmental accountability and our own expectations of government in the process.
During this dark time we would see where giving a hand up would be turned into getting a hand out. We would become a culture of merit, where those who didn’t make the grade would be left along the roadside to fend for themselves.
We would become some kind of Ayn Randian, Machiavellian freakazoid of a nation that would be inhabited and controlled by fear mongering bullies, with guns!
We would gut the foundations of our state, and allow the ultimate realization of a tyrannical system of generational wealth predicated on a death culture that would be used to not only oppress those in need, but blame them. This new bully government of so called conservatism would go unexamined by the press and excused by a numbed propagandized culture of consumerist selfism and religious zealots.
This war on the people would ultimately take down capitalism itself. Through greed and deregulation the economic ideals of our country would be splayed and left for dead upon the alter of neo-conservatism.
Former thoughtful voices in the once necessary Republican Party were run out. Goon squads led by potent simplifiers like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity replaced voices like George Will, Pat Buchanon, and William F. Buckley. The imbalance throughout the land would be felt globally with millions of needless deaths in the name of fear and the bullyboy moneygrubbers.
So, from this darkness comes hope. A new man. A new person. I would be a fool to project anything about President Barrack Obamas childhood. I will assume that it was pretty tough. He has overcome. It’s what made him. If he can overcome and rise, we as a nation can surely do the same.
It’s the spirit of the thing that counts. It’s all about how we comport ourselves going forward. Do we look to help our enemies of the past 30 years? Or do we allow the neo-cons to morph into something even more freakish? Yes, our country is now on to something great. I believe, if we follow President Obamas lead we can make a better day for everyone.
So, there is my take on this historic time. This election feels the same as that moment when a little boy stood in the back of his neighbors garage with all the people in the a small company town in Appalachia watching on a Black and White portable T.V. Neil Armstrong put his grainy moon boot onto the dirt of the moon.
The Internet is so cool and I can store all my music on a box the size of a pack of cigarettes. Desire and greed did bring about some serious material advances, but in the end it’s all about humanity and decency from what I can see. President Obama is one hell of a decent human being who comports himself with great care and love of humanity. He understands the phenomenon of change and knows how it works. He is a thinking persons person, so much so that it seems we may need to discard history all together and just move forward in one gigantic utopian leap. Without the, as he says, “spirit” of change it will never become a reality. Lets do this thing. Hey, we own it to Bobby and Martin and Mrs. Farquar at the very least.
And I'll end here by asking conservatives, what has liberalism done to hurt you personally, aside from taxing you? With the tax rates being fairly flat and assuming you don't participate in any government funded projects and have not participated in any public or advanced state funded education, I want to know what in the end liberalism has done specifically to hurt you personally?
Conservatism and conservatives are no longer in the mainstream (if they ever were) The republicans have failed because their so called base is now only 25 million and shrinking. So I say to the conservatives, it's not a big deal to be in a fringe group. Being out of touch with American values is ok, America is a big boat and there is room for everyone, even the conservatives, the steerage is big, you don't have to stay down there with Hannity and Limbaughs propaganda blaring loud and all those dangerous guns, the ladder to first class is big, come on up with the patriotic Americans and start helping your brothers, sisters, and America. Here is a great starting point. http://www.change.gov
Thanks for reading,