Every now and then we should all sit back and try and put the pieces together.
Politics has never seemed so close to our lives as now. I suspect that this is a function of the media, first television and now the InterNet. I am not sure that it is good for someone who is not directly in politics to be so immersed in what is happening on a day to day basis. But, that is what has happened for a lot of us.
For instance, while John Kennedy's assassination is one of the dominating images of my college days, the political ramifications of this event (the ascendancy of Lyndon Johnson; the Great Society programs that flowed from that momentum; etc) were pretty much lost on me. Many Americans don't realize that, as a president, Kennedy wasn't very effective. Glamorous, yes. Effective, no. Esquire magazine ran a piece that caused big stir after his assassination called "Kennedy without Tears."
It wasn't until the Vietnam War was in full swing (1967-68) that many of us became politically involved. Even then, our political protest was unorganized, at least until the 1968 election.
One of the more interesting events I remember during those times (1965) was a formal debate about our involvement in Vietnam that took place between an American team and a team from Oxford. The American team was composed of, among other notables, Bob Shrum, my classmate at Georgetown and late of the Kerry team. I think McGeorge Bundy was involved too. At that time, we all supported the American intervention there. Sort of like the support that many Americans gave George Bush for Iraq.
I feel that, at that time in the 1960's, we all were still under the sway of anti-Communism. Graduates from High School in the 1950's were given a copy of J. Edgar Hoover's "Masters of Deceit." We looked for fellow travelers under every rock. But then, gradually, not in small part a result of so many of us being drafted, and dying, things began to change.
The vanguard of the change in the late 60's was the youth. Again, one can be cynical and say it was because their ox was being gored. There is no doubt in my mind that, if the draft was reinstated, you would once again see a youth revolution. While there are certainly many die hard Republican youths around, just as I had friends that that were Goldwater Republicans, the natural tendency of youth is to be liberal, unless they are brainwashed. Of course, this is a debate that we should engage in: is the youth of America today brainwashed? I don't think so. Remote, maybe. Brainwashed, I doubt it.
I focus on the late sixties because it is the only place I can see hope for our battered country. While there was violence in the youth and peace movement (see Medium Cool)in comparison to other societies that changed rapidly, that violence was paltry. When one thinks of the violence and force that was needed to change German and Japanese societies during WWII, the change in America during the late sixties, early seventies was benign.
Unfortunately, as opposed to societies in Germany and Japan, the change was not lasting. We did not renounce State violence as a means to an end. The same ideological fervor that drove Hoover and Nixon I see recapitulated in Rove and Bush (unintelligent leaders always have their Svengali's and Rasputins).
But, we have the potential in our society to change. We have demonstrated it. And, there are at least 50 million of us in this country that want to alter our course. The question, as always, is how to do this.
As we grew up, in the naive 50's and early 60's, we believed that the business of America was accomplished by the people of America working through a democratic government. There just wasn't any question in our minds that this was the way things were. And, believe it or not, things may well have been, at least a little, like that.
No longer. I cannot believe that we live in a true democracy. The last two presidental elections have been a farce. There is ample evidence that the 2000 election was stolen and there is mounting evidence that the 2004 election was deeply flawed. Furthermore, when 50% of the population does not agree with what you are doing, one cannot claim, as Bush does, to have a mandate.
So, what to do? Where do we go from here? How do we change this abberation that America has become back into a country that espouses the ideals of its founders and reflects the true soul of the American people?
I don't know. But I am going to find out.