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Thursday, May 11, 2017
My generation, the Babyboomers, began with the idealism of John F. Kennedy. Granted, Kennedy wasn't a great president. Some would argue that he wasn't even a good president. Some make the claim that Kennedy was only starting to hit his stride and it would have taken a second term to test his true potential for greatness. But, of course, we will never know. When he was murdered in Dallas on that November day in 1963, the man died and the legend, or rather, the myth of Camelot began to take shape. His brother, Bobby, did much to create that myth. His death too added to it. It was a traumatic time, with the death of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, the Civil Rights movement, the "Freedom Riders" and the murder of three young men in Mississippi, the Watts riot (and countless others), not to mention the war in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and our government's efforts to "contain communism" through not just wars and insurrections, but manufactured coups and assassinations.
Of course, like to many wars, the one which began in Vietnam was started on the basis of a manufactured event; a lie. "The Tonkin Gulf Incident" as it was called. The story, as it was originally told, was that a US ship was in international waters when it was deliberately attacked by ships from those nasty godless Communists, the North Vietnamese. In really, there was no attack. We were told too that we were "protecting" the Vietnamese People from Communism. In truth, this was a Civil War which had its beginnings in the 1920's against the French, then the Japanese, then the French again, and finally, us. We installed the Vietnamese president (after approving the overthrow and assassination on his predecessor) and continued to prop him up throughout the war. We were lied to about the progress of the war, and the determination of our enemy that our soldiers, sailors, and airmen faced daily.
Sadly for my generation, we witnessed soldiers murdering college students at a university in Ohio named Kent State. My generation gave birth to Hippies, Yippies, and Flower Children; the SDS--Students for a Democratic Society, the Gray Panthers which sought to treat seniors with dignity, and more militant groups like the Weathermen, the Black Panthers with Huey Newton and Eldridge Cleaver, and the Symbionese Liberation Army or SLA which was made famous by heiress Patty Heart. We endured America's first defeat, not on the battlefield, but in the halls of Congress, the Office of the President, and at the negotiation table. We also witnessed governmental betrayal again with Watergate. We also saw the rise and later perversion of the "Feminist Movement", the Gay Pride Movement, Cesar Chavez and the Migrant Workers Movement for better wages and work conditions, the Ecology Movement and legislation to reduce pollution, the "Back to Nature" and the Commune Movement, the American Indian Movement (AIM) and efforts to right centuries old wrongs. We worked to bring more equality in the workplace between gender in terms of wage equality and breaking through the "glass ceiling". It should also be pointed out that we were the most materially spoiled and richest generation in history in terms of disposable income. We would go on to produce self-adsorbed materialistic Yuppies and "Soccer Moms". We became what we loathed the most.
orld stage. We have gone from the John and Bobby Kennedy, MLK, Chavez to the likes of Bill "Cigar" Clinton, George W Bush, with Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush filling in the highs and lows in between. Finally, we capped it all off with Hillary Clinton. My how we've fallen. In many respects, Hillary represents the ideals of my generation. First and foremost, she was the first woman to run for president...of a major party (there have been others, most notably Shirley Chisholm who was also black). She served as Secretary of State (but, again, she wasn't the first, and, again, most notably and more successfully, was Condoleezza Rice...and she was also black). She was the first wife of a former president to run for office, although one could make a serious argument for Eleanor Roosevelt serving as a co-President or for Woodrow Wilson's wife, Edith, serving as the defacto President following Wilson's stroke during the latter part of his second term.
There's no questioning Hillary's public persona. She comes across as someone who cares about families, women, and social justice. However, the private Hillary---as revealed by the testimonies of those close to her---plus the thousands of private emails, as shown her to be just as hard drinking, hot tempered, and foul-mouthed as any of her male colleagues, and such as conniving. There are still unanswered questions regarding illegal gunrunning deals, use of unsecured cell phones and the release of classified information, possible acts of treason, repeatedly lying to Congress, the attack on the US embassy in Benghazi which resulting in the murder of four Americans, including the ambassador, the "pay-to-play" channeling of millions to the Clinton Foundation while she was the SoS, not to mention the curious coincidences of deaths associated with the Clintons going back decades.
Hillary Clinton claims that if the election had been held on October 27th, before the FBI Director James Comey's press conference regarding her emails, she would be president today. I beg to differ. Hillary lost because she proved to a poor candidate. She showed that, as a person, she is hollow. It wasn't one particular email or instance which did Hillary in. It was the culmination of numerous instances; of numerous emails; of numerous questionable behavior that couldn't be hidden. Not every actor can maintain their mask for long. Hers repeatedly slipped when examined closely. The American People, despite her cheerleading supporters in the corporate controlled media, weren't fools after all.
The Millennials, however, are the new generation on the block. Theirs is the largest generation in terms of numbers since the Babyboomers. They are new to the political game. They haven't learned to become cynical yet. Their first taste of politics came with Barack Obama. They bought the act. They thought they had the whole political game figured out, just as we did back in the early 60's. If they were disappointed with Obama's first term, they were stunned by his second. Perhaps that's why most Millennials have turned their backs on party politics in the first place. Most are Independents (which is America's largest political "party"), followed by Democrats and trailing in third place, Republican. They are predisposed to focus on issues and move on. Perhaps that explains their disillusionment with the outcome of the election, and their (for lack of a better term), temper tantrum. They saw Hillary Clinton as perhaps the "New Hope" to borrow from Star Wars. Another chance to do what Obama couldn't or wouldn't do. Maybe it was the sense of history and electing America's first woman as president.
So, what we've seen is a generation behaving badly. They show up at events intent on destroying property and picking fights. Whereas universities and colleges were once the bastions of free speech (thanks in part to groups like the SDS), people who may disagree with them are boycotted, shouted down, harassed, while the school's administration finds itself threatened. We find some of the Millennials demanding "safe places" where they cry in seclusion. It reminds me of spoiled kindergartners or first graders. There is an old saying which goes like this, "What the grandparent seeks to overcome, the child seeks to forget, and grandchild seeks to learn". If these Millennials are seeking to imitate us, their Babyboomer grandparents, with their militant-esque behavior, they are doing a sorry job of it. Instead of trying to run away from what they dislike (or are afraid of), or trying to bully individuals or institutions into silence, they need to examine what it is that they don't like, and that means looking at the facts of each issue, which is something that Millennials are suppose to be good at; ignoring the BS and getting to the core issue, then solving the problem.
Meanwhile, we have the corporate media not wasting a single opportunity to take a swipe at Trump or his administration. It's like the first piece on every newscast or the lead article in every newspaper has to be a concocted piece designed to discredit Trump and Company in some way. We see former Republican presidents chumming it up with their former Democrat "rivals" in bashing Trump, which only goes to show how phony the party divide really is, as if we didn't already know. I have no doubt that it's intentional. It's specifically aimed at delegitimizing Trump and to set the stage to ensure "The Donald" is a one term president, and, perhaps, to prepare Americans for an Obama third term featuring Chelsea Clinton in some capacity. After all, she is the heir apparent.
So, where do we go from here? For all our faults (and there were many), my generation of Babyboomers were (and are) idealists. To paraphrase Kennedy, we saw wrongs and sought to right them however we could. But we didn't deny people the opportunity to speak, even if we disagreed with them. We did question and challenge the system. We fought for equality...for everyone, not just one or two groups. We opposed conformity, but understood too that wherever we came from or however we got here, we were Americans, and that meant speaking a commonly understood language, English, if we were to function as a society. Racism has become a bigger issue now than it was in the 70's, and it's largely not coming from whites. We sought new ways of doing things. Perhaps we went too far in some matters and not far enough in others.
However, I think there needs to be a new emphasis on education, especially trade schools, to overcome poverty, discrimination, crime, violence, and incarceration. People should be hired and promoted based on their abilities, not on a quota system. Unfortunately, education was a key area where my generation failed. It dumbed down the quality of our education out of fear of hurting feelings along with an overemphasis on "group equality" while forgetting the individual. A well educated population would have solved many of our problems then and will solve many of our problems now. Besides, it's what the political class and the Oligarchs who control them fear the most, so it has to be a good thing right? These are things the Millennials, our successors, will need to figure out.