If you were born in the 50s, that world looked nothing like the world in which you live today. Sure, we made it from the 50s through the JFK 60s, the hippies, LSD, and free love. In the 70’s we watched as the “cool” dudes and dudettes discovered cocaine gave everyone who partook a “new” high that wasn’t as crazy and didn’t blow your mind for taking one too many Acid Trips. American culture changed just like it always has throughout our history.
But through all of those changes, there was one constant, one rock, one eternal thing of substance: the core of the nation — its people, its citizens — always embraced true freedom and justice under the law. A lot of those teens didn’t believe it at the time because of the Vietnam War. But it was always there: a rock of stability they later learned was permanent for them.
There was craziness back then: we had the Black Panthers, The Weathermen, Bill Ayers, and Bernadette Dorne. We dealt with each and somehow never lost a sense of calmness, no matter what demonstrations and riots took place or what they looked like. Ayers bombed a New York police station.
1968 saw the height of the rebellion. There were constant demonstrations against the Vietnam War and the government that thrust us into it, knowing full well it was NOT a war to be won. Those Americans dreaded that evil feeling of helplessness as their draft numbers came up. Many saw that number as their death sentence. And many died. But the nation made it through it all, as did most of those young people.
With the turn of the century, things began to change — far more dramatically it seems today than we thought as the change took place. We discovered that the petulance in our children was NOT the same that we grew through. Our parents watched us and waited. But they knew we’d grow out of it.
Today, America’s youth are “different.” They don’t mature at the same age or in the same ways as we. These young Americans are angry and vicious, hiding a raw hunger for power under a brand new moralism. They don’t accept the status quo just because it’s the status quo. Yes, we hope they will eventually. But there’s no way to tell where they’re headed!
This side of 2000, a nation of high- tech teens revealed a new and different set of values and ways of thinking. They refuse to “pay the price” to get “there,” as did we. They want what they want, and they want it now. This gaggle of young Americans claims to deplore the capitalism that previous generations each grew to embrace, finding doing so was necessary to become anything in life — anything at all. But this generation deplores responsibility, the “normalcies” of their parents’ generation, and summarily reject commitment to anything longterm. They dodge marriage, buying homes, cars, and even spurn the responsibility of a leased place to live. They prefer to just “fly by the seat of their pants.” In a job interview today, the questions they ask most often early in that conversation are “How much does it pay, what are the benefits, how long is lunch, how much vacation do I get, and how long before I can take off for a few days?” Their own “Me-ism” devours them.
In the late ’60s and ’70s, hundreds of bombs — REAL bombs of sorts — were detonated as various radical groups carried out their campaign against “Amerika.” According to The Los Angeles Times, “in California alone, 20 explosions a week rocked the state during the summer of 1970.’’ Our parents deplored the actions of these “radical young folks.” They couldn’t wait for those teenagers to grow up.
How many bombs will we see in the summer of 2020? Not so long ago, the radicalism of the 1960s seemed far behind us and a certain fixture in our rearview mirrors. Now it seems to have come roaring back.
In 1968, Leonard Bernstein entertained the Black Panthers for a fundraiser in his Park Avenue duplex. The Black Panthers were murderous thugs. But to a certain part of New York society, they were exciting moral fashion accessories. The Weathermen and Black Panthers have been reborn today as Antifa and Black Lives Matter (BLM), a well-funded outfit, whose founders are self-confessed “Marxists” bent on destroying America.
But now, in 2020, even more than in 1968, the leftist establishment is tripping over itself to embrace the radicals.
Does that mean we have to accept statues and other monuments to our past being defaced, toppled, destroyed? Does it mean that we have to stand by as police stations are incinerated and Bobby Seale’s call to “barbecue some pork” — i.e., murder some police — is resurrected on our city streets?
In 1968, it was mostly fancy people like Bernstein and Susan Sontag, who celebrated the Panthers and other radicals. There was still some resistance in the culture at large. Our parents were the products of a generation that fought to prevent any Americans from being forced to speak German or Japanese. They were disciplined and resolute. And they respected the prices for maintaining freedom and justice for all.
Today, the long march that commenced in the 1960s has proceeded wholesale through the schools, colleges, and the mainstream press. It is now marching through the corporate world. Businesses as disparate as Facebook and Brooks Brothers have issued abject letters of surrender to the rioters and looters who invaded America’s major cities.
We are meant to believe that the riots and anarchy we are witnessing across the country are legitimate in response to the death of George Floyd. But Floyd’s death was merely the pretext for anti-civilizational lawlessness.
In 1939, Evelyn Waugh noted that “the more elaborate the society, the more vulnerable it is to attack, and the more complete its collapse in case of defeat.” Waugh added: “At a time like the present, it is notably precarious. If it falls, we shall see not merely the dissolution of a few joint-stock corporations, but the spiritual and material achievements of our history.”
I think this is true. This is why, looking at the reprise of 1960s destructiveness on our streets, I am not inclined to say, “I told you so,” but rather: “We must do something about this. Now.”
Are we too late? Has the calendar flipped too fast too many times for us to take a pause, analyze, converse, and find consensus with this “today” generation: a world in which we can live with the shreds of our foundations on which THEY were raised while allowing them to flex their 21st-century muscles? Are there any parts of their mantra: socialism, lack of commitment to anything and anybody, hatred for capitalism and our free market — all of which are the fundamentals that made the world in which they were raised?
Most of us would never dream of embracing and acting-on the feelings and ideas on which they are acting today. We accepted far more of the morals and foundational elements of the generation of Americans that raised us than these youngsters are of ours. They seem sold-out to “throwing the baby out with the bathwater.” Everything goes!
The scariest thing to me as a father and grandfather is their lack of understanding of what is in the world that they think they want. They don’t understand the political structure of those teachers and professors who were born in the 60s’ “despise authority” era. Those hippies and free-love advocates wanted much of what these do. But at some point, they learned what they wanted could NOT be taken — it had to be developed. When they understood their task was not to turn the U.S. and its structure upside down, theirs’ was to teach this generation all that they had learned. But there is one significant addition to their education menu: HOW to do it.
That’s the scary part: many are confident they can do just that.
Is this our America…or is it theirs’?