Paul Andersen: It’s time for all generations to act
Students are walking out of schools in protest of deadly gun policies, but it shouldn’t be only students. Whole families and communities should show common cause for a pressing moral crisis that’s crippling the soul of our nation.
Last week, Mack Bailey sang at the Aspen Chapel: “Come on, people now/Smile on your brother/Everybody get together/Try to love one another right now.”
The Youngbloods laid it down in 1967 for the Summer of Love: “Love is but a song to sing/Fear’s the way we die/You can make the mountains ring/Or make the angels cry.”
The angels cry for victims of gun violence in a country at war with itself. Where is the love in a country where there have been more than a dozen shootings at schools since the start of the New Year?
Some say it’s up to the kids to take action, to do as my generation did 50 years ago when we protested the war in Vietnam and supported civil rights, the women’s movement and environmental protection. Students today want peace of mind in schools, at movie theaters, on street corners, and they are willing to protest for that right.
But what of my generation? What’s our role in this?
Cultural amnesia seems to have dimmed the Age of Aquarius to a quaint and frivolous fling. Many baby boomers feel we did our part by growing our hair long and showing up at a peace rally or two.
For many, who called ourselves hippies, the counter culture was a fashion to be mimicked like any other fashion. Being a hippie was cool, and that was enough. Today, many of these same boomers are caught up in ourselves, fat and complacent, concerned mostly with the personal gratification of retirement.
Perhaps I’m being overly critical of boomers, but many of us compromised our idealism to the heedless acquisition for the material wealth espoused as a virtue by our parents — the “Greatest Generation.” Peace and love are fine, but not at the cost of prosperity. The American lifestyle, as George H.W. Bush once quipped, is not negotiable.
This year celebrates 50 years since the upheavals of 1968, when martyrs lost their lives to social justice. The liberal ideals I embraced in college matter now just as much as they did back then. The big difference is that students today are martyrs to domestic terrorism, and many will suffer post-traumatic stress as a result.
I watched my generation become radicalized by protests against the war policies of Robert McNamara and Lynden B. Johnson. We condemned the sacrificing of young men to the military-industrial complex against which Dwight Eisenhower warned.
This same radicalization may be occurring now among school-age youth who recognize the irrelevance of the Republican majority that fronts for the NRA, endorses Donald Trump’s bombasts, applauds the gutting of environmental protections and thwarts social progress.
This year, 2018, is a good vantage from which to look back half a century to when common cause was unifying, when youth came together to end a war and question authority.
Looking back, I cannot but lament what became of my ge-ge-generation, many of whom equate the Lexus and iPhone X with markers of achievement. Activism for the virtues of peace and social justice is seen as troublesome, impractical and beyond the boundaries of age.
At 67, I’m looking back at ‘67. I see an America teenager feeling unshakable indignation for errant wars and reckless policies. I see a budding journalist writing screeds against environmental degradation. I see a senior citizen challenging the values behind cultural ambivalence, corporate profits and social media.
If that sounds cliche, it’s because ideals of peace and love have been denigrated by power politics and marginalized by a cynical media. Dare to challenge the status quo with idealism and you’re branded “unrealistic” or a “bleeding heart liberal.”
What’s unrealistic is children living in fear of armed perpetrators. What’s bleeding are victims of school shootings. What’s liberal is the gun culture that’s arming sociopaths with assault rifles.
If you want to take action, check out “Everytown For Gun Safety” and join a growing movement. “Come on people now… Shine on your brother…”
Paul Andersen’s column appears on Mondays. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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