Sunday, July 8, 2012
So some guy named Zimmerman, who went to the University of Chicago in '58 when tuition was less than a K a year, says:
Yes, you read the URL correctly: "the aftermath of occupy will surpass the sixties." Well, that'd probably be nice, I agree. But I'll tell you, friends, the dreams of movements in the '60s and '70s to effect real and lasting improvements in the lives of all Americans were quite a few tads out front of the current realities, wouldn't you say? It's not just that some of his commenters parrot the gibberish of the Right with the same vehemence with which they down a cold one after a day banging nails in July. It's that grand dreams are almost always forerunners of disillusion and reaction. It's hard to see why people like Mr. Zimmerman are so determined to promise so much, so fast.
The Civil Rights Era of the mid-'60s, which was actually over ten years of real blood, murder, police truncheons, firehoses, and German Shepards, culminating in the assassination of President Kennedy (who was at best lukewarm on the idea of really ending segregation), grounded some good laws making it criminal to surpress voters on race grounds, and criminal as well to segregate businesses open to the public. All these bits of progress are being resisted even today by the Right, including a good number of persons (such as Rand Paul) who have achieved Senatorhood. The vote this fall is going to be surpressed in many swing states on racial grounds--the racists are just legally slicker than they were in the '50s.
And, in a broader historical context, let us recall that the seemingly wonderful Civil Rights victories of the mid-'60s were followed immediately on by the Vietnam War, which was driven by the same Democratic Party that had at last joined the Civil Rights Movement more or less. Yes, that egregious war was finally ended in 1975. And in the late '70s the Equal Rights Amendment, which aimed to establish constitutional equality for women, was defeated in the various state referendae.
So it goes. It seems to me--just sayin', a geezer with a bunch of cats sweltering through the summer--that if the Occupy Movement actually does a bit to simply keep the various progressive actions grounded in the '60s from entirely evaporating in the boiling confusion of the Romney campaign, they'll be doing a great and lasting service to the United States. It is a long way to actually making a dent in the great edifice that is the current economic structure, grounded as it now is in the Supreme Court's Citizens United Decision.
There was a middling flap this week (brought to our attention by Roy Edroso) over the fact that The Google quoted "This Land Is Your Land" as a 4th of July memento. This is also American reality. The fact is, Mr. Guthrie wrote a whole lot of great songs, and some of 'em were a lot more pointed than this gentle anthem to our shared citizenship (and even with "This Land," I do wonder about what the native Americans in Mr. Guthrie's Oklahoma thought about his claims of ownership). My favorite Guthrie lines are these:
As through this world you ramble, you'll find lots of funny men,
Some will rob you with a six-gun, others with a fountain pen.
I'd also be remiss in not quoting Mr. Dylan (another Zimmerman, who probably spent some moments on the streets of Chi-town in the '60s):
And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead
(from Masters of War, (c) Bob Dylan)
It's a long long road to the top of the mountain, and none of us are likely to live to see that promised land. That's why "Drive He Said" is the best advice for the faint of heart.