Is this time in our national experience familiar to you?
It seems we are once again embarking on a national exploration or, call it soul searching. There is ample discussion but it often is not illuminating. Yesterday morning I passed through a television show I normally avoid. The pontificating lead anchor declared that this period is about self discovery and that the 1960s was about violence.
The host had no grasp of our history whatsoever. Looking at him I realize he may have been quite young at the time but understanding history would prove instructive for him.
Waves in History
Human affairs are not engaged by a steady march. They come in waves and are punctuated by events. Over time, movements and orientations develop and often crisis points are arrived at. Such is now the case.
As World War II ended, our surviving young men returned to us and founded families. They received an education and the economy thrived. And then came another generation and it was time to search the horizon and look to a different future.
The decade of the 1960s had its conflicts but above all had its missions. We had endured a misguided war in Asia. Fifty thousand of our people died and more than a million in Asia. We were tossed into a conflict to confront a Monolithic Communist Conspiracy which did not exist and the consequences were terrible. Many opposed the war and we heard the strains of We Shall Overcome which had its historical base in the fight against slavery and prejudice and was then raised against racism and war. In this instance we held hands and sang for peace. The peace sign was everywhere displayed by those who sought a productive end to conflict. Yes, at times there was violence but we sought peace of all kinds.
And then there was the Women’s Liberation Movement which has been termed the second wave of feminism. Long overdue, it arrived to further the cause of the empowerment of women. The movement continues and is hardly notable at the time or now for violence.
It was also a time when we began to face the matter of stewardship of our precious planet. The first Earth Day was celebrated in 1970.
Yes, there was violence when marchers were attacked in Selma and civil rights workers were murdered. But our endeavors were overwhelmingly peaceful.
A Renewed Search
Yes, we have healing to do currently but I have a great deal of trouble with people who declare the 1960s as violent. That was never the intent of my generation. We sought equality, constructive engagement, stewardship and peace. We need to not forget what was sought. In the time since what we sought has often been sabotaged. And now the wave rises again and again we examine ourselves and people of good will seek to overcome and find peace and justice. This is not a new time. This is the previous time which has come again and we need to seek to prevail in the interest of justice and harmony.
What mission have you adopted?