Most of us, it is fair to say, are horrified by what is happening to our country. The violence, the racism, the hatred, the lack of effective leadership have created an uproar that is consuming our daily lives. For many, it is extraordinarily upsetting. I heard a desperate mother cry out the other day. “How can I, as a white woman, begin to understand?” she said through her tears. “I can’t. Help me understand! How can I teach my children?”
That disorder, that desperation, is especially overwhelming for those who are too young to remember…this has all happened before. It is as though we are moving forward to the past.
We Boomers have been through this. We are the more than 78 million babies conceived and born in the frenzy of victory over a war that spanned the world. We grew up to become young adults who rebelled against government over-reach, police violence, war and racism. Sound familiar?
We were known as the Counter Culture, the culture of sex, drugs and rock and roll. But we had high ideals and believed we could change the world. We marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We were Freedom Riders who rode buses into the deep south to challenge segregation. We protested for civil rights and against what we believed was an unjust war in Vietnam. Sadly, we treated military veterans returning home from that war horribly. But full of self-rightgeousness, we went on protesting, battling police in places like the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.
We, too, have felt the sting of police clubs and choked on acrid tear gas. 1968 was a watershed year for Baby Boomers. Civil unrest and riots broke out in more than 100 American cities that year. Some of us were killed in places like Kent State University where National Guardsmen opened fire on student demonstrators in 1970. Four of them died.
The despair felt by the “Peace and Love Generation” (that’s also what we Boomers were sometimes ironically called) spawned agonizing lyrics in music of the day. Barry McGuire released a mournful song in 1965 called “The Eve of Destruction.” This is one of the verses.
Yeah, my blood’s so mad, feels like coagulatin’,
I’m sittin’ here, just contemplatin’,
I can’t twist the truth, it knows no regulation,
Handful of Senators don’t pass legislation,
And marches alone can’t bring integration,
When human respect is disintegratin’,
This whole crazy world is just too frustratin’,
And you tell me over and over and over again my friend,
Ah, you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.
But the nation was not destroyed. We made it through those turbulent times. Now, more than half a century later, here we are again. We are horrified, yes. But more than that, we are dismayed. We are appalled that after all this time, the nation seems to have learned nothing.