Thursday, June 23, 2011

The America that could have been: The Political Climate of the 60s

Bobby Kennedy with megaphone addressing hopeful and cheering crowd

Some might consider it futile and a waste of time to imagine hypothetical scenarios or alternate histories, the what if ... question that the imaginative mind relishes in by imagining a different outcome of events. Others might object that it is wishful thinking or an escape from reality. Nonetheless, I often think back to the era of the explosive 60s where innumerable changes were taking place and how it largely ended up imploding and collapsing on itself.

It must have been both a fascinating and gut-wrenching episode in history. Especially in the United States, there were so many drastic movements sparking not only creativity but also bringing out probably the best in humanity. There was wonderful creative output, whether in poetry, lyrics, music or writing that came to define a new hungry and rebellious generation.

Drugs may have played a certain role, but they may have merely fueled an already inherent, latent attitude that finally found its full expression. People decided to take a passionate stand. Many stood up against various types of injustice taking place around them. They were tired of the pointless and devastating Vietnam war and the draft that forced peace-loving individuals to enter a cruel war they did not believe in. They were unjustly brandished as unpatriotic cowards and deserters.

Not to mention, the movement for gender equality where women fought for their right to be taken seriously and not to be merely considered man's playmate or the skirt-wearing helper confined to the kitchen. And most importantly, they had the desire to create a more just society that did not discriminate nor use indiscriminate violence against its colored citizens.

It was not limited to the younger population or the so-called high school dropouts or hippies; there were fertile grounds on all levels of society. Music and art reflected liberal political attitudes; Martin Luther King came to the foreground as the deeply human voice of reason; John F. Kennedy became the president that many loved and respected and people were filled with hope and excitement.

And this hope, the American dream for freedom and equality was crushed to bits. Both JFK and Martin Luther King were assassinated and left a gaping wound in the psyche and consciousness of those who had wished for a better society. Bobby tried to continue where his brother had left off and probably would have won the presidency but he also had to face the barrel of another blind madman who once again dashed the dreams of so many hopeful Americans.

And out of all the carnage, there arose Nixon who managed to crumble the little trust that citizens had in their presidents. The Watergate scandal reached such proportions that he felt forced to resign. The belief that the American president can take illegal actions just because he is in power was the antithesis of what the leaders of the 60s had stood for. The movement that had started with so much promise ended up being only a faded page in the history books.

I have to ask myself what could have been if only ... But no, there is no use in imagining things other than they are. Despite all the strides society has made over the past decades, there is something that never materialized. We lost something valuable but our amnesiac minds cannot recall what it was. Instead we are left with half-baked promises of freedom and lip-services of change that seem to never really take place. 


Francis Hunt said...

Lovely post, Arash!

Yes, there was a chance missed ...

But other chances taken. In the end, we always have to choose, and choose anew.

One of the weaknesses of many of the "movements" of the 60s was their naivete, their ignorance of how firmly in the saddle the established powers sit and how much hard work and setbacks are involved in really changing things.

"All you need is love," may be true ... but how much of it do you need, and how much persistence and stamina and time does it take? :-)

Arashmania said...

Thank you, Francis! Absolutely true that quite a bit of this hoped-for change may have been just wishful thinking or what I like to call "fairy dust."

But then again, idealism involves a certain sense of naivete. One must not only dream of a better world but actually, as you say, have the stamina and perseverance to make it come true.

My own problem or concern with those movements is that some may have used them as a bandwagon because it was the "hip" or trendy thing to do. Maybe or another "what if" speculation, with more faith and trust in themselves and in their convictions, they could have made it happen. Or maybe not.

Yes, All you need is love is definitely true, but sometimes you may need a little more than that. Thanks again for your input!