Big Birthday Memory #20: Is 2016 the New 1968? Bernie Sanders, The Donald and Eugene McCarthy

NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from September 22, 2015.

I'm on the right - leafleting outside a textile mill in New Hampshire, February 1968
I’m on the right – leafleting outside a textile mill in New Hampshire, February 1968

They called us a lot of things.  “The Children’s Crusade” (an awful lot of us were college kids,)” “revolutionaries,” “dangerous  idealists,” sometimes even “traitors.”Dump LBJ1We were the ones who responded to Allard Lowenstein’s call to”Dump Johnson” by drafting an anti-war candidate,  because, as he told us, “you can’t beat somebody with nobody.” We signed on to help to bring down President Lyndon Johnson and his Vietnam War with the only person willing to run, Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy.  And yeah, that’s me with that same Senator Eugene McCarthy. In 1968, in the middle of the night, in New Hampshire, when we kind of won* the New Hampshire primary.

Now observers of the movements behind both Senator Bernie Sanders and the Donald Trump/Ben Carson Republicans, have compared those campaigns to our efforts, and to some extent, to the rest of the 1960’s anti-war movement.  So.  What do we think?

SM-Bernie-sanders-crowd-phoenix

SANDERS Crowd, Phoenix, AZ

 

TRUMP crowd, Mobile AL

TRUMP crowd, Mobile AL

In 1968: We were desperate and felt we were losing our country – or at least its soul and moral place in the world.  We were doing it in someone else’s country and with cruel tools like napalm and cluster bombs.

2016: These campaigners, too, are desperate, and whether from right or left, feel they are losing their country.  Consider Sanders’ outrage and economic populism, calling out an economy he views as not only unjust but un-American; consider the huge response.

Consider the fevered reaction to Trump’s pledges to “Make America Great Again”, not only through his business acumen (and some horrifying immigration changes and racial provocation) but also through economic ideas that even Paul Krugman reluctantly acknowledges aren’t dumb.

1968: Vietnam was a life and death issue; the draft brought it home to every American, especially the young — and their parents and teachers and, gradually, much of the rest of America.

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all?     — Phil Ochs, I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore

2016: Today, the life and death issue is the disintegration of the great American middle class that has long built and sustained this country (to say nothing of enabling a consumer economy that sustained growth for decades.) It’s a brutal blow to what Americans see the their birthright.  We all know the symptoms – underemployment, disappearing job security and benefits, and this, from a 2014 Pew report:

But after adjusting for inflation, today’s average hourly wage has just about the same purchasing power as it did in 1979, following a long slide in the 1980s and early 1990s and bumpy, inconsistent growth since then. In fact, in real terms the average wage peaked more than 40 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 has the same purchasing power as $22.41 would today.

1968: We had very little faith in institutions (“the Establishment,”) from the government to the police to political parties, gigantic, impersonal universities, media that covered us with cruel disdain, and of course, the military.  With limited experience, we didn’t really understand the complicated issues that faced each of these entities – and our country – and exacerbated both its problems and every tragic mistake.  And though we were right about much of what we believed, we were pretty cavalier in the belief we knew how to fix things.

Although I was immunized by my steel town history, shared with kids who would never see a college or a white-collar job, many of my peers saw my classmates and neighbors simply as “hard hats” – lesser beings who needed us to instruct them.  Many didn’t consider the gap between our privileged lives and their own.

We also were enormously suspicious of a military governed by law, tradition and accountability to a commander-in-chief influenced not only by the legendary “best and the brightest” but also by a legacy including Soviet power, the “loss” of China to Communism and the fear that it might be replicated – and a political and personal story that was rapidly becoming obsolete.  That perceived rigidity and “Dr. Strangelove” stereotypes governed us.

2016: That same distrust of the Establishment informs the Tea Party but it has also touched also many, many other Republicans/Conservatives.  As one commentator observed: “They deeply believe that President Obama has ruined America.”  Beyond their rage at him come the usual suspects: politicians who care only whether they lost their own jobs, hopelessness, inability to pay for their children’s education, a cynical, uncaring media, the disappearance of decent, well-paying jobs, an emerging multicultural America where it’s hard to find one’s place and a chaotic present from Ferguson to Syria to the Hungarian border.

The Sanders people share a good deal of that distrust, beginning with the economic inequality, frozen wages and dead-end jobs at the heart of his message, but not ending there.  Add suspicion of the mainstream media (MSM), the police, college costs and crippling student loans, racism, sexism, union-busting and all the rest.

So yes, there’s plenty of common ground between that turbulent year and today.  And it’s hard to underestimate  how far we might have gone back then if we’d had the Internet.

Even so, I can’t vote YES on this one.  The initial 60’s activists believed in so much more.  So many moments have been declared the day “America lost its innocence” and certainly they chipped away at it: Vietnam, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, the Chicago Democratic convention, Watergate, Irangate, the Clinton scandals, Oklahoma City, Challenger, the 1980 election and, of course, 9/11.  Those who have chosen action since those shattering events are almost a different species – at least those 40 and younger.

These losses also inform Trump and Tea Party voters, I think, as they try to turn back the clock and reconstitute an American that is no more.

As for the left, after years during which unions were decimated, blue-collar wages eviscerated, voting rights emasculated, women’s rights torn away and racial and religious tensions breaking every heart…  well, it sounds familiar but it’s so much tougher because what’s happening now has moved our country backward and the left is fighting to hang onto or reclaim lost rights, not win new ones.

It really doesn’t matter anyway.  Things look bad right now, and optimism, belief in the possibility of positive change… do you see it anywhere?

*Actually we only got 42% of the vote but that was so high against such a powerful politician and Democratic machine that it really was a “win” and caused him, a month or so later, to declare he would not “seek nor will I accept” the nomination to run for a second term.

Big Birthday Memory #17: They Will Campaign Against Us Until We’re All Dead – and Maybe After

NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from July 9, 2008

From the day Richard Nixon was nominated in 1968 until Tuesday afternoon, forty years later, when John McCain began running this “Love” commercial, Republicans have been running against us.  All of us who share a history of opposing the Vietnam war and working to elect an anti-war president.  Against everything we ever were, believed, dreamed, voted for, marched against, volunteered to change, spoke about, created, sang, wrote, painted, sculpted or said to one another on the subway or the campus or anyplace else from preschool parent nights to Seders to the line at the supermarket.

How is it possible that what we tried to do is still the last best hope to elect a Republican?  They used it against John Kerry.  They used it against Max Cleland.  They did it every time (well, almost) they were losing policy battles in the Clinton years.  They called CSPAN and said unspeakable things.   And now they are using the history of people my side of sixty to run against a man who was, if my math is right, seven years old during this notorious “summer of love” which – I might add, had nothing to do with those of us working to end the war.  In fact, there were two strands of rebellion in those years.  The Summer of Love/Woodstock folks and the political, anti-war activists.

Leary_nyt_cropped_2At the 1967 National Student Association Convention in Maryland, I saw a room full of students boo Timothy Leary off the stage, literally.  We didn’t want to “turn on, tune in, drop out” we wanted to organize against the war.   The anti-war movement was not a party.  I know that’s not a bulletin but it is so hard to see all of us reduced to a single mistaken stereotype.  Those who chose to find a personal solution weren’t nuts; communes and home-made bread were a lot more immediate gratification than march after march, teach-in after teach-in, speech after speech.  “If you’re goin’ to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.”  Tempting, romantic – and not us.

Even more painful is the fact that the cultural and political divide is still so intense that research (I assume) told the McCain guys that this commercial would work.  That our patriotic, committed efforts to change our country’s path, and the cultural alienation that drove others toward the streets of San Francisco, combine to become a stronger motivator than all the desperate issues we face today, this side of those 40 years.  Perhaps even worse, these Bush years have dismantled so many of the successes we did have, so that in addition to facing, yet again, this smear against the activism of 1968 (and I repeat, that wasforty years ago — longer than most of the bloggers I know have been alive) there’s the awareness of what we did that has been undone.

I need to say here that I grew up on the shores of the Monongehela River in Pittsburgh and my classmates were kids who mostly went into
the steel mills or the Army after high school.  I knew plenty of supporters of the war.  I went to prom and hung out at the Dairy Queen with them.  But it never occurred to me to demonize them, to hold against them their definition of patriotism.

I’m not writing off or looking down upon those who did support the war; I’m saying that this cynical, craven abuse of the devotion of people on
both sides to the future of their country is reprehensible and precisely the kind of behavior that has broken the hearts of so many Americans, on those both sides of the political spectrum, who just want their candidates to lead us in hope for what our country can be, not defame others whose dreams aren’t quite the same as theirs.

Big Birthday Memory #16: (More 1968) Obama, Clinton, New Hampshire And Primaries – 1968 And 2008

NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from January 8, 2008.

McCarthy and Cindy wide2In the 1968 New Hampshire primary, 40 years ago, Senator Eugene McCarthy got 42% of the vote running against Lyndon Johnson .

That was enough to be viewed as a win, since no one thought he’d get anywhere close to those numbers.  That  victory by the only national politician with the guts to run against the Vietnam War sent a shock through the Democratic Party.

McCarthy’s effort, often called “The Children’s Crusade,” was comprised largely of college students (including me) who abandoned their studies to come to New Hampshire and work to help to stop the war.  Now, as I watch Barack Obama, and see the the numbers of young people propelling his success, I know just how they feel — and what awaits them if they fail. 

Then too, win or lose, things will be tough for Senator Clinton. Obama, seen not only as a change agent but also as someone who offe

That’s exactly what happened in 1968.  The New Hampshire victory brought Robert Kennedy into the race – establishing, until his tragic death, a three-way battle – two dissidents against the juggernaut of the Democratic establishment.  Then later, Hubert Humphrey, candidate of that establishment and for years, as Vice President, public and energetic supporter of Johnson’s war, won the nomination.

To all of us, he had stolen the nomination.  Many (not me) were so bitter that they refused to vote for him.  (2016 NOTE: Let’s not let this happen again! That reluctance led to the election of Richard Nixon and all that followed.  Think how different things would be…) Remember, for most of us, as for many of Obama’s young supporters, this was our first presidential campaign.  Hillary Clinton, should she prevail further down the line, will face the same broken-hearted campaigners.  Once the anti-establishment, anti-war student and Watergate hearing staffer, in the eyes of these young people she’ll be cast as the villain.

Mccarthy_poster

For evidence of how long that bitterness lasts, take a look at this quote from the American Journalism Review, from the 1968 Chicago Convention recollections of veteran Washington Post columnist  David Broder.  It’s about me – but it’s also about any young American who takes a stand and loses .

He recalls coming into the hotel lobby from the park where demonstrations were underway and spotting a woman he had first met during the Eugene McCarthy campaign in New Hampshire. “Her name was Cindy Samuels,” Broder still remembers. “She was seated on a bench crying. She had been gassed. I went over and I put my arm around her and I said: ‘Cindy. What can I do for you?’ She looked up at me with tears on her face and said: ‘Change things.’

NOTE:  As I searched for links for this post I found a David Corn piece saying much the same thing.  I want to take note of it since the ideas came to me independently but I didn’t want it to seem that I drew from his.

Big Birthday Memory #9: Remembering JFK: 44 Years and 2 Days After the Kennedy Assassination

 

On the campaign trail. I would have given anything to be that kid.
On the campaign trail. I would have given anything to be that kid.

 

NOTE: As I approach my 70th birthday, I’ll reprise a milestone post here each day until the end of May. Today – from November 24, 2007.

Thanksgiving Day was the 44th anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy.  I didn’t want that to be my holiday post, though, so I’m writing about it today.**  I was a senior in high school when our vice-principal, Mr. Hall, a huge scary guy (and football coach) came onto the intercom and announced, his voice breaking, that President Kennedy had been shot, and had died.  I remember standing up and just walking out of my creative writing class.  No one stopped me – or any of the rest of us.  We wandered the halls in tears, then went home, riding the school bus in tears.  I remember the next morning, taking the car out and just driving around — running in to my friend Jack Cronin on his drugstore delivery route – and standing on McClellan Drive in his arms as we both wept.  I remember, Jewish girl that I was, going to Mass at St. Elizabeth’s Church that Sunday just to be with the people of his faith.  I cried for four days.

Years later, working on the TODAY SHOW 20th anniversary of the funeral, I remember all of it rushing back as we cut tape and realized as adults what a gift Jacqueline Kennedy had given the nation through the dignity and completeness of the funeral.  I know that many younger people find the Kennedys a little bit of a joke, thanks partly to the Simpsons, but it’s not possible to describe the grief and trauma of those days.  Or the gratitude we all felt for his presence — and the profound nature of the loss.

Though only 13, I had the great good fortune to attend the Kennedy Inauguration, traveling all night on the train with my mom to sit in the stands near the Treasure Building and watch the parade go by.  We stood outside the White House at the end of the parade, in the last of the blizzard, and watched him walk into the White House for the first time as president.  I’d seen the culmination of all the volunteer hours my 13-year-old self could eke out to go “down town” and stuff envelopes — to respond to the the call to help change the world.

It seems so pathetic now; the loss not only of JFK but of his brother, so beloved by my husband that he’s never been the same since 1968, the loss of Dr. King and Malcolm X, the trauma of Vietnam and all that followed, later of the shooting of John Lennon, even.  It seemed that all we’d dreamed about and hoped for – worked for – was gone.  How could we have been so romantic – so sure that we could bring change?  Believed it again in 1967 and 68 as we worked and marched against the war, for Eugene McCarthy or Bobby Kennedy, for civil rights and for peace, for better education and environmental policies, for rights for women, gay Americans and so much more.  Most of us haven’t stopped but the American media obsession with America’s loss of innocence emerges from the pain of those weeks.

Now, to me, even the idea of innocence seems a bit — well — innocent.  In our case, innocence came largely from a combination of lack of experience and of knowledge.  We didn’t know that we stood for the take over of Central American countries and the support of Franco and Salazar as well as the Marshall Plan and remarkable courage and commitment of World War II.  We were too close to the WWII generation to have the historic separation that’s possible today.  So was much of the rest of the world: in Europe, South America, Africa — all over the world — the Kennedys had won hearts and minds.  It’s almost impossible to imagine in light of our standing in the world today.  And that’s part of the grief too.  Even though much of the anger at the US outside Iraq is based on a warped version of political correctness, we know the experience of riding from the glory of having “liberated” Europe through the Marshall Plan and the glory of the Kennedy outreach to the rest of the world.  Personally and publicly, John Kennedy validated all that we wanted to see in ourselves – all that we wanted ourselves, and our country, to be.  And today, despite all the revelations of the years since, 44 years and two days later, that’s still true.

Is 2016 the New 1968? Bernie Sanders, The Donald and Eugene McCarthy

McCarthy and Cindy 2
Election Night, New Hampshire Primary, 1968

They called us a lot of things.  “The Children’s Crusade” (an awful lot of us were college kids,)” “revolutionaries,” “dangerous  idealists,” sometimes even “traitors.”

Dump LBJ1We were the ones who responded to Allard Lowenstein’s call to”Dump Johnson” by drafting an anti-war candidate,  because, as he told us, “you can’t beat somebody with nobody.” We signed on to help to bring down President Lyndon Johnson and his Vietnam War with the only person willing to run, Minnesota Senator Eugene McCarthy.  And yeah, that’s me with that same Senator Eugene McCarthy. In 1968, in the middle of the night, in New Hampshire, when we kind of won* the New Hampshire primary.

Now observers of the movements behind both Senator Bernie Sanders and the Donald Trump/Ben Carson Republicans, have compared those campaigns to our efforts, and to some extent, to the rest of the 1960’s anti-war movement.  So.  What do we think?

SM-Bernie-sanders-crowd-phoenix
SANDERS Crowd, Phoenix, AZ

 

TRUMP crowd, Mobile AL
TRUMP crowd, Mobile AL

In 1968: We were desperate and felt we were losing our country – or at least its soul and moral place in the world.  We were doing it in someone else’s country and with cruel tools like napalm and cluster bombs.

2016: These campaigners, too, are desperate, and whether from right or left, feel they are losing their country.  Consider Sanders’ outrage and economic populism, calling out an economy he views as not only unjust but un-American; consider the huge response.

Consider the fevered reaction to Trump’s pledges to “Make America Great Again”, not only through his business acumen (and some horrifying immigration changes and racial provocation) but also through economic ideas that even Paul Krugman reluctantly acknowledges aren’t dumb.

1968: Vietnam was a life and death issue; the draft brought it home to every American, especially the young — and their parents and teachers and, gradually, much of the rest of America.

It’s always the old to lead us to the war
It’s always the young to fall
Now look at all we’ve won with the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all — Phil Ochs, I Ain’t Marchin’ Anymore

2016: Today, the life and death issue is the disintegration of the great American middle class that has long built and sustained this country (to say nothing of enabling a consumer economy that sustained growth for decades.) It’s a brutal blow to what Americans see the their birthright.  We all know the symptoms – underemployment, disappearing job security and benefits, and this, from a 2014 Pew report:

But after adjusting for inflation, today’s average hourly wage has just about the same purchasing power as it did in 1979, following a long slide in the 1980s and early 1990s and bumpy, inconsistent growth since then. In fact, in real terms the average wage peaked more than 40 years ago: The $4.03-an-hour rate recorded in January 1973 has the same purchasing power as $22.41 would today.

1968: We had very little faith in institutions (“the Establishment,”) from the government to the police to political parties, gigantic, impersonal universities, media that covered us with cruel disdain, and of course, the military.  With limited experience, we didn’t really understand the complicated issues that faced each of these entities – and our country – and exacerbated both its problems and every tragic mistake.  And though we were right about much of what we believed, we were pretty cavalier in the belief we knew how to fix things.

Although I was immunized by my steel town history, shared with kids who would never see a college or a white-collar job, many of my peers saw my classmates and neighbors simply as “hard hats” – lesser beings who needed us to instruct them.  Many didn’t consider the gap between our privileged lives and their own.

We also were enormously suspicious of a military governed by law, tradition and accountability to a commander-in-chief influenced not only by the legendary “best and the brightest” but also by a legacy including Soviet power, the “loss” of China to Communism and the fear that it might be replicated – and a political and personal story that was rapidly becoming obsolete.  That perceived rigidity and “Dr. Strangelove” stereotypes governed us.

2016: That same distrust of the Establishment informs the Tea Party but it has also touched also many, many other Republicans/Conservatives.  As one commentator observed: “They deeply believe that President Obama has ruined America.”  Beyond their rage at him come the usual suspects: politicians who care only whether they lost their own jobs, hopelessness, inability to pay for their children’s education, a cynical, uncaring media, the disappearance of decent, well-paying jobs, an emerging multicultural America where it’s hard to find one’s place and a chaotic present from Ferguson to Syria to the Hungarian border.

The Sanders people share a good deal of that distrust, beginning with the economic inequality, frozen wages and dead-end jobs at the heart of his message, but not ending there.  Add suspicion of the mainstream media (MSM), the police, college costs and crippling student loans, racism, sexism, union-busting and all the rest.

So yes, there’s plenty of common ground between that turbulent year and today.  And it’s hard to underestimate  how far we might have gone back then if we’d had the Internet.

Even so, I can’t vote YES on this one.  The initial 60’s activists believed in so much more.  So many moments have been declared the day “America lost its innocence” and certainly they chipped away at it: Vietnam, the assassinations of Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, the Chicago Democratic convention, Watergate, Irangate, the Clinton scandals, Oklahoma City, Challenger, the 1980 election and, of course, 9/11.  Those who have chosen action since those shattering events are almost a different species – at least those 40 and younger.

These losses also inform Trump and Tea Party voters, I think, as they try to turn back the clock and reconstitute an American that is no more.

As for the left, after years during which unions were decimated, blue-collar wages eviscerated, voting rights emasculated, women’s rights torn away and racial and religious tensions breaking every heart…  well, it sounds familiar but it’s so much tougher because what’s happening now has moved our country backward and the left is fighting to hang onto or reclaim lost rights, not win new ones.

It really doesn’t matter anyway.  Things look bad right now, and optimism, belief in the possibility of positive change… do you see it anywhere?

*Actually we only got 42% of the vote but that was so high against such a powerful politician and Democratic machine that it really was a “win” and caused him, a month or so later, to declare he would not “seek nor will I accept” the nomination to run for a second term.

July 28, 2008: The Dark Knight, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Dark U.S. Days and Politics



I used to see Christ symbols everywhere.  It drove my mother crazy; no matter what film or book, I'd find some kind of symbol in it.  And Christ symbols were fashionable then (Ingmar BergmanRobert S. Heinlein.)  So I guess it's no surprise that I found implanted meaning, this time political messages, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix  (the loss of Hogwarts students' freedom and rights to Dolores Umbridge) and the Lord of the Rings  – listen to this:

"It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were, and sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end it's only a passing thing. The shadow even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those are the stories that stayed with you. That really meant something. Even if you were too small to understand why, but I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. The folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn't. They kept going because they were holding on to something." "What are we holding onto Sam?" "That theres some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it's worth fighting for"- The Lord of The Ring– The Two Towers

Now The Dark Knight joins my array of political films.   Think about it.  Irrational evil — the Joker (the late Heath Ledger,as good as the reviews but somehow a bit Al Franken-esque)– drives Gotham City to such anxiety that its citizens are willing to surrender freedom and privacy and even to turn on their Bat-benefactor, to return order to their streets.  Sound familiar?  Throughout the film members of the community at large, as well as Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale), his beloved Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal,) DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) and even the sainted Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) face — and often fail — deep ethical temptations (including abusing prisoners — sound familiar?) — and, surprisingly, those who face the most horrendous choice are criminals and civilians whose behavior is far more laudable than that of any of us (including me) who know what's been done in our name in Iraq and have mourned but not acted to stop it.

[SEMI-SPOILER ALERT]  This gigantic challenge, issued from the Joker himself, is a formidable and hopeful moment in the film.  Many have written that the film is dark and without humor but I don't think so.  This scene, in particular – and I don't want to be too much of a spoiler — seemed to me to be there to remind us that there is always the potential for good.  Even so, the film is crammed with talk, as in Sam's speech to Frodo, and especially from the wise Albert (Michael Caine) of the pain and sacrifice required in the battle against the troubles ahead.

Maybe it's a reach, and I can hear your saying "Hey, it's ONLY a movie!" but there you are.

 

RePost – Don’t Gel’s Best of 2009 & Happy New Year: 2008, 1968, Our Country’s Journey, and Mine. Oh, and Thanks to Barack Obama for Turning on the Lights

New Hampshire Primary Election night
I came of age in 1968 (that's me on the right – New Hampshire election night.)  A civil rights idealist and anti-war activist, I was formed by the horrible events, remarkable activism and leadership of that critical year.  Forty years later, mostly because of Barack Obama, lost threads of memory emerged – all year long.  I'm very grateful for the opportunity to reconsider those times through the lens of this remarkable election.  Together they tell a story, or at least part of one, and I thought you might like to take this journey with me one more time as we move toward inaugurating the first black President of the United States, elected in the first real "Internet election"; abetted in great measure by a generation that seems, in many ways, a better, "new and improved" version of my own.

I'm going to start at the end though – the coming Inauguration, because I attended that of another "rock star" – John Kennedy, nearly fifty years ago – and all that came after was born that day.  The rest is in order and I think I'm going to ** my favorites. 

**The charismatic Robert Kennedy and first-comer Eugene McCarthy fought for the nomination in 1968.  When McCarthy shocked everyone with his March near-win in New Hampshire (that's the photo at the top), Lyndon Johnson pulled out,  guaranteeing that his Vice-President, Hubert Humphrey, would win the nomination and lose the election.  In 2008 the battle was between two equally disparate Democrats: Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. Having lived through the first disaster, I was horrified by the possibility of a second.  It would be too much to suffer that kind of heartbreak again.

**The spring and summer brought the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy.  I was with Senator McCarthy, in San Francisco the night Dr. King died; in LA that night Robert Kennedy was killed.  I was young, traumatized and in the middle of history.

That same summer, Senator Obama accepted the Democratic nomination on the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's great "I have a dream" speech at the March on Washington in 1963.  Again, the person I was reached out to the woman I have become.  Again, two points in history merged.

Meanwhile, throughout the year, the McCain campaign tried, often through Sarah Palin, to re-ignite the smoldering culture wars.

For the first time since 1968, since I had been a journalist for much of the time in between and done no campaigning or petition signing or much else that would be partisan activity, I went canvassing in Virginia
with friends, including a four-year-old who added enormous to each trip
and enchanted quite a few fence-sitters.  Each trip was an adventure, always interesting, often moving.

**Of course, Election Night meant a great deal to all of us, but for me, Obama's speech in Grant Park, where my friends had been beaten and bloodied in 1968, was a perfect "exorcism" of those indelible memories.

Toward the end of the year, Judith Warner wrote about her efforts to explain the election to her kids – and so did I.

One more thing.  A year-ender trip to London and Vienna once again reminded me, as the Obama Berlin trip had done, how much Europe has longed for the America that stood for decency and hope.  Barack Obama was named the first-ever Times of London Man of the Year.

So here we are.  I'm not sure if I'll ever have the gift of so many
reasons to remember gigantic events of the past, but this year
certainly provided plenty.  It was a wonder and a privilege.  My hope
now is that, as we move forward, the hope we've all sensed over these
past months will morph into a real sense of mission and purpose.  That
is what will take all this promise and, as we Americans have done so
many times, use it to move us forward to the place we long to, and need
to be.

Memories of Peter, Paul, and Mary Travers

Peter Paul and Mary 2

The first time I ever heard Peter Paul and Mary I was 15 and spending the summer at a writing program at Exeter Academy – the first year they ever let “girls” into the school at all. I remember loving Blowin’ in the Wind, If I Had a Hammer and of course, Puff.   I remember visiting another student’s home in Concord where her older brother, already in college, told me that the three were just “popularizers of Bob Dylan songs” and scornfully complaining  that I should be listening to Dylan not them.  (I didn’t find Bob Dylan until later – junior year, I guess.)  I thought he was nuts  To me, Peter Paul and Mary were an introduction to  music that was about things I cared about: civil rights, war, peace and love —  from a more political perspective.

From then on, through high school, into college and “out into the world” Peter Paul and Mary held a special place in my life.  We seemed to cross paths often.  We played their music all the time, of course.  My sister and I saw them at a summer concert in Pittsburgh (my long-suffering mom driving us, of course.)  I remember watching them sing at the 1963 March on Washington,  and later seeing them at Wolf Trap with a blind date.  And, most profoundly, I remember seeing them quite literally, save lives in Grant Park at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968.  Hordes of demonstrators were coming over a bridge into the part of the park right outside the Hilton.  There had been trouble, lots of trouble, for at least days and this would be another terrible confrontation.  Then, from nowhere, Peter, Paul and Mary started to sing.  The demonstrators slowly converged around their platform, diverted from certain misery.  It was quite a thing.

Here’s what else I remember.  Mary Travers herself, who died today.  She was a powerful model: not just her deep, resonant voice but also her powerful, sure presence, on stage and off. She was brave and funny and looked amazing.  We all knocked ourselves out trying to have straight hair like hers: ironed it, slept with it wrapped around orange juice cans.   She was a powerful presence.

Of course, part of her power, and that of Peter and Paul was their commitment.  Where they were needed, they came.  Civil rights marches, peace marches, the McCarthy presidential campaign” even regional and local union struggles.  It was a signal to the rest of us: if we can show up, so can you.  And we did.  As another friend wrote to me tonight:  “I just saw the news story.  Can’t believe how much of our history was tied up with them.”

Making my way out of my office, thinking about writing this, I started singing to myself: “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane.” But I couldnt finish.  I was close to tears.  It’s happened so often this summer – icons of my life fading from view.  Teddy Kennedy, Walter Cronkite, Robert McNamara, Don Hewitt, Ellie Greenwich, Patrick Swayze just yesterday, and now Mary.  Each representing so many lives; so many memories.

I keep writing here because somehow I don’t want to stop.  This ought to do it, though.  (The other guy is John Denver)

 

Back to the Future: Futurism at the Tate and 1968

Futurism

In the early 20th Century there was a band of wild men who created an entire new way of thinking about “Art.”  They were called Futurists and for those of you who took Art 11 and already know about them, I understand that I didn’t discover them – this being particularly true since they are currently appearing in a retrospective at the Tate Modern here in London.  AND for my penultimate (I think) post here I want to tell you about them because they were a real kick.

This painting, by Luigi Russolo, is called “The Revolt.”  On the right you can see “the people” pushing up against the hard line of the establishment.  It’s the same thing the Futurists themselves were doing.  Here’s their major “Manifesto.”

These are our final conclusions:

With our enthusiastic adherence to Futurism, we will:

  1. Destroy the cult of the past, the obsession with the ancients, pedantry and academic formalism.
  2. Totally invalidate all kinds of imitation.
  3. Elevate all attempts at originality, however daring, however violent.
  4. Bear bravely and proudly the smear of “madness” with which they try to gag all innovators.
  5. Regard art critics as useless and dangerous.
  6. Rebel against the tyranny of words: “Harmony” and “good taste” and other loose expressions which can be used to destroy the works of Rembrandt, Goya, Rodin…
  7. Sweep the whole field of art clean of all themes and subjects which have been used in the past.
  8. Support and glory in our day-to-day world, a world which is going to be continually and splendidly transformed by victorious Science.

 

The dead shall be buried in the earth’s deepest bowels! The threshold of the future will be swept free of mummies! Make room for youth, for violence, for daring!

 

As I wandered through, alone and more available for being by myself, (this one is Carra’s The Funeral of an Anarchist)  I felt that I knew these guys.  Yes they denigrated women (more on that in a second) but their rebellion, their anger, their passion, their desire to change everything – that was familiar.  Of course I never wanted to destroy; none of us did.  But the feelings of anger, of disappointment in the ways of the world, the desire to find new ways to say things, those were familiar — and swept me back to the determined, impassioned girl I was then.  I can only describe my reaction as delight.

 

You’re going to tell me that this is the kind of blind passion is just what was wrong with the 60’s.  And for those who transformed these feelings not into art but into primitive acts of violence – they were wrong then and they’re wrong now.  That’s what is so amazing about art.  You can act, and express, through representation instead of concrete acts of violence and hatred.  That’s what these enraged men did.  Meanwhile, the women artists were pretty angry, as you can imagine.  One of them, Valentine de Saint-Point, although she agreed with their ideas, had some of her own to go along with them.  Like this:

“Women
are Furies, Amazons, Semiramis, Joans of Arc, Jeanne Hachettes, 
Judith
and Charlotte Cordays, Cleopatras, and Messalinas: combative women who
fight more ferociously than males, lovers who arouse, destroyers who break down
the weakest and help select through pride or despair, “despair through
which the heart yields its fullest return.”  

I wish I knew more because there’s so much more to this; the impact of Cubism on all
of it, the way it affected artists in nation after nation, and, most of all, the sheer energy of
art that, instead of freezing a moment, seems to set it free and follow it.

Farewell to Eden Lipson, A Great Mother, Editor and Friend

Eden There were so many of us in 1968, joined to battle the Vietnam War by helping Eugene McCarthy run for president.  We lost the Senator several years ago, and Eli Segal, one of the best, soon after.  Today I learned of the loss of another of the dear ones, Eden Ross Lipson.  She died this morning of pancreatic cancer.  You can see from this photo that she was a woman who relished life and laughter.  Her greatest joys: her husband and her kids.

Although we shared a history from the campaign, we also shared some great lunches and adventures in Manhattan, where she had dozens of friends who loved and respected her.  Principled and kind, she was a joy and support to so many.

NYT kids books In her work as Children’s Book Editor of the New York Times Book Review, Eden produced what is still the classic work on children’s literature.  I knew her as she wrote the first edition; it was a real labor of love.  Her understanding of kids, of books and of writing and purpose made her an ideal guide for anxious parents and savvy librarians alike.

Her generosity went far beyond the love of children that made her such a great advocate for the joy they would find in their books.  It was she who gave me my first review assignment and it led to an entire side career as a book reviewer that lasted for years.  She was a tough and smart editor, too.

I remember my review of one of my favorites: Jane Yolen’s The Devil’s Arithmetic.  A time-travel Holocaust story, it is a beautiful book.  I submitted a very positive review.  Soon after, Eden called.  In a tone slipping between amused and professional, she reminded me that not all parents were as open as I was, and that I needed to add some kind of caution to parents who were more protective about at what age their kids were exposed to tough information.  She was right, of course.  I began an embarrassed apology.  Her response:  if people didn’t need editors she wouldn’t have a job!  I fixed the piece and it ran.    Later, it was Eden who connected me with the editor who published my first book.  She did it, as she did all things, with no expectation of reciprocal benefit.  These sorts of things are typical of the warmth and kindness she showed to everyone who knew her.

Life is strange.  Eden was someone I knew, respected and cared about.  I lost touch with her, as with so many others, when we moved to Los Angeles.  My life then just didn’t allow for working to stay connected; there were hard things happening and they made it difficult to think outside the immediate circumstances of my life.  And so I’m doubly sad as I struggle to write about a woman with such a mind, and a spirit, and a heart.

I’m comforted to know, though, that she had friends and family around her, supportive and caring, in her last days. That’s no surprise; it’s what she offered so many others.