A friend from my high school days I’m still in touch with recently sent me a package. I opened it up to find a note saying she had been rummaging in her basement and came across something she thought I might like to see. There, in remarkably fresh condition, lifted from the depths of the sinkhole of time without any visible traces of mold or mildew, was the bold black masthead on crisp white photo-offset paper of the last issue of Frox, the underground newspaper that we and several others published in 1967 – 1970. (For more on Frox, see It Was 40 Years Ago Today).
As I glanced through the vaguely familiar pages I winced and found that reading this issue out of context in 2016 was like being dropped by helicopter into a tumultuous moment in time – akin to entering a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and don’t have a 2016-1970 dictionary to help translate and even Google, which is fluent in 103 languages, is of no help. The exuberance of our youthful idealism was admirable but when viewed in the rear view mirror of historical context some of its glimmer is inevitably tarnished. In Dylan’s words from his classic My Back Pages,
Yes, my guard stood hard when abstract threats
Too noble to neglect,
Deceived me into thinking
I had something to protect,
Good and bad, I define these terms
Quite clear, no doubt, somehow
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I’m younger than that now.
History and time have taught us the changes we sought are not easy and don’t come over night. But this timely retrospective got me wondering how our younger (i.e., older) selves would have reacted to the political chaos of American presidential politics of 2016. How would we have handled the disappointment of Bernie’s near upset in this year’s Democratic primary?
Would we have had the maturity to understand and appreciate the incremental victory in moving Hillary and the Dems to the left and the importance of mobilizing to prevent at all costs the nightmare of electing a racist, xenophobic, fascist, nihilistic megalomaniac as president? Or would we have hopped on the Bernie or Bust jalopy whose windshield was so covered in the dirt of HRC’s unscrupulous campaign that we couldn’t see the highway for the campaign trail?
Back in 1968, Gene McCarthy was the Bernie Sanders style elder statesman and senator who stepped up to risk his political career and start a movement. Like Bernie, he quickly became a spokesman for progressive Democrats and galvanized huge support among those who were mobilizing against the Vietnam War. And like Bernie, Gene came up short in his bid to win the presidential nomination, but his victory to legitimize and build the movement against the war was huge. So much so that he caused LBJ, the sitting president to decide not to run for re-election.
McCarthy was not going to win the nomination but we were pretty damn angry after the Chicago convention because of the undemocratic, back room manipulations and brutality in the streets. If we were of age, we certainly wouldn’t have voted for Humphrey or Nixon in ’68…but Humphrey’s continuation of LBJ’s legacy is not comparable with Hillary continuing Barack’s; nor was Nixon (as evil as he was) comparable with today’s GOP nutcase nominee.
Fast forwarding to 2016, I hope that today’s youthful idealists, proud ‘neath heated brow don’t boycott the election or waste their votes on non-electable third party or write-in candidates. While it may not be black and white, there are enough shades of dark and light gray to clearly illuminate the choices at hand.
I don’t see a path for a GOP victory but it boggles my mind how closely Trump is polling. So a large voter turnout is critical to ensure Clinton’s victory over Trump, but even more importantly to take advantage of GOP vulnerabilities in House, Senate, State, and local races. The Republicans have shown over the past eight years that they have no interest in governing and in selecting the Donald they’ve gone totally off the rails – we should fully expect more of the same or worse if they maintain control of Congress and State governments.
Click below for Dylan along with Roger McGuinn, Neil Young, Tom Petty, Eric Clapton, and George Harrison at the 30th Anniversary Concert, Madison Square Garden, 1992.