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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Do we need to do 1968 again?

Grant Park, Chicago, August 1968
Paris, May 1968

1968 was a tumultuous year,   It was the year, after many as a newspaper editor, that  I became a college professor.  Students throughout the world were rioting violently.  May 1968 is noted as the month that changed French culture and society.  That August is when student protesters and Chicago police clashed in Grant Park during the Democratic convention.  The young people of the world were leading a revolution.

Many factors were driving the revolution:  civil rights, LBGT rights, women's equality and liberation, economic inequality, and numerous other social issues.  Nations which claimed to subscribe to democracy and its premises of liberty, equality, and justice for all weren't living up to their pretenses.  Young people thought it was time to correct the fraudulent claims,  even if it meant tearing the countries down.  They had the support and encouragement from many older people, too.

We have come to that point again.  There have been massive demonstrations since Trump's election to express objections to his perfidy and constant lying.  They have been peaceful demonstrations that quickly pass out of mind as the news cycles focus on Trump and his distractions.  

The recent walkouts by teachers have reminded us of the hard facts of making voices heard:  peaceful demonstrations are ineffective.  When teachers ask for better pay,  they are met with the usual dismissals of working nine months a year, getting paid better than stable hands,  etc.  But when the teachers walked out, they disrupted communities in ways that affected families and officials and demanded that they be taken seriously.  Over the years, a significant number of teachers have left the profession for better pay, while schools districts struggle to fill vacant teaching positions.  The walkouts have been effective because parents had to find ways to deal with their children when schools were not in session.  It gave them a taste of what life would be like if there was nobody to teach and tend to their kids during the day.  And the teachers were organized and held firm rather than accept compromises.  That made officials realize that they were no longer dealing with groups which could be cowed by the usual dismissive and insulting rhetoric.

The determination of teachers is an indication of the growing dissatisfaction and exasperation with the current status quo within the general population.  So far, police have managed to keep protesters and anti-protesters apart to keep matters peaceful for the most part, but they know that with the size of some protests, they would be overwhelmed if the participants decided to get violent.  Being nice and calm is not accomplishing anything and people are asking,  "What's the point?"

While Trump has a base of supporters that give him a sense of legitimacy,  the polls indicate that a plurality thinks that Trump contradicts the basic premises that define America and meets none of those defining  moral and intellectual qualities.  Trump to them is anti-America.  When joined with documented incidents of unarmed men being gunned down and police being called on people of color for no good reasons, there is a deadly aspect of the divide in America that is goes far beyond differences of political opinion.

The malice in Trump's tweeted statements reflects the malice with which factions within the U.S. regard each other.  They declare themselves to be enemies.  And the presence of arms and hatred and mass shootings sets up the volatile conditions of war.  Propaganda and rhetorical analysts  warn that we have reached the exploding point.  The nation is primed for riot.  Some event or word will convince people that the nation must be torn down. It looks as if we'll have a vert hot summer.

1 comment:

Porter Lansing said...

I love it when you write like this. It makes my SDS card quiver in the drawer. Vermillion, Sioux Falls and Aberdeen were our local fronts for Vietnam protest and draft card burning. Helping stop the war is in the top three proudest political accomplishments of my life.
~ "peaceful demonstrations are ineffective"
~ "The nation is primed for riot. Some event or word will convince people that the nation must be torn down. It looks as if we'll have a very hot summer."
Outstanding ✯✯✯✯✯ (you didn't even need to use the word "pig")

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States