Most of us reading this lived through the Flower Power age. It was a time when on campuses and in popular music both violent protests and naïve hope were prevalent. Right now I think I am experiencing what one of my boyhood idols, Yogi Berra, said, “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”
Surely one can see the eerie resemblance of the 60s to today’s protests, violence, and hope that we can make everything better with just a little more effort and faith. While we haven’t, as yet, had a modern Woodstock, we have had a recurrence of the violence that was present throughout that era, particularly in 1968 with the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, then the riots at the Democratic convention in Chicago (labeled a “Police Riot” by the Walker Report). Then just two years later the killings at Kent State by National Guardsmen.
Today we see police officers subject to being labeled as aggressors because of the actions of a few of their fellows. Back then we saw returning servicemen spat upon and cursed similarly for the actions of a few. Then we saw violent sub cultures like the Weather Underground and Black Panthers. Today we have looters and vandals that take away from the message. Then we had a peace movement called “Peaceniks” that believed that if the US would just lay down its arms, the Soviet Union would also disarm because they had no real agenda of aggression. War would miraculously end. Today we have folks calling for the police to be disbanded and maybe like Rodney King, live out his plea of “Can’t we all just get along?” (for a quick look at a community that has tried this check out https://www.foxnews.com/us/minneapolis-powderhorn-park-neighborhood-progressive-sworn-off-police-911-george-floyd)
Since I can’t understand most of the music of today (boy, do I sound like my father), I can’t draw a parallel to the songs of peace (Give Peace A Chance, Blowin in the Wind, Turn, etc.) or the songs of protest (I aint Marching Anymore, Universal Soldier, etc.) of that bygone time. However, I am confident that they are out there and others are being recorded as I write this.
It is my opinion that the need for a national look at Police recruitment, training, and tactics is long overdue and I hope we have one that is effective and produces a revolutionary change. Along with that, I hope that we take another look at the inequities in the justice and education system that so disadvantages minorities and the poor. But do I think that these changes will erase hatred, bigotry, and prejudice? Absolutely not. Sadly, I see that since we came out of the cave there have always been those among we humans that will seek to further themselves by oppressing, enslaving, and even killing others they deem lower than themselves. I read in the book of Jeramiah : “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” and know that what was true those thousands of years ago is still, painfully, true today.
Do I advocate giving up the fight for justice? Of course not. I think we need to be even more involved and more vigilant today. And, as Winston Churchill said at the outbreak of World War II, we must “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty — never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense”. October 29, 1941