Tuesday, 19 August 2014

What year is this?

I don't make any secret of the fact that I'm on the wrong side of 50; which means I grew up in the 1960s.

It was a tumultuous time both socially and politically.  CNN has been airing a series recently about the decade; even casual viewing of a few of the episodes would give you some sense of the events that unfolded during the period.

Over the past few months, events that have been taking place around the world are sad echoes of the times now half a century behind us:  civil unrest in the United States, war in the Middle East, and Russian aggression toward their neighbours being the most obvious examples.  Every night, the television newcasts would broadcast grainy black and white pictures of decimation in Vietnam, helicopters spraying deadly chemicals to clear dense vegetation where the enemy hid, soldiers toting automatic rifles, and frightened citizens gazing into the camera lens with desperation writ large on their faces.

As I wrote in a blog post last fall, it is a sad fact that the earliest memories I have of my life are of the events surrounding President Kennedy's assassination, the first of four that rocked the landscape of civil rights in the US.  During the year of Canada's Centennial, I watched Golda Meir, Prime Minister of Israel, defend her country's preemptive attack on its neighbours; less than a year later, I sat in my grandparents' living room as they made desperate phone calls to Czechoslovakia - calls that couldn't be completed - while watching tanks roll into Prague on TV.  Shortly after that, I was on an airplane travelling from London to Dublin when it was announced that Senator Bobby Kennedy had been assassinated in Los Angeles.

The Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana famously wrote " Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

Watching the news these past few months, is it any wonder that I might feel that I have been transported back to the 1960s and we are, indeed, repeating our past?

How I know I'm NOT back in 1968:  the American protestors are almost uniformly black - back then, they were mostly white; the lack of protest music on mainstream radio (yes, I mentioned 60s music, so sue me); and the fact that television coverage is 24/7, thanks to our instant-news age, rather than doled out in 30-second bites of sound and fury.

Most importantly - most of the nuclear arsenals of the world have been dismantled and we no longer live in fear of atomic bombs dropping on us.

I have no answers - I wouldn't know where to begin to find them.  While I don't believe in god, the words of PF Sloan, songwriter of the 1965 song "Eve of Destruction" and member of The Grassroots, hold true:

"The song contained a number of issues that were unbearable for me at the time. I wrote it as a prayer to God for an answer."

If I don't stop now, this blog entry will begin to ramble, but the situation in Ferguson, Missouri spurs me to think of these words of Winston Churchill:

"...it is the people who control the Government, not the Government the people."

It's time for the governments in the United States, in Russia, in Palestine, in Israel, in Iraq, even in "Red China" (to reference that song again) to learn this lesson; learn it well, and learn it FAST!

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