Following is the essay you can designate as Volume 10, Number 22 of
This Week’s Clue, based on the e-mail newsletter I have produced since
March, 1997. It would be the issue of May 28.
Now is the winter of our discontent,
Made glorious summer by this son of York
(That’s Ian McKellan, whom your kids know better as Gandalf from Lord of the Rings,to the right, in a 1992 production of Richard III., by Shakespeare. He played Richard.)
Every season in America is different.
Some are good, some bad, and some horrible.
The really, really horrible seasons
come about once in a generation. They are horrible in the eyes of
their beholders, the adult voters of the time.
They are horrible not just because of
events, but the hopelessness most people feel in the face of those
events. We feel powerless, impotent, and we fear there are no answers
I point this out because, to many early
Baby Boomers (or those born during World War II) the height of the last crisis, the summer of 1967,
was a really good time. It was the carefree “Summer of Love,”
and it is often seen to have been that way, still, in the misty
chords of memory called nostalgia.
But to the vast majority of those who
lived through it, to your parents, the Summer of 1967 was a horrible,
horrible season. It was the summer when Robert McNamara, architect of
the War in Vietnam, the very best among The Best and the Brightest, realized the strategy was not working.
It was the summer of riots in Newark
and Detroit. (While you were off getting stoned, this was what was on the cover of Time.)
And of course it was the summer of
hippies. Your parents didn’t approve. Not then, not later.
Many beliefs were cast in stone by the
events of that time. The idea of a “generation gap” was cast in
stone. The belief in suburbs and the distrust of cities was cast in
stone. The distrust of the media was cast in stone, as was the
distrust of academics. It can be said, now, that the real “enemies
list” of the Nixon Administration was written, that summer, by his
and George Wallace’s future supporters – college kids, journalists,
liberals, blacks, academics, urban-dwellers – Dirty Fucking Hippies
every one of them, from that day to this.
A whole generation saw its revenge. The
cities withered. The hippies were cast out. Academics were replaced
by think tanks in the creation of policy. Liberal became a cuss word.
Journalists became the enemies of truth. Progress for poor blacks
halted, it even reversed. We are still, in fact, dealing with the
after-effects of these decisions, 40 years later.
There have been other, similar summers.
The summer of 1931. The summer of 1895. The summer of 1859. Each cast
in stone the attitudes, the alliances and the hatreds of the
generation which lived through them. The Depression Generation. The
Populist Generation. The Civil War Generation. Each generation, in
its feeling of powerlessness, created its own set of enemies, its own
set of alliances, its own sets of myths and values, and assumptions
That’s the process which is taking
place today. Events too horrible for words are upon us. The cradle of
civilization is being destroyed at our hands. Gas costs $3.50 per
gallon. Don’t get sick. The air is filled with smoke. Where are the
bees, or the singing birds? The nation is going bankrupt, while
billionaires party like it’s 1999. The government is lying to us, and
the nominal opposition to that government is caving in to the lies.
We seem to be ruled by the Paris Hiltons of the world.
These events are going to cast new
myths and values in the American mind, assumptions that will play
out, in public policy, not just through the 2008 election but for a
generation of elections yet to come. I will most likely be dead
before these assumptions play out. My teenage children will be older
than I am, now, before these assumptions play out.
What are these assumptions? It’s hard
to be certain, but since I am part of the movement seeking these new
assumptions, let me take a stab at it:
- The need for consensus, not just a
- A demand for the Earth.
- Trust the Internet, not the cable.
- Republicans are liars and conservative ones, evil.
- The War Against Oil.
It is hard, from this vantage point, to
see these as assumptions, as ideas that may drive policy for a day,
let alone a generation.
But these are the big ideas of our
The way from here will not be easy. The
1859 and 1967 generations were scarred by war. The 1895 and 1931
generations were scarred by Depression.
We are being scarred by something much,
much worse – the potential destruction of this planet we call home.
Global warming is real. The mass extinction of species is real. The
mass migration of people is real. It is, indeed, a small world after
These are scary thoughts. And when we
look at our leaders, obsessed by Iraq, driven ever-forward by the
Cold War assumptions of the Nixon Thesis, completely blind to the
reality all around them, it makes us depressed. Angry. Discontented.
Remember these feelings. Use these
feelings. Act on these feelings. The instincts of the majority of the
American people are right. The media and government, locked in the
past, are wrong. They must be cast out, and replaced by what we know
to be true.
Welcome to the real 1967 Game.