Thursday, January 27, 2005

The '60's are Dead, Long Live the '60's!

To further understand the conservative agenda, one must recognize the true point of origin for its wrath--the decade that ushered in the end of hierarchy and conformity in American and world politics--the 1960's.

The 1960's are the conservatives' favorite whipping boy, the source of all that has gone wrong with the American experiment. The 1960's are the headline atop the great "backlash myth" as Thomas Frank explains it in What's Wrong With Kansas? , the holy grail of conservative politics.

Liberals must ask ourselves, and our conservative friends, why this is the case. Moral blowhards like William Bennett will be quick to point us to their narrowly constructed list of "moral indicators" and the "decline" of these factors that began when the evil 1960's unleashed their unvaunted rage and rebellion against God's America by protesting the Vietnam War, kicking God out of our schools, encouraging free love and hippy communes, and perhaps worst of all, daring to question the White Christian Male Right To Rule. During the 1960's, that unAmerican institution of "The Courts" began to be used to increase the rights available to all Americans when its executive and legislative institutions failed to respond.

But conservatives will undoubtedly point to things like, "well, teen pregnancy increased, out of wedlock births increased, divorces increased, school violence increased, drug use increased, marriages decreased, abortions increased, disrespect for authorities increased" and so on. For conservatives, America before the 1960's was heaven on earth, where peace, love, joy and unquestioning obedience to the powers that be existed, undisturbed by such ideas as social democracy, freedom of expression, opposition to unjust wars, civil rights, and diversity. Whatever America did on the world stage was perfect and holy. Americans and their institutions were godly and upright. Now, undoubtedly, some of these measures conservatives will recite will have some truth to them. But, as Donald Rumsfeld might say, "Hey, freedom and democracy are 'messy' ".

Now, as it happens, I wasn't birthed until 1966, so I can't speak from experience about the years before 1960. But, thankfully, history has managed to record a few things I think bring into question the great conservative claim about the pre-1960 era. There was slavery of course for the first 74 years of our constitutional history, segregation for the 100 years following that, and of course the violence and hatred needed to keep segregation in place.

Before the 1960's, if you're weren't a member of the state religion, you were ridiculed, harrassed, and forced to engage in religious worship anyway. The separation of church and state became a reality.

Before the 1960's, America's right to war was unquestioned, its moral superiority and "exceptionalism" in the world unchallenged by students, professors, or press alike.

Before the 1960's, women were relegated pretty much to the kitchen.

Before the 1960's, people of color didn't enjoy the same rights and protections as white Americans. At this point I'm tempted to say that blacks and other racial minorities contributed as much to society as whites in that they served and died in combat, paid taxes, and maintained families just as other Americans. But that would be to suggest that our rights are earned. I don't believe they are. Thomas Jefferson and many of the constitutional framers didn't believe that either (at least not when they were busy justifying their rebellion against British rule). They believed we were all endowed by our Creator with inaliable rights. For many Americans, this vision hadn't become a reality until the 1960's.

Before the 1960's, it wasn't "politically correct", to use a revived conservative concept, to speak out against the actions of government or those of certain groups where injustice, cruelty, and oppression were ignored or condoned. Now, it is (or until Faux News tell us it isn't).

Conservatives loved the pre-1960 era when they could do what they want and assume that everyone else would either agree with them or not question them if they didn't. Those days are over, and understandably, conservatives are angry.

But Bulworth says liberals should contest the conservatives' treatment of the 1960's and challenge the conservatives' attempts to roll back the clock on civil rights and democratic freedoms. Liberal should challenge attempts to demonize "rights", privacy, and the democratic use of the court system for what they are, conservatives' attempts to recreate their dominant past.

Bulworth says, tell the conservatives to get over the 1960's and recognize their day in the sun is over. When conservatives speak badly of our friend, the 1960's, remind them of what America was really like before then.

The 1960's rocked. So Bulworth says, tell the conservatives to stick it.


2 comments:

mondale/ferraro foreva! said...

yes! long live the 60s!

the randy dero said...

I was born in 1949, and in the fifties I felt some racial inequality and hated it. I have no right to make anybody else feel the way I felt that day. Come the sixties and I supported the sexual revolution. I still do. I am proud to say I refused to get drafted. I still haven't met an asian I want to kill, which justifies my stance. I marched in anti-war rallies. I drank to excess and smoked grass, I chased women and got into fights, probably as you've done, but i was a part of that action. After doing my bit for a womans right to drink and smoke, and to screw who/where/when she wants, I feel I have achieved more than the conservatives have.