Friday, June 02, 2017

Relatively Recent Roots Of Standing Up To Trumpism-- The Sixties


My old friend Danny Goldberg, a father of two kids who seem to adore him whenever I see them together, runs a very hands-on successful business. And he still manages to find the time to write thought-provoking, insightful books. His newest one, In Search Of The Lost Chord-- 1967 And the Hippie Idea, brought me back to the time when I-- as well as Danny-- was coming of age. 1967 was 50 years ago-- a lifetime... and part of my own formative years. That summer I hitch-hiked to Mexico City with my friend Bob and came back to New York via San Francisco where I had slept on a stair in a Haight Ashbury crash pad and took acid in a school bus that wound up at an outdoor Grateful Dead concert on the other side of a bridge, probably Marin.. but who knows?

In her NY Times book review this weekend, 1967: A Year In The Life Of Idealism And Anarchy, Sheila Weller admires Danny's determination to treat the "hippie idea" seriously with "a thorough, panoramic account of the culture, politics, media, music and mores of the year to demolish the idea that it was trivial... Goldberg moves from the province of privilege (Time magazine estimated that there were 300,000 self-identified hippies in America in 1967, mostly white and middle class) to the fight against segregation in the South and the rise of the Black Power movement and the Black Panthers. He deals consummately with the power players in the antiwar movement and S.D.S. At times the book feels overpacked. Still, that flaw hides a virtue: proving that so much activism and passion can be crowded into barely more than a single year. When Goldberg was writing his book, that might have been a useful message. Today, in Trump’s America, with a fueled and gathering resistance, it is a potentially mirroring one."

Last month, Danny penned an essay for The Nation, We Have Seen Times This Dark Before-- Here’s How We Fought Back that elegantly makes the point that "1967 offers many lessons for those who want to counter Trumpism." He reminds his readers something that an icon of that era, Martin Luther King, said shortly before he was assassinated: "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that." How hippie is that! And how needed to face down the Trump Regime!

1967 was worse than 2017-- at least so far. 50,000 of us were killed fighting in Vietnam. Nixon was formulating the Southern Strategy that led right to Señor Trumpanzee. "Today’s alt-right," wrote Goldberg, "has its antecedents in slave owners, plutocratic haters of FDR, and the John Birch Society. J. Edgar Hoover, Paul Ryan’s idol Ayn Rand, and Trump’s mentor Roy Cohn who were all alive and spewing poison in 1967. Trump is not the first president to invite speculation about his mental health."
Like Trump, President Johnson demonized the media, telling Goodwin (without offering any evidence), “The communists control the three major networks and the 40 major outlets of communication.” LBJ bad-mouthed the New York Times to Georgia Senator Herman Talmadge: “There are two or three Jewish boys there that are-- according to our phone taps-- on the communist side of this operation.”

...What are the lessons from 1967 for those opposed to Trumpism? In Todd Gitlin’s book The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, the word “resistance” appears 88 times. It is not clear, in retrospect, that more confrontational tactics did anything to help the cause. Gitlin acknowledges that as the Vietnam War became increasingly unpopular with the American public, so did the anti-war movement. Alienation and rage without positive inspiration spawn apathy, which strengthens the unrepentant right wing. As Ken Kesey and Jerry Garcia, among others, pointed out in the ’60s, protest rooted in anger and polarization-- even if temporarily cathartic-- usually backfires and creates more darkness than it dissipates. As Naomi Klein suggests in her new book title, No Is Not Enough, the left needs to express a consistent alternate positive vision in broadly understandable cultural language.

Secondly, there must be a reduction in tribal schisms. The divide between the “counterculture” that focused more on inner changes and the “revolutionaries” who focused more on political protest helped neither progressive political goals nor a moral/spiritual balance. Among political radicals, the infighting was so chronic that Che Guevara referred to the American left as a “circular firing squad.” One of the primary tactics of the FBI COINTELPRO programs aimed at weakening the anti-war and civil-rights movements was to foment internal discord.

It was no accident that the DNC e-mails that were curated for media consumption by WikiLeaks and whoever aided them focused on fanning the flames of resentment between supporters of Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. (One encouraging sign is Sanders and new DNC Chair Tom Perez’s unity tour.)

A third lesson from the ’60s is that liberal elites need to respect the energy and insights of youth if they want to win. In 1967 as now, the younger generation was the most progressive and largest in history, and yet was largely ignored by most Democrats. (In Shattered, the recently published account of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, only a single paragraph refers to efforts to communicate with millennials, a reference to an ad Sanders filmed in support of Clinton that was never aired).

Finally, there needs to be a balance between action that addresses immediate suffering, and the long-term consciousness-raising that is required to make lasting changes.

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At 11:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

coupla things:

In 1967, "only" a few thousand had actually died in viet nam. The tally of 50K was reached in '73 after escalations and so on.

Yes there are some parallels.

Let me reminisce and contrast also:

In the '60s we were better educated (yes!) and far more passionate. Today: stupid and largely ambivalent.
And when the establishment smote down everything we wanted, we went ahead and proceeded as though they just caved in -- we ignored them. Today: we bitch and whine and go fetal... and then vote for R or D who will never be with us/US.
We had rock music (and some other genres) doing some very clever things for our side. It helped a great deal. Today: Green day is about it.
Johnson's bitching about the media notwithstanding, in the '60s we had JFK and him promoting "Great Society" reforms for equality and altruism. Today: nobody with any weight doing dick for anyone but themselves and their donors. All Great Society and most New Deal stuff will be dead and buried by the end of this decade, and we'll respond by re-electing all of both parties wielding shovels.
In '67, the Rs had Everett Dirkson, who cared about the nation and the commons. Today: nobody. Not *SINCE* Dirkson.

At 5:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

And leave us never forget that it was Everett Dirksen's REPUBLICANS who provided the votes to pass the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts. President Johnson understood that the white population of the former Confederacy, in their rage and stupidity (a lovely pairing, eh), would blame him and his party for these reversals of the way things always were.

Fifty years ago we had a real left wing: the brothers Berrigan, Mario Savio, Black Panthers, Weathermen/Weatherunderground, et al. They were all flawed messengers, but they gave us intellectual and action models on which we could build a vision for the country's future. Today we have Chomsky, and he speaks in hushed tones.

I've never said this before: O, to be twenty again!

At 7:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good augmentation, 5:31. The southern Ds were livid with "their" guy, LBJ, pushing both of those "great society" reforms. And, yes, it was Dirksen and other Rs who passed it, after a lot of infamous one-on-one arm-twisting by LBJ.

Yeah, I omitted the laundry list of "militant" groups and their ACTIONS, like sit-ins and such.

I personally enjoyed an afternoon in the pokey after being swept up in a police net that caught 5 or 6 hippie-pot-smokers with 2 cheesy anti-war signs who decided to rest at a park where I was playing basketball. Nobody had any pot left, nobody had ID, nobody resisted... they let everyone go after a few hours.

At 10:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Goldberg's "determination to treat the 'hippie idea' seriously with "a thorough, panoramic account of the culture, politics, media, music and mores of the year to demolish the idea that it was trivial... "

I, too, came-of-age during (or, perhaps, because of) that period.

From my observation since, I'd say "the Hippie idea" can hardly be considered to have been trivial. To this day reich wingers NEVER miss an opportunity to bash the "filthy hippies."

The Hippies upset the conservatives' peaceful attitude of numb obedience to authority and confronted them with the notion of thinking for themselves --- not an activity they find pleasureful, useful or to be allowed in "their" democracy.

Since then, and in concerted reaction, there has been a steady, persistent, vicious conservative program to stamp out all the critical societal elements (education, independent thinking, etc) necessary to maintain a true representative government.

The result was the choice afforded voters in November 2016.

John Puma

At 10:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I presume YOU, JP, are using "choice" ironically?

At 12:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 10:31 AM

To put a finer point on it, I'd say it's less irony and more seething contempt.

In a recent DWT post I referred to the situation thus: "When the only 'choice' that 'your Democracy' affords you is HRC and Herr Hair, then 'your Democracy' has already been monumentally 'ratfucked' ... "

John Puma

At 7:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, JP. Veritas.
But you must realize that we have well and truly ratfucked ourselves.

At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anon @ 7:17,

Not necessarily.

I'm willing to continue the discussion but not now as this thread is about to disappear from the page and I cannot figure out how to locate recent articles in the site archive.

Bring it up on a new post.



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