Friday, October 8th, was the 41st anniversary of the three days during the late-60′s counter-cultural movement referred to as the “Days of Rage”. In short, it was a time when the youth at the center of the Students for a Democratic Society organized themselves in an effort to violently protest what they perceived to be or simply labeled American “Imperialism”.
Given that our nation is, in large part, now being governed by these very lunatics and the people who have come to believe in their ideology, I think it’s important that we explore some of the elements that led to their unbalanced mindset. Especially now, as it seems we have a chance to take the first baby-step on the journey of a thousand miles that is the undoing of the damage that has been done to our country.
One of the many things that I’ve learned over the course of the last few years is that the Progressive movement and ideology goes back at least a century, if not considerably further. I mention this because when I first began my quest for knowledge of our political history, I always had this sense that the flower children of the late sixties were in large part responsible for the development (or lack thereof) of the ensuing four decades.
I eventually discovered that I was both wrong and right. The “days of rage” that came out of places such as Haight-Ashbury and Chicago were merely the latest and most glaring manifestation of the permeation of leftist ideals in our culture, with the possible exception of the political conflagration against which we find ourselves currently struggling.
So, what did lead our young people to behave in such a completely astonishing fashion? Was it that they were merely far and away more naturally intelligent and decades ahead of us?
Well, if one is to define more “intelligent” and “refined” as the obliteration of as many social and sexual mores as possible, ingesting nearly any and all psychedelic drugs on which they could lay their precocious little hands, in addition to utilizing and rationalizing terrorist tactics as a legitimate political tool, then yes — I suppose they were the vanguard of a whole new sense of sophistication.
(I, on the other hand, have other terms to which I’d like to apply to that generation, but none of them are fit to print here. I choose to be a decent person.)
So, if not because of their record-breaking intelligence, why did they behave in such a fashion? Against whom was their “rage” directed?
Of course, those who directly participated in the events of that turbulent time–Bill Ayers, Mrs. Ayers, Jeff Jones, etc., along with their ideological and sycophantic descendants who have fallen for their mental terraforming–will no doubt claim that they were merely fighting the harsh injustices embedded in the cultural fabric of big, bad America.
Gosh, I wish we could always have warriors like that to protect us.
Me? Well, I’m just a really simple guy, one who is clearly incapable of comprehending the nuances at the heart of the injustices that are practiced by capitalists throughout the United States. Nevertheless, I do have an opinion on the issue, one that absolutely took my limited IQ to the breaking point in trying to somehow form it and actually put cogent ideas to paper. So, here goes.
First, we should acknowledge that there are far more social factors that go into what culminated as the “Days of Rage” than what I’m going to explore here. That, however, does not mean that I will fail to make my point. I’d like to begin by looking at one of the effects of the Great Depression, a crisis if there ever was one. As a result of that sharp-edged and very real sense of financial desperation endured by millions of people in America and, to some extent, around the world, many of them emerged from that time convinced that socialism or communism was, in fact, the answer to avoiding the large-scale peaks and valleys in the economic cycle – strict regulation. Little did these people seem to understand that the Great Depression was in itself a testament to the failure of those policies. But I digress.
Many (but certainly not all) of the young people who decided 41 years ago that destroying the city of Chicago would be a pretty cool idea were children of socialist/communist parents. They would probably have truly seen the capitalist system as “evil” and imperialistic, simply because their outlook on life had understandably been shaped by the people who should be primarily responsible for shaping it – their parents, in the home.
I do actually find it funny, though, that the people who inhabit the far-left of the political slider would like nothing more than to destroy the concept of the family unit. But, once again, I digress.
The other factor in attempting to understand the mindset of these really angry kids was the larger context of the Baby Boom generation. While I’ve never confirmed the demographic statistic that I’m about to mention, believe me when I tell you, I’ve tried; I merely recall having heard and discussing this as part of a lecture during a Western Civilization class (the nerve of me) in college. It was simply this: in 1968, the United States had the greatest number of seventeen-year-olds, before or since, in its history. Combine that with the larger demographic – say 16-24, for example – and what do you have? A pressure cooker of adolescents and young adults who, just by the very nature of their current biological, physiological, and psychological state-of-life, were all simultaneously rebelling against whatever “system” they could find.
Further, the vast majority of these young people were children of privilege (which would actually be rather strange if their parents were communists), the direct result of the hard work and family values of fathers who had returned home from fighting for the freedoms that their families would enjoy and having internalized the sense of personal responsibility that comes from military discipline. One of the problems that emerged from that, however, was that the parents of these young people were determined that their children would never experience the hard times that they themselves had during the Great Depression, consequently making sure that their children never wanted for a thing and more often than not got what they wanted. Today, we generally refer to it as “spoiled rotten”.
Am I painting this with a decidedly broad brush? Admittedly, to a certain extent, I am; those who truly understand many of the factors in the social stew of the late-60′s, though, know that there’s a lot of truth to what I’m saying.
In short, I see a generation of spoiled children who were all basically reaching the turning point in life at which they were expected to take on responsibility for themselves. In other words, they had to work. And, it seems, they weren’t very happy about it.
Now, let’s place this up against the basis of what the Founding Fathers put together for us. What “freedom” were they espousing, exactly? That’s simple – they wanted as little government interference involved in the lives of private citizens as humanly possible, because they rightly saw that once government begins to grow and individuals begin to make more and more political connections tied to power, we end up with a very tangled web, indeed.
So, after what kind of “freedom” were the angry young people at Woodstock and the like? That’s a little more complex but ultimately rather easy to understand: they were after freedom from an abstraction – culture – or, in what is probably a better way to put it, “freedom from what’s expected”. We adults call it “personal responsibility”.
When I was in high school and I first started to learn about that turbulent time, I remember wondering why these people were so vociferously against the concept of government. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I finally understood that these people weren’t anti-government protesters – they basically all wanted state jobs, jobs at which little work and productivity is ever really demanded, and long, two-martini lunches are the norm. Any politician who could help them to procure such easy lifestyles would most certainly get their vote. Why do you think so many of them became tenured teachers and college professors? Another easy answer: so that they could live out their perpetual adolescence and continue to live the protest life, ensuring that the rest of the world would see their protests as much more refined and high-minded. If some people have to be injured or worse in order for them to get their way, well, sometimes one must break a few eggs to make an omelet.
And don’t forget – I’m a teacher of 18 years. I merely call them as I see them. Honesty is a habit that I just can’t seem to break.
In the end, the “rage” – I like to refer to it as a tantrum – was all about expressing their displeasure with their parents for no longer “taking care of them” or with America as the parent of the Western World. Of course, in order to provide cover for what they undoubtedly understood to be petulance on their own part – at least at a near-unconscious level – they needed “noble” causes. So, their personal struggle with immaturity became a struggle for the oppressed – the African-Americans, the poor, American imperialism, etc., etc.
Today, their children – or maybe we could say the ideological “grandchildren” of Haight-Ashbury – have joined their parents to bring America to the breaking point.
Here’s a few things upon which the Woodstockers can chew as we enter into what will (hopefully not) be the next coming of the “Days of Rage”, those being the several weeks leading up to the single-most important mid-term election in American history:
1) Nikita Khrushchev once remarked that his greatest work was the influence that he brought to bear on the 1960′s American youth during the Vietnam War;
2) If it makes any of you feel better, I do, indeed, see you as “different” and “special”;
3) If you did, in fact, see yourselves as the vanguard of a new America, then I feel free to tell you this: I and millions of others in this country right now see ourselves as the tip of the sword in bringing the old one back.
You have our attention, but you may end up regretting your outbursts.