Ponder this:

Friday, June 12, 2009


For Weekend Wordsmith: Protest

Way back in the last century when I was in college, I went on one war protest march. My roommate’s boyfriend drove her, me and a few other people to another campus eleven miles away to join a few hundred others. We walked five miles through the tiny village’s night, singing

“We shall overcome, we shall overcome, we shall overcome one daaaaaaayyyyy…Deep in my heaaarrrt . . . I do belieeeve . . . that we shall overcome sommmme dayyyy,”


“All we are saaayyying . . . is give peace a chance….”

We tried to sound mournful and patient and wise, as if we had suffered.

Village residents gathered along the street as if to watch a parade. I remember seeing a woman happily smiling as she watched us go by and not being sure how I felt about that: I thought she should either be joining us or be scowling in condemnation, but her happy smile made me feel a little foolish. It seemed to be the same smile that the grownups had smiled at me during the kindergarten Christmas program.

Students all over the country were protesting, some in far more vigorous ways and in far more violent circumstances. And there we were in a little North Country college town, doing our bit to end the Vietnam War.

I feel a little embarrassed now about that phase of my life. Hippie was a persona I tried on for a little while.

I had the worn, holey bellbottoms and a flag belt buckle but I never did get comfortable with the headband thing. My hair was too slippery, and I didn’t have the right face for the whole costume.

I might have been too clean.

And I hadn’t taken drugs: that sort of cut me out of the inner circle.

Later that night, one of the other girls in my dorm came to my room, breathless: “They’re saying the revolution started tonight!”

Oh man...

This might be the maunderings of an old woman, but greater than the silliness I feel when I think of that phase of my life is the disappointment that I feel about what appears to be the lack of interest on the part of young people in 2009. The drug use seems to have remained, but there’s no verve, no righteous outrage, no Group Think. Where’s the idealism that moved us in 1970? Maybe we Boomers were such a big age group that we had more of an identity as a political force. Maybe there have evolved better, more effective ways to protest? . . . although I don’t see any protest going on among young people, who certainly have reasons to protest something.

Everybody’s watching American Idol and America’s Got Talent and spending gazillions of dollars on electronic entertainment equipment. What happened?


Carolynn Anctil said...

I was born in 1961, so I missed the protest era. The few people I know in the younger generation seem to be more concerned with living green and seeking knowledge through the vast internet resource than marching or protesting. I think that they may have unwittingly hit upon one of the most effective methods of effecting change - by choosing how they spend their dollars.

I don't really know...I'm just thinking out loud. :o)

jabblog said...

Maybe the truth of it is that people have seen that protest marches, sit-ins, lock-ins don't work in the long run. They have an immediate impact, perhaps make the news headlines for one or two days but there is no immediate reaction from the people who make the decisions. I know young people still feel righteous indignation and anger but they also see what happens in some demonstrations - how peaceful bystanders get caught up and wrongly implicated.