Welcome to 1968

In a hateful white backlash against the progress made by minority people, a dangerous, narcissistic demagogue was elected president over an uninspiring, imperfect but relatively competent opponent who was turned into a cartoon villain by allies as well as enemies.

In response, the youth of the nation, who have been organizing to change American society from the ground up, built a counter-cultural movement to create a more just, fair, tolerant, peaceful and hopeful country — and a healthier planet.

I remember election night in 1968. I was five years old. The TV was black and white, and the returns came in on a primitive scoreboard with holes in it, and behind the holes, cylinders with the 10 digits on them. As the cylinders rolled and rolled, for Nixon, Humphrey and Wallace, my dad’s expression grew more and more grim. He always said he went to the Philippines (where I was born in 1963) a McCarthy Conservative and came back a Humphrey Liberal.

Now we just have to avoid ’72. As you recall, that’s when the demagogue was reelected in a landslide against George McGovern, setting the stage for the Republican revolution of the ’80s. I don’t remember that election. I was nine and living in Thailand, where we didn’t get much American news, and I only read the funnies in the English-language papers.

We have certain advantages that may help us avoid that fate: demographic changes that favor liberalism, a strong majority who didn’t vote for Trump, other odious Republican leaders like Ted Cruz, and the benefit of hindsight, which shows clearly that American conservatism has been a failure.

I’ve always looked forward to the day that the counterculture would resurface, and here we are. I always liked the hippies. (Heck, I live in a quasi-commune). They were like older siblings to me, the college kids my dad taught in his classes. He liked them too, and became even more liberal with age. I looked up to them and thought they were moving the country in a better direction, but when the Boomers became yuppies and Reaganites in the 1980s, I was done with ’em.

Now it’s time for the kids to start leading us again, joined by women (who are mad as hell right now) and members of minority groups. American Indians already got the new era started in North Dakota, and African-Americans in the cities with the Black Lives Matter movement.

White liberal males like me have been far too complacent, letting others fight for their rights while too often sitting on the sidelines and enjoying our privilege. It’s time for us to start carrying water for a new generation of women and minority leaders, to get in line behind them and follow with all our might.


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