There is Silence in the Streets; Where Have All the Protesters Gone?
There is very little in this world I hate more than editorials like this.
There's very little need for me to comment, though, because lots of good folks have done it for me.
Blue Crab Boulevard says it:
Andrew Rosenthal, in the New York Times, makes a plaintive lament about the lack of protesters in the streets today. Ah, the good old days of marching in the streets, revolution in the air, teach-ins, sit-ins and all the est of the fun and games of that era. ...
Laments like this reveal more about the person making the comments than about the world as it is. Rosenthal mourns that there is no draft to motivate the young to rise up. What Rosenthal doesn't admit, or remember is that it wasn't all heady idealism. There were also riots and bombings in some places. Many of the protests had much more than just an anti-war agenda, many were openly pro-communist. Many more protesters wanted not just the end to the Vietnam war, they had other political irons in the fire. A good portion of the protesters were swept along by the enthusiasm - they were not really true believers.
In the rose-tinged hindsight of people like Rosenthal, it was all good and driven by people with high ideals. It was not quite as he would paint the picture.
Matthew Iglesias knocks it out of the park, as they say:
Have I ever mentioned that I hate baby boomers? Sometimes I think this is irrational on my part. Then along comes Andrew Rosenthal's infuriating contribution to today's New York Times editorial page. In essence, he went to hear Crosby, Stills, and Nash play, started thinking about the old Crosby, Stills, and Nash shows he's seen, waxes nostalgic about the sixties, and demands to know why the kids these days aren't as awesome in terms of mounting an anti-war movement as the kids were back in his day.
Well, what's happened is that a broad coalition of boomers who've managed to grow up, along with the vast swathes of the American public either too old or too young to have been at Woodstock, are trying to avoid the catastrophic mistakes made by the anti-war movement in the late 1960s. Specifically, we're trying to not link the war question up with a broad countercultural movement that managed to become less popular than the war itself. Specifically, rather than engaging in a lot of self-indulgent political theater, contemporary anti-war people have managed to get the vast majority of the Democratic Party -- along with a few Republicans, like the desperate Chris Shays -- to shift toward a position favoring an end to the war in Iraq, and we're now hoping the 2006 midterm elections will put such politicians in a position where they have the power to do something about it.
There's just very little reason to think that organizing mass demonstrations or getting more people to listen to "New Kicks" or "Celebration Guns" would advance any important political goals in a useful way.
I actually had a similar conversation with my parents a few weeks ago, despite the fact that, being not yet 50, they are both too young to have seriously engaged in the anti-Vietnam movement in the first place. My mother's specific complaint involved the lack of modern protest music. I responded by playing the beginning of "Hail to the Thief" and declaring it to be a more intelligent critique of our current situation than almost anything produced by the hippies. ...
The hippies lost their war because they fought it poorly. To win our war, we need to do a much better job of making our views mainstream. So far, we're succeeding, albeit at a much slower pace than would be ideal.
Aging Boomers can complain all they want about the lack of excitement accompanying the current anti-war movement, but they failed where we still have the chance to succeed, and that's how history will judge us.
I couldn't agree more with all of the above. One more thing: the economic climate was very different at that time. Just saying.