Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Thoughts on W's recent birthday, and my own.

George Bush recently celebrated a milestone birthday, reaching his sixtieth year. Like him, I also passed a milestone about a month ago, reaching the half-century mark. This puts us both in good company with millions of fellow boomers, George at the front end of the generation, myself somewhat towards the back. Our parents were called the "greatest generation", we can only claim being the "largest," and as such, for better or worse have dominated much of American society and culture for the last forty years.

Passing this milestone got me thinking about how we got to our current political state. You see, being part of a not so exclusive club does give us boomers a unique perspective on just what's wrong the current ruling class in this country. Figuratively, we know these guys; we met them years ago hanging at parties, or at school. We know what they were into, how they fit it, where that stood in the cosmic order of things. I'll ask that you youngsters indulge me for a minute while I ramble on. To my fellow boomers... you'll know where I'm coming from as I ponder this topic.

Karl Rove 1969

Everyone else 1969

I rest my case.

"That's not fair," I can hear some youngsters saying, " not everyone was all "hippie-ish" with long hair, and freaky cloths, smoking pot and dancing around, no way ... they were a minority made famous by the media. Most young people back then probably looked more like young Karl, and besides ... you can't judge someone just by how they dress or how they look, that's wrong."

Sorry kids .... Wrong on both counts.

We ALL looked like freaks to a certain degree. We all wore hippie cloths and had long hair at one time or another. Your mom probably went to concerts, dressed in her peasant blouse and patched jeans and danced around barefoot like a whirling dervish. Dad had a big bushy mustache or muttonchops and smoked joints before, during and after the show. They most likely were not full-blown Hippies, riding on the bus with the Merry Pranksters, but they were part of what has now been termed; “the youth culture.”

As to judging a book by its cover, you have look at it with historical perspective. At that time we were in the mist of a REAL, full-blown culture war, not like the bizzaro-world one that goes on politically today, and like in any war, people wore uniforms to tell friend from foe. Our uniform was "freak." The opposition ... take a look at young Karl there.

But it goes some much deeper than that. At that time the music you listened to, your cloths, the books you read or movies you saw, all spoke volumes as to who you were, not only politically, but personally. Those so far removed from the mainstream youth culture were not individualists, or contrarians ...they were anti-social, misfits and miscreants.

The vast majority of us we had common social experiences that united us. We were the first TV generation and grew up watching the same shows from the big three networks. We were the rock n roll generation who grew up with our own rebellious musical art form that we all knew inside and out. It was our secret code. It not only spoke to us and about us, it gave us common ground and united us. We were a generation of tumultuous times. The civil rights movement, anti-war movement, womens rights, riots in the streets, the drug culture, these things effected our generational psyche. We were the first and last generation to be able to engage in sexual activity without the fear of pregnancy or life threatening diseases. These things gave our generation a sort of monolithic nature that to this day affects American culture. Our music still plays, our fashions once again find popularity with a younger generation; we're generally a cultural pain in the ass for those who have come after us.

This almost monolithic nature also allows us to do one other thing; spot those who were so out of the norm, so different from the rest of us that they remain to this day societal misfits. This is what we see in the current leadership of this nation; Just look at that picture of young Karl Rove.

Just think about this current crop of conservatives. What kind of 18 or 19 year old could have listened to Barry Goldwater in 1964 and said ... "Hell yeah.. That guy's got some good ideas there. In fact I'm going to idolize this guy and spend the rest of my life trying to bring HIS vision to reality."

Then there's Nixon in 68 or especially in 72?; How the hell at that time, could anyone under the age of thirty possibly support the most reviled man on earth?; Hell, he was burned in effigy on street corners daily just for fun, what kind of island of the misfit toys kind of person would have supported him. Yet these guys loved him.

And don't get me started on "A Hippie is someone who walks like Tarzan, looks like Jane and smells like Cheetah", cultural warrior, Governor Reagan. This guy was the anti-Christ long before sat in the oval office, yet these people worshipped the guy.

We boomers know who these guys are. They're the ones with the ironed, straight-legged jeans with cuffs when everyone else was wearing bells. They had a record collection that included "The Ray Conniff Singers sing Dylan", and "Up With People."

They'd never smoke pot because it would make them have "mutated children" and to them "Reefer Madness" really was a documentary.... And a damn accurate one too...thank you very much.

Yeah, we know these guys. They went to the movies and loved True Grit while everyone else was watching Easy Rider. We listened to Nashville Skyline until we could rattle off the lyrics in our sleep; they thought that "People" song by Barbara Streisand was kind of catchy. We watched Dick Cavett to see Janis, they liked Merv Griffin with Zsa Zsa.

I could go on infinitum ... the point is we boomers know these guys. We all met one or two of them. And you know what ... they always freaked us the fuck right out. You'd ask all your friends "Hey... you know that freakin guy?" and hope to God someone would say, "Oh yeah, don't mind him, he's OK ... he's my cousin, just visiting from Bumfuck".

Now, I know what you kids are going to say. "If you guys knew how fucked up these guys really were, why didn't you warn everyone". I don't know what to say... I guess maybe they were right about all that pot ruining your memory and all …sorry, just kidding

Perhaps it's just that at the time we thought so little of these outcasts and they were so weird that it never dawned on us that they would one day hold the reins of power.

One thing I do know ... when the right wing tries to paint themselves as mainstream representatives of their generation, and attempts to marginalize everyone else as some sort of out-there minority... I know better and the majority of my generation knows better also, if they cared to admit it. "Freak" was the norm then, and it's the repressed, social misfits that now run this country who always stood out from the crowd ... and not in a good way... more in a Norman Bates kind of way if you know what I mean.

Veiw more from Manning the Barricades


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