Saturday, November 12, 2005

Hippie Alert

The purpose of the title of this effort, Born-Again Hippies, is to encourage those who once held youthful ideals and lost them along the way, to re-energize that commitment to speak out against the injustices of the present day. And for those young or old enough who attempt to romanticise the 60s, you should know that it was not all free love and sunshine. Everyone from Wavy Gravy, to Jerry Garcia, to Bill and Hillary Clinton considered themselves as hippies at one point. But over time, people of conscience allowed the very word "hippie" to be smeared along with other words like "liberal," and "intellectual," until it became a caricature for a glassy-eyed, radical environmentalist dressed in hemp and soaked in patchouli oil. Very simply, "hippies" stood for those who were aware of the desperate need for changes in society and attempted, in Gandhi's words, to "become the change" they sought in the world.

Before "hippie" became a fashion and just another life style, it was a philosophy and a movement. It was born in the rejection of an arrogant American government, and the militaristic society that supported them, who led this nation to war under false pretenses. The hippie movement was formed as an alternative to intransigent government officials and a general public that not only refused to listen to the voice of dissent, but vilified the dissenters and polarized the nation as a result. Turning their backs on the Vietnam War, the disenfranchised hippies were cut adrift by the "Greatest Generation" to fend for themselves, without role models or peers of distinction, to learn by trial and error a more peaceful way to live life without the constant strife from the government, the stifling workplace, and the military.

Noble attempts were made in the name of fairness, community service, and non-exclusivity. The belief was nurtured that every person had something to offer and had intrinsic values to be respected. Opposition to the Vietnam war was the focus of the movement, but it included civil and human rights, feminism, environmentalism, and a new awakening to spirituality that could not be corralled by any one religion. The excesses were real as well. The reckless use of psychedelic drugs caused lasting psychic damage to many. At the same time, a short-sighted government began their war on drugs by putting pot smokers in jail while heroin ran freely in the streets of every major city. The sexual excesses cost some their marriages and relationships in the name of sexual freedom while causing a coarseness in the culture relating to sex that can be felt to this day. Simultaneously, people no longer felt locked in marriage by the puritanical views of society and began to find other forms of defining "family."

The high point was in the early Spring of 1968, after the withdrawal of Lyndon Johnson from the presidential race. It seemed as if the hippies' anti-war activities had finally worked. Johnson was out, it appeared as if Robert Kennedy would be elected President and ending the Vietnam War was his priority. Then, in rapid succession, King and Kennedy were murdered, the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago became a gruesome bloodletting, Nixon was elected, and there were five more years of war. It never occurred to the generation that despised the hippies and cheered on the Chicago police as they split the skulls of anything with long hair in their paths, that these were their children being brutalized and beaten.

Without the hippie movement, Nixon might have pursued his initial strategy to win the war on the ground and bomb the enemy even further back into the stone age. But because of massive popular dissent, the Democratic Congress, not Nixon, found the will to end funding for the war. The Democratic Senate, led into war by Johnson's lies, forced Nixon and Henry Kissinger to find a way out of Vietnam sooner, rather than later, and they ended up settling for almost the same terms in 1973 that were on the table in 1968. This is why the war over the Vietnam War has never ended. The troops returned without fanfare and faded back into society and a nation polarized just one year earlier between the protesters and the "silent majority" came to a tacit agreement not to discuss it anymore. The war was better left in the past.
The hippie movement was dead. But every contemporary candidate for public office has had to explain himself on this matter. It will not go away. The issues of right or wrong concerning the Vietnam War were never settled, despite the mea culpas of Robert MacNamara and Lyndon Johnson.

The time has come once more, for the second time in the lives of the generation who protested against the war and the administration's abuse of power of the 60s, to speak aloud again, to march again, and to stand against an immoral and illegal war begun by the lies of a different administration. Now is the time to talk, to organize, and to convince the electorate that peace is better than war, that generosity is better than greed, that truth is better than lies, and that love is stronger than hate. We must also rededicate our nation to caring for "the least of these" instead of taking from the poor to further enrich the wealthiest among us. We must recapture the mantle of beacon to the world concerning human rights, and reverse the Bling-Humvee notion that individual consumeristic gluttony is somehow good for our society. Most of all, the American people must never allow their government to take this country to war again over deceptions, distortions, and lies. A dark night awaits us all if we do not succeed.

Jimi Hendrix sang in "If 6 was 9" 1968;
White collar conservative flashing down the street
Pointing their plastic finger at me.
They hope that soon my kind will drop and die
But I'm gonna' wave my freak flag high.

David Crosby sang in "Long Time Comin'" 1969;
You've got to speak out against the madness
You've got to speak your mind if you dare.
But no, don't try and get yourself elected
If you do you had better cut your hair.

Everything old has become new again. Now, up against the wall!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Profit and Loss

Every administration wants to make its mark in the world but the Bush regime has left an ugly scar instead, on the Earth as well as on the body politic. From the endangered Alaska Wildlife Refuge to old growth forests in Oregon being harvested under the "Healthy Forests Initiative;" From strip mining and mountain capping in the Eastern coal states to the rubble that is Iraq, the Bush group has inflicted a wound on the planet that will be a long time healing.
Add to the physical destruction the long term effects of the "Clear Skies Initiative," which allows more toxins into the atmosphere, or the refusal of this government to consider any agreement on climate control and greenhouse gases, be it international or interstate.
This is because the governing philosophy of this brand of Conservative is not lead by "values and morals," or religion, or even national security. This government is ruled by one thing only, bare knuckle capitalism. That's the agenda behind all the deregulation of environmental safeguards and the arrogant non-cooperation with other nations. The Bush message is "don't stand between an American capitalist and his God given right to maximize his profits."
The corporatization of everything commercial in this country would be bad enough if they were good corporate citizens. But aside but plastering their names on sports arenas, many of the largest corporations keep shell offices in the Cayman Islands and other administration approved tax sanctuaries to legally bypass something so troubling as income tax. Bush wants to end the estate tax too, so another Yaley legacy can inherit a family fortune without having to pay the government. And the current tax cuts to the most wealthy come to $70 billion dollars. Kanye West was wrong when he said that Bush doesn't care about black people. Bush doesn't care about poor people. And his government is utterly shameless about it.
In the teeth of scandal and criminal investigation, the Republican led House Agricultural Committee voted along strict party lines to approve budget cuts that will take food stamps away from 300,000 people and cut off school lunches and breakfasts for 400,000 children. A government report says that in the five years of the Bush presidency, the number of people who are hungry because they can't afford to buy enough food has risen by seven million and affects 12% of U.S. households. And it was the White House that proposed the restrictions on food stamp recipients while simultaneously making it more difficult to declare bankruptcy.
The grim reality is that there are a full three years of Bush economics facing this country unless someone in power, preferably on the Republican side, screams "enough!" Because it is in the Republican Party's self interest not to self-destruct with the Bush administration, some brave soul may yet exclaim that these policies are killing the average American and it must stop. The best a caring citizen can do is to prepare ourselves to come out in sufficient numbers to return one of the legislative bodies to the Democrats in 2006. At least this will break the Bush government's immunity from accountability, and will allow legitimate inquiries to begin into the plunder of both natural and human resources used by this regime to accomplish their political goals. It's a good thing the President is a "compassionate conservative." I'd hate to see the extent of the damage done by someone who didn't care as much.