Friday, October 24, 2008

An Appeal To Youth

While speaking in Florida a while back, John McCain said, "I'm sorry to tell you, my friends, but there will be other wars." Who's supposed to fight in these wars that McCain speaks of? Not our current military, stretched to the limit. Not me, or my entire generation. We're still busy fighting over the Vietnam War and the domestic cultural shifts that arose because of that bloody conflict. We've been doing that for forty years now, partly because of the disrespect directed toward the military, including the soldiers, who were sacrificed by the "Greatest Generation" for dubious causes, and also the fight over "patriotism," when you find your country is engaged in a murderous and immoral conflict. The American participation in that war ended in 1973, but not before 58,000 men, average age 19, perished. The terrible psychic costs of Vietnam were never resolved at home. We decided it was better not to talk about such unpleasantness and went on a decade long Disco and cocaine bender instead.

I once swore that when I grew older, I would never say "When I was your age," to a young person. When those old geezers were my age, they were still listening to Jack Benny and FDR's Fireside Chats on the radio. How could they possibly relate to my life in the modern era? Having said that, "When I was your age..." we were at war, with a despised president who put us there, when an attractive candidate emerged who was adored by the young. He was a champion of the destitute and the downtrodden. Bobby Kennedy promised to end the war and bring our soldiers home in order to concentrate on the growing domestic unrest exploding in every major city. The similarities between 1968 and 2008 are striking with two exceptions: the draft was feeding my peers who weren't able to take refuge in college into a meat-grinder, and the voting age was 21. Despite being only 20, I had been drafted because of a university's computer glitch, and was emotionally invested in Kennedy's election. You can imagine how crushed we were when Robert Kennedy was murdered in Los Angeles, the first act of Palestinian terror on American soil.

Deeply dispirited, my generation chose to withdraw from politics, insuring the election of Richard Nixon, five more years of war and 20,000 more American soldiers dead, plus the beginnings of the nasty, partisan political world that we inhabit today. There are a lot of "what ifs" in this life. Young people voting in large numbers then could have literally saved lives, and my generation, who once believed we were going to transform the world in the cause for good, blew it...big time. Nixon's bag of "dirty tricks" soon turned people cynical about their government and the tactics of "wedge politics;" topics meant to divide people, were used for the first time; and they worked. The Rovian position of "political strategist" has become the politician's preeminent advisor and we have been divided ever since. You can change that now if you remember two things: Assume nothing, this race is far from over; and do not discount the importance of your actions. Go to the polls as if your single vote were going to determine the outcome, and bring a friend with you.

You've seen the best and the worst of my generation. We had a brilliant policy thinker and communicator who couldn't keep his pecker in his pants, and a moral absolutist and former drunk who took this country to war because his Nixon-worshipping neocons convinced him that it was the Lord's will. To paraphrase JFK, it's time to pass the damn torch already. We have lived too long with prejudices that the young never had to experience, and it clouds our thinking. Can you imagine that I never sat in a classroom with a non-white person until college? Once again, we desperately need to alter our nation's course, but still I wonder if the young are aware of the potential political clout that rests within them. Being disqualified from voting in 1968, when my ass was personally on the line, changed me. I am one of the laziest men walking, (it took 28 years to complete my Bachelor's Degree), but I have never missed the chance to vote in a single election since. Now, it's your future that's at stake.

It's this simple. If young people come out in numbers and vote, Obama will win. If they don't, he won't. And history is not on your side. Young people might have saved us from a second Bush term, but registering on campus is not the same as going to the voting booth and pulling that curtain shut. In every election since Nixon, young voters have disappointed those candidates who depended on them. Just ask Al Gore. Early voting seems to be the way to go, but first-time voters might enjoy the chaos of election day. If you don't know, you must call or Google your city or state's Election Commission to find out your polling place. Don't wear your campaign gear or some zealot will make you turn your T-shirt inside out, and bring an ID and prepare to do battle with those who would challenge your rights. You have the power to decide this election, and if we do it right this time, you also have the ability to redeem a lot of forgotten or discarded dreams. If I could, I would come and beg each of you individually, please vote.

If you don't receive this message, it's because your parents wouldn't send it to you.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

I will be e-mailing this to my children this morning. Oops, you've done it again. Thanks RJ, another insightful piece for us to chew on.Please vote and tell your children to vote. Good Luck to us all, or God help us one and all.

geno722 said...

Randy, too bad we can't post this on the front page of the Commercial Appeal, or perhaps the Memphis Flyer (insert your own daily paper and alternative weekly if you're out of town.) Frighteningly enough, I've heard from a few members of my own generation that since they're not that enamored with either party's nominees, they aren't going to vote at all. Help. I'm all for the Australian system where those who qulaify to vote are REQUIRED to do so unless they can show just cause such as severe illness, not unlike jury duty in the U. S. Even if you're choosing the McCain/Palin ticket based on your convictions, which is certainly your right, albeit a choice with which I don't agree, go vote for 'em. Even if you're so cynical that you think the whole thing is "fixed" (I know some younger folks in that category) take the time out and go vote for somebody. In some countries, you know, people don't have those kinds of rights.

Anonymous said...

Randy, you've made a mistake or two in your analysis, beginning with the idea that "58,000 Men" died in Vietnam. That was only the Americans, and ignores the huge death toll we inflicted on the Vietnamese. We, lead by the media, continue to speak of the 4000 deaths in Iraqi, ignoring the 80,000+ Iraqis who have also perished as if thery are not also humans. All life, American or not, is life, and by ignoring deaths other than Americans we devalue all life.

You also seem to have forgotten that it was Gene McCarthy that led the anti-war political movement that finally drew Bobby Kennedy's attention and made him an "anti-war" candidate. I too revered and idolized RFK (I still have his picture on my wall) but it was McCarthy's bravery that spurred the movement. Indeed, Bobby kind of co-opted it, though he did certainly popularize it more than McCarthy ever could have done. I was in Chicago later that summer when the Democrats nominated the same old candidate, this time Hubert Humphrey. Politics as usual, and not much difference between the parties.
Not much has changed 40 years later. Obama (and I will vote for him when the early voting lines slack off a little down here in Florida) is still just another, slightly better, politician, supporting one stupid war (the one in Afganistan) while talking the standard "phased withdrawal" in the other.
What we really need is to realize that whatever the problem, war isn't the solution. We need to find a political party and candidate that understands this. That is the primary lesson of the "60's." Unfortunately we didn't learn it (or any of the other "lessons") very well, and look at us (and the world) now. Not a very pretty sight is it?
So, urge us all, and especially the youth, to vote for Obama as he is the best choice, but not a real solution though he has, as both John and Bobby did so well, inspired interest and passion in today's youth, if not all of us.
My girl friend's three teenage daughters are watching and supporting Obama, and I can only hope, despite my cynicism, that their support, and hope, is justified.

Your friend, Dick Paris

Anonymous said...

Of course you realize that the despised president who put us in the Viet Nam war was none other than the Democrat John Kennedy and escalated by the Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson through the deception of the Gulf of Tonkin incident. And you didn't have to be deprived of sitting next to blacks in school. You could have gone to the board of education and requested a transfer from your well-to- do and priviliged CBHS to a darker complected school. You certainly could have gone to college at Lemoyne-Owen. But then you probably only wanted a politically correct sprinkling of blacks around you. You were probably not liberal enough to want to be completely immersed in a black world. Your testimony of being so lazy only adds fuel to those who think of your generation as a bunch of lazy, worthless, dope addled hellraisers. Who would take advise from a self-confessed lazy miscreant such as yourself? You absolute pacifists are the ones who are going to get us killed. What if Israel were to follow your extreme pacifistic views? Israel would be steamrolled by her countless enemies almost immediately.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous at 1:00 pm. seems funny you know Randy well enough to know his alamater but not well enough to know him as a man. Funny how all you silly conservatives only think WAR will cure our ills and funny how you sound so bitter.You sound like a race baiter to me,why bring up Isreal?Is it because of Randys faith? And surely if you know him well enough to call him a "miscreant" you know the meaning of the word and that is not the Randy I have known for 35 years.Hummm, you sound like an asshole to me and there are way too many of you guys around. MOVE ON Dude.

Father Farken said...

Anonymous 1:00pm 10/24/08! Perhaps you are correct about our beginnings in Vietnam but wrong about Randy being able to go to a darker complected school. It was not possible! And what makes you think he didn't complain. He was always a progressive. CBHS with all our faults was the first high school in Memphis to integrate & it did so while Randy was a student there. It just so happens that all Randy's classes were filled with Italians & Irishmen of the Catholic faith. How did he handle it? Randy was voted the most friendly! Though I dread finding out the truth when his memoirs come out! Once life threw me a curve... me girl friend ditched me and I walked in the Bombay Bicycle Club and Randy was sitting in the corner with his guitar sensing something was wrong and dedicated a couple of Carl Perkins songs to me...BOPPING THE BLUES...MATCHBOX. It meant a hell of a lot to me. He's a man of incredible intuition and has a heart of gold. You don't have to agree with his politics but if you knew him ...you would be the better person for it. Sputnik & Muddy are authentic people through and through! Something this world really needs at this time! The peace of the Lord!

randy said...

Thank You Father Farken,
I knew you would come to the defense of the dear old Purple & Gold, if not me. I know who the president was in 1968 and need no history lessons from someone unaware of when the city schools were integrated. My "elite" university, Tennessee-Knoxville, had about a 6% total of black students in 1966. Not very representative of the state's population. As for being a lazy, worthless, dope-addled hellraiser, I never thought of myself as worthless.

Anonymous said...

Father Farken,I don't know who you are but thank you for the kind words about our old pal.You obviously know him better then anon.1:00, anyone who really knows Randy knows of his brilliant but somewhat unusual mind. We are all different and that's a good thing.Randy just seems to know how to put it out there. Thanks to you FF. and all Randys readers that are only looking for the truthiness in it all.

Anonymous said...

To set the record completely straight, it was Eisenhour who first took us into Viet Nam. JFK inherited it, and the murderous LBJ escalated the war.
Scarlett

Anonymous said...

Lighten up liberals, I just like to rattle Randy's cage occasionally by using some hyperbole. The remarks about 'lazy, dope-addled people' weren't directed at Randy. They were in regard to many in the 60's and 70's generation. Not about him personally. Believe it or not, I am a fan of Randy's. I just don't see eye to eye with him politically, and besides, I know that Randy likes to spar with his opponents. I was just encouraging Randy to act more boldly if he is displeased with the sparseness of his associations with minorities. I don't want folks to think of him as a limousine liberal. If he couldn't have gone to a black high school, he certainly could have gone to college at Lemoyne-Owen to show good faith in his position on integration. Also, some liberals who live up to their convictions actually move to the ghetto to do 'mission' work. They feel that blacks can't possibly elevate themselves without the presence of whites in their midst. This is along the lines of the thinking of the early desegregationists who actually believed that blacks coudn't learn unless they were in close proximity to whites. In my humble opinion I think that these condescending positions are about as racist as you can get, but then liberals get a pass on everything. In line with this thinking I just want to encourage Randy to sell his house in his privileged and elitist east Memphis neighborhood, it's about a block away from the exclusive Hedgemoor area, and move to Orange Mound or Binghamton so that he can put his money and his life where his mouth is. This is all about encouraging him to live up to his ideals in a realistic manner. Any liberal can pontificate from the safety of a secure, wealthy, all-white neighborhood, casting aspersions on others who haven't done enough to advance the cause of integration, the re-distribution of wealth, and other liberal positions. He can be in the vanguard walking through ghetto neighborhoods at night showing others that it is really safe and that it is their racist attitudes that prevent them from moving into the ghetto too. And, he could take a voluntary vow of poverty and give all of his excess money to the NAACP. I would take my hat off to him and confess that here is a man who walks the walk.

Anonymous said...

PS- I retract the word miscreant in Randy's regard. My bad. I am lazy too, so we have something in common after all.

Anonymous said...

Obama is the worse of two evils. He is all style and no substance. His political past (if anyone cared enough to research) is full of support by and then support for the corrupt "Chicago Machine." He sounds good because his entire campaign is built on emotions, feelings - not substance. He speaks of change, but has no real plans for dealing with reality. He is beholden to the same neocons as his opponent. He will lead us further into Socialism! One World Government!
Ron Paul! There was a better choice. The media just didn't let you know. Read his book, "The Revolution." This is the way of the "Old Hippies." Yes, Dick, there is a party that sees another solution than war. It takes us away from war. Away from government control of our lives. Read it. You will never be the same. See for yourself. There is another answer!

Anonymous said...

It surprises me that more old hippies aren't libertarian. If hippiedom stood for anything it was freedom, spontaniety, and a revolt against mind numbing conformity. The Republicans, and especially the Democrats stand for ever increasing government, regulation, and ever diminishing liberty for everyone. This was the first shock that I got when I discovered this blog with a name like Born-Again Hippies. I thought that it would be a call to return to the freedom, creativity, and spontaniety of the good old hippie ethic. But it turns out to be just another front and apologetic for the Democratic party. I still can't get used to the idea of hyper-political hippies. It seems to be a contradiction of terms. I must have lived my hippie days in a completely different world than Randy's. He is rabidly political and this kind of freaks me out. I never really left the old apolitical, create your own reality, free-wheeling life style of what to me was the authentic hippie world. I was aware of the SDS, the Weathermen, the Motherfuckers, Jerry Rubin et al, but I considered them to be the lunatic fringe. I am sorry that Randy has been captured by all this hyper-political bullshit. So much so that he lost his job as one of the best dj's ever because of it.

Anonymous said...

If you were a veteran teacher and knew something about the actual level of educational attainment of the average teenager and something of the wisdom (Ha-Ha) that they possess, you might not be so eager for them to vote, unless you feel that they are going to vote for your candidate. In fact, they are most likely to vote for whoever their teachers or parents encourage them to vote for. You would do about as well if you encouraged all of the inmates at the country's insane asylums to vote. This is not much of an exaggeration. The situation is so bad in the Memphis City Schools that I despair of the country's future if there are many other school sytems in the country that are as dysfunctional. You could put all of the knowledge and wisdom of all of the students in the MCS and put it is a single bluejay and it would fly backwards. I have a feeling that you realize these things and are encouraging them to vote only because you are confident that most of them will vote Democratic. Bungle in the jungle.

Shecky Kierkegaard McGirk said...

Hey Father Farken! Not to take anything away from our good brother Randy's intuition but I was there that night in Midtown when you staggered in so swaggeredly. You were suffering so blatantly you looked like you were trying out for some kind of Bravehearted, Messianic Mel Gibson movie or something. You were blubbering...
Play 'True Love'! Play Carl Perkin's 'True Love'! He knew about TRUE LOVE! Why can't I know something about TRUE LOVE? Your 225lb. broken heart ended up spread eagle on the dance floor with a beer mug on your head! It was pathetic! Well! You are better off with out her & being a priest & all! I ran into the ol' gal the other day & she is HUGE! For starters...she shops at Miss Biggy's! If she walked into your Church..it would take a forklift to get her out of the Confessional. I mean she beleaves in A WOMAN'S RIGHT TO CHEW! Randy! Could you sing for Fr. Farken...E's "Bigha Bigha Bigha... Hunk Of Love!"? Thank you! Thank you very much!
Shecky Kierkegaard McGirk

judy said...

I dont usually do this because I dont like to argue but I had to tell you how much i enjoyed your article in the flyer. We are again in very important times and what we do know will have unimagainable consequences. Thankyou for apealing to reason. Watching the Obama infomercial tonite brought tears to my eyes as the possiblities swelled in my heart. I believe that we are watching the blossoming of our greatest leader and I will hold him in white light for the rest of my life to help keep him safe from those who are blind to it. It is always good the listen to another voice of reason. I have always enjoyed your music.
Thanks
Judy

Anonymous said...

Judy, I hate to be the one to tell you that the light within you is darkness. When darkness is mistaken for light you had better watch out! The blind lead the blind.

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