"I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors." - Thomas Jefferson
I've never been one for hippies. I don't mean hippies as a name, because, of course, Abbie Hoffman was a Yippie, not a Hippie. But as a generation, I have always thought, the youth movement of the late sixties and early seventies, most commonly referred to as the hippies, have failed this nation greatly. Those young men and women back then had tremendous courage. They risked their freedom and often their lives in order to force our government and our country to have to recognize decency and intelligence. It's not right that our government had to be forced into such seemingly common decency, and up until a few years ago, we seemed surprised that our elected officials and decent American citizens could ever have been so wrong. And yet, here we are again. When I was growing up in ordinary suburban America in the nineteen eighties, I idolized the everyman players of the sixties. Wavy Gravy, Bobby Seale, Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, etc. I listened to The Who, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dylan, The Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills and Nash. I read every Doonesbury comic strip since the ones published at his Yale newspaper while he was a student there. I was also fascinated with the history of the war in Vietnam. This fascination was recognized and possibly validated when my mother offered to take me to see Oliver Stone's Platoon. I read First Blood, and one of the first courses I took during my freshman year at the University at Buffalo was a third-year course called "The Literature of Vietnam." And it wasn't just me. Everywhere we looked, we found sixties nostalgia madness. But it turns out that it really was simply cultural nostalgia. Where are the hippies now? I don't mean, let's blame them because they are old and aren't on the cutting edge anymore. But, seriously, I can tell you where the hippies are. They are driving Volvos and living in McMansions. They are investing heavily in the stock market upon which Mr. Hoffman and his gang threw money back in the day. "All You Need Is Love" is featured in an ad for money-making credit cards.
George W. Bush grew up in the sixties, and, make no mistake, the baby boomers are the ones who voted for him, by and large. This largest generation has given us Enron and the war in Iraq. It's not just the administration, either. It's CEOs, it's false charities, it's a horrible tax system. By now, 30 years after Vietnam, our country should be enjoying the wealth of insight provided by the youth of that era. Instead, we wallow in what has nearly become a failed empire. We don't want to be an empire in the first place, and I thought, neither did the hippies. And yet, here we are. I see a nation in profound jeopardy of losing its very point of existing. Despite the failure of the hippies to provide many enduring changes, I find myself looking back to that very youth movement for inspiration.
Granted, it's simply a different world these days, and in many wonderful ways. It's easier to get from sea to shining sea these days, and even less necessary. The internet connects us with people in Australia, Egypt and Norway. We have to embrace our world, this one we live in, not look back or ahead too far. We have to focus on the now. we can't change the past, we can't dwell on the future. But we can improve the future by listening to ourselves now, by always making the right decision, by always standing up for the very real things that we believe in. So instead of ruing the changes in technology and culture, we should be ruing the changes in our freedoms. Our technology has grown, our culture has created new traditions, but our freedoms have been squeezed, our intelligence has been insulted, and our lives have been threatened. And I don't mean by the terrorists. Let me tell you a story about the terrorists. I was in the hallway of my lower Manhattan office building on the morning of September 11 when the second plane hit the World Trade Center. It seemed the whole building shook, and it sounded like a bomb went off right downstairs. We had known that a plane had hit the north tower a few minutes earlier, but with the impact of that second hit all the resonance of its meaning dropped like half a million tons of bricks. At that instant we didn't simply guess, but we knew that we were under some serious attack. I saw for myself the south tower collapse and I had to sprint to outrun the rolling ten story wall of dust. I had staff who lost family and friends. I breathed in toxic dust for months serving Guiliani and Bush and the federal administration in their effort to get things back to normal so the terrorists don't win. Ever since then, our administration has done nothing except highlight the obvious differences in our daily lives and try to take advantage of us because of them.
What have we had since that day? Since that day they insisted that everything was ever and for always going to be all right?
- We were introduced to the Patriot Act. Hundreds of millions of dollars were sunk into Halliburton.
- We were lied to, baldfaced and criminally, about the military knowledge of a small country in the middle of the desert, despite what I knew when I was growing up, that the United States knew where every silo well was, where every truck moved, within the secretive and high-tech military complex of the Soviet Union, twenty-five years ago.
- Children, young and old, have been murdered by mechanical weapons aimed by presidents of corporations.
- Law-abiding groups have been spied on, their rights violated.
- Freedom of the press has been compromised and directly and openly attacked by our government.
- Our poorest and most in need were completely and arrogantly ignored by the government and corporations and yet at the same time attacked by right-wing media for having ever been on welfare.
- Where were the huge corporations coming up with advertisements about how much they've donated to Katrina victims? I know I've seen that one about Halliburton in the desert
- The economic wealth of America, earned on the shoulders of millions of hard-working citizens, is almost completely in the hands of a privileged and deceptive few.
- Our young men are being recruited into a capitalistic war, and are dying for the government's betrayal of their patriotic sensibilities.
- People have been refused their right to vote, including women and blacks, who, even post-first revolution, had to die in order to gain the right.
- And the best critical commentary comes from The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and Saturday Night Live, each and all simply comedy shows, filmed in closed studios and vomiting cash to the conglomerate owners.
- A major part of our actual and existing workforce was declared illegal after decades of implied legality.
- The control that religious fanaticism has over social and political control hasn't been this strong in Western Civilization since the thirteen-hundreds, having somehow ignorantly leapfrogged centuries of scientific and philosophical discoveries.
- And speaking of science, we have scientific proof now that our government and economic leaders are full of blinded and drunk medieval monks. Our planet is melting and instead of being a forest fire of global proportions, it's been rendered by our system into a lobbyist political capitalistic propaganda game.
Now look at this. Nations firing ultra-modern technological warfare as well as muddy and rusty incoming mortar shells at the children and homes of other nations, well-armed militaries killing each others' civilians. And we complain a lot about the news, and rightly so. But we are also very informed, albeit restrictedly so. Even though our citizens are listening to biased information, they are really sitting in front of their televisions, ain't they? So in that way, our nation has never been more involved. They fucked us up pretending that we could prove everything was all right for them. Now they're fucking us up by pretending that nothing will ever be all right again.
The only thing that hasn't changed since 9/11 is that the government is still fucking us up. And now they even want to restrict this new technology that is bringing people together, facilitating the communication of the everyman. Even this, even now, the majority of citizens of America are being pushed back upon. They're pushing back, pushing back, and how much is even left behind us anymore? So, why this? From someone who thinks the hippies betrayed us, from someone who experienced first-hand the deadly nightmare of international terrorism?
AND WHY ARE YOU WRITING ABOUT HOW TO MAKE A BOMB?!?!?!
Because we need it. Those most harmed by this new way of America life are the ones least able to communicate anything. The rich are fewer and more removed from the rest of the real world than they've ever been. Look, man, we don't want to hurt anybody here. But our government doesn't want many of us to live. But our government is killing its poorest citizens, whether it be in New Orleans, Baghdad or a moth-eaten sleeping bag in a New York City alleyway, in the alleyway of any American city. I may not agree with every bit of reference in this book, but that is why I'm involved in it. I may not hold values identical to each contributing writer or editor, and in some ways may differ critically, but that is why I'm involved in it, and that is why they are involved in it, too. This isn't about promoting one of those isms, one of those broad beliefs. This isn't about promoting socialism or communism or capitalism or ism ism ism ism ism. This is about helping fellow citizens who, for a number of reasons and coming from a billion different points of view, feel the need for change. Dramatic change. But not a change to simply one thing, one ism or one source of cash. Rather a change to the one original thing, the set of ideas that America was founded upon. The things we want are not new or revolutionary. That this can be considered revolutionary is an (appropriate) insult to our social, political and economic leaders in the first place, and it's also an insult to us, rightly so.
Here is another not very new idea: citizens have not only the ability but also the responsibility to change things when they are not going well. That is something straight from Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. So this thing we're in, it's a thing of all of us. Yours, mine, theirs. And I don't think they're going to do anything about it, seeing as it fits them so well. It's not us you have to worry about, it's them. If you're poor, you have to worry about them. If you're a minority, you have to worry about them. If you live paycheck to paycheck, you have to worry about them. If you have children, you have to worry about them. If you like something they don't like, you have to worry about them. If you believe something they don't believe in, you have to worry about them. If you don't have health insurance, you have to worry about them. If you don't know your rights, you have to worry about them. But they have one big problem that we don't have. They have a lot more to lose. They have everything. They own us.
Love live the revolutions, and may gods bless America.