I need to tell you something. Although I’m a Boomer, I have a great deal of love and respect for your generation. One reason for this is because my wife and I became first-time, adoptive parents late in life and both our daughters are in your generation. They’re currently 19 and 21. But also because you embody the ideals and aspirations I had as a young man back in the sixties and seventies, when I was an anti-war and social justice activist.
In 1966, shortly after I graduated High School and when the war in Vietnam was heating up, with US troops heading toward an eventual commitment of half a million troops, I joined the US Navy, following in the footsteps of my father and thinking it was the right thing to do. I was medically discharged after only a month and 23 days, but that’s another story that has nothing to do with the point I’m making herein.
When the police rioted in Century City in the summer of 1967, and I was running a small snack shop in downtown L.A., I remember thinking that the police were probably right and dealt with the demonstrators appropriately. I was soon to discover just how mistaken I was. So began my transformation into an anti-war activist.
Without going into too much detail, I’ll just note that I spent about five years organizing, demonstrating/marching, and doing security for others who were protesting the war in Vietnam and racism and sexism in our society. It was pretty much full-time and I only worked to make enough money to allow me to survive while being an activist. My work culminated in a two-month trip in the Spring of 1973 to Cuba, as a guest of the Cuban Government, with the Venceremos Brigade. Shortly after my return I began law school. I was burned out and wanted to get on with my life, which I had neglected in favor of my activism.
I remained politically active to some degree, but not like I had been, especially since U.S. involvement in Vietnam had effectively ended in January of 1973. It was with great dismay that I realized my generation was not merely withdrawing from the activism the war had ignited, but was actively moving to political and economic conservatism. In 1976, the year I graduated with my J.D., Jackson Browne released his album “The Pretender”. The title song contained the following lyrics, which resonated deeply with me. The still do.
I want to know what became of the changesThe Pretender – Jackson Browne
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening?
Just recently, as I was refreshing my memory about the lyrics and what he was saying, I came across a video where he explains a bit about the genesis and meaning of the song. In describing who the pretender is, he says, ” … it’s anybody that’s sort of lost sight of some of their dreams…and is going through the motions and trying to make a stab at a certain way of life that he sees other people succeeding at. So maybe it’s a lot of people of a certain generation who sort of embraced a very material lifestyle in place of dreams that they had that sort of disintegrated at some point.”
I don’t mean to imply, by the title I’ve chosen for this post, that it’s your generation’s responsibility to achieve what my generation so spectacularly (at least apparently) failed at, but rather my hope as I approach the end of my life to see a truly better society, a better world, and a rise in decency and mutual respect among the people of this planet. I’m hoping you will prove to be the generation that achieves that “greater awakening”.