Yesterday, I made a conscious decision to turn off the news. Having watched the now ‘idle’ banter of prognosticators and candidates for the last year, the outcome in hand, I wasn’t excited about hearing any theory, any ‘told you so’ antics, or any patronage from the winning side of an ugly defeat. I told all my classes I was only going to listen to whales singing in the ocean in some New Age melody all week while I gathered my thoughts and wrapped my head around this bizarre political future of our country.
The night did not allow me to completely escape my thoughts though, and the sounds of our immensely serene mammals in the deep blue didn’t contain me as long as I’d hoped. I still felt this urgency to know, to wonder, to speculate just how we had come to the conclusion we had as a voting nation. That answer still evades me this morning; however, what I did see was the peaceful protests throughout the country with our new candidate. The protests hearkened me back to a different time in my life.
I remember in the 60’s seeing pictures of the Vietnam war protests. In a child’s eyes, these were real, these were pleading students and family and friends and co-workers all banding together to make a statement, the riots that would follow later with the civil rights protests, the ever changing climate of our nation. I recall watching all of this through the eyes of my older siblings. To me, these were powerful statements of change and I was a fortunate witness to democracy at its finest – freedom of speech, the right to protest, the right to have a valued opinion. Certainly with that came tragedy, the loss of remarkable leaders from Malcolm X to MLK Jr, to RFK, to so many more names that are part of that tumultuous history. I remember Kent State and wondering how it was, as a ten year old, that our nation could be so angry within our own borders, while thousands were dying in a fruitless war across the world.
We had no advantage of social media to give us instant results. We counted upon Walter Cronkite, ‘and that’s the way it is’ and followed with tears the scroll of lost names in Vietnam on that day, that was the immediacy of our connection to the world around us. The silent protest in our minds became the visible chants outside the White House gates as the protesters ramped up the pressure on LBJ to get our boys out of Vietnam – “Hey Hey LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?” followed years later by Richard Nixon and the ‘tricky dick’ accusations of secrecy and fraud that destroyed his presidency. Back then people were vocal, and as a kid, I watched as it seemed there were good reasons to fight for what we all believed was right.
In that different time, when race and equality were still on the mind of everyone, people began to fight together, and I watched secular groups like the KKK become less severe and threatening as our nation could recognize a holistic approach to life. In the 70’s books were written about ‘The Melting Pot’ a nation burgeoning with immigration becoming one, learning to live with one another and respect each other. Racism and prejudice still existed, but there was this seeming progression, this appearance of ‘love and respect’ that started to gain footing on so many levels. With the onset of so many different cultural mores we began to see a change in the landscape of our society.
The idea of ‘The Melting Pot’ has evolved today into more of a ‘mosaic’ as we gradually become aware of the value of culture, the beauty and elegance that each person in the frame of their own unique heritage brings to our American canvas. We have tried to take the time to appreciate those differences rather than destroy their integrity while lost in our own self-driven egocentric ideals. As a child I was motivated by a naive innocence to appreciate those pieces of our life that I could witness growing up. I wonder about the children of today, and how their exposure has perhaps changed, impacted, or effected their own perception of a modern, electronically driven society around them.
I wonder about the news, and what it is the media will find important as we now walk beyond the unprecedented electoral process that has for some turned their world upside down, and for others provided a voice of indiscriminate reaction that though maybe quieted in years past with active reasoning, today is suddenly harsh and overt and frightening. We live in a democratic society, so there can be no argument to suggest one person’s right to opinion ought be considered better than another’s; however, there is an element of respect and integrity that right now seems surely to hang in the balance.
So, as I observe our new style of protest in American society, just beyond a full day of electing a controversial candidate to the POTUS, I wonder about purpose, timing and decorum. Is protesting today that valuable in a time when we have already made a decision we cannot turn back on? For some, certainly that is the motivation for hitting the concrete, but for others I wonder if we have newer challenges ahead that can capture or channel our idealism. A friend of mine recently posted there is no more time for tolerance through the ideals of love and compassion, in his words, we need to ‘stand up RIGHT now.” I cannot argue with his passion, but I still do wonder about timing.
Perhaps our protest begins in six months, then we have seen a pattern to create a need for public awareness and change. Perhaps today we need to pay closer attention to the immediacy of our national decision, and recognize the hurt, the elation, the brusque reality of our choices demand a closer eye than simply arousing a formulated statement of disagreement.
Perhaps we do still count on ourselves as being the change we desire in the world around us. Ask a friend, see if they and another, and a friend of their own, a family member, a co-worker might join each other and together determine a time, quite likely in the near future to make a stronger more relevant statement, together.
Perhaps we might leave the news off for a few more days, and pay attention to our immediate surroundings.