Sunday, May 5, 2024

Something to Know - Cinco de Mayo

Robert Reich, a Professor at Cal Berkeley, has a message for his graduating students at commencement.   Those of us who graduated in the era around the 60s can, and should, share our turbulent times with today's generation:

Robert Reich

10:22 AM (32 minutes ago)
to me
Forwarded this email? Subscribe here for more


My students are graduating at a tremulous time.

The largest campus protest movement of the 21st century. The first criminal trial of a former U.S. president. The most restrictive abortion laws in the nation. Two horrific wars.

All of this coming after the first pandemic in living memory, one that claimed the lives of a million Americans. And after the first attack on the U.S. Capitol in history, provoked by the first president who refused to accept electoral defeat.

Perhaps most troubling, the nation is bitterly split. Americans are demonizing those on the other side whom they disagree with. (For two weeks in April, "Civil War," a dystopian film about a bloody alternative reality where America is at war with itself, topped box office charts, grossing more than $50 million.)

My graduating student are exhausted and anxious.

They are repulsed by the slaughter in Gaza, and angry by the responses of university administrators around the country to the student protesters.

They're cynical about politics.

They tell me they don't want to have children and bring them into a world imperiled by conflict and climate change and authoritarianism.

They have lived through mass shootings and culture wars.

They recall a Trump administration spewing hate and bigotry and giving tax cuts to the wealthy, and fear another President Trump who's even less constrained.

I tell them that the year I graduated from college, in 1968, America also felt tremulous and chaotic. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. American cities were burning.

And the Vietnam War was claiming the lives of tens of thousands of young Americans and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese.

I was appalled at the unnecessary carnage in Vietnam. I was incensed that the first world, white and rich, was randomly killing people in the third world, mostly non-white and poor. As an American, I felt morally complicit.

I was angry at college administrators who summoned police to clear protesters – using teargas, stun guns and mass arrests. The response only added fuel to the flames.

American was deeply split. My graduation speaker urged us to resist the draft and seek refuge in Canada. His words caused parents in the crowd to boo. I saw several engage in fistfights.

The anti-Vietnam war movement became fodder for rightwing politicians like Richard Nixon, demanding "law and order." The spectacle also appalled many non-college, working-class people who viewed the students as pampered, selfish, anti-American, unpatriotic.

I vividly recall the anti war demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, and the brutality of the Chicago police and Illinois national guard – later described by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence as a "police riot".

As the anti-war protesters chanted "The whole world is watching," network television conveyed the riotous scene to what seemed like the whole world.

I had spent months working for the anti-war presidential candidate Eugene McCarthy. The convention nominated Hubert Humphrey. That November, America elected Richard Nixon as president.

I wondered whether the nation could sink any lower. How could we survive?

I ask my students to hold on. To use their lives and careers to make America better. To try to heal the world.

History, as it is said, doesn't repeat itself. It only rhymes.

The mistakes made at one point in time have an eerie way of re-emerging two generations later, as memories fade.

Juan Matute
     (New link as of 3 May )
 - click on it)
― The Lincoln Project

No comments:

Post a Comment