Sunday, February 27, 2005

The Pendulum Swings Like a Scythe

“You don’t always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need.” The song by the Rolling Stones plays over in my head as I sit down in front of the keyboard to bang out this post. Perhaps the song’s being a big part of the movie “The Big Chill” adds to feeling that there is something in the lyrics that holds meaning for life.

Let’s turn the Wayback to the end of the sixties and early seventies when I was coming of age and the great revolution against the establishment was in full flourish. I like many a child embraced the new culture as something bringing hope and new freedoms. Like every generation, we felt we were unique and had something special to offer, and the times provided a whole new arena to exercise these new freedoms in what we considered was an entirely new way. Our passage lead us to a new land in which we dared not consider returning to the old order. Government and large private institutions could not be trusted. The antiestablishment man became the role to emulate. Patriotism was passé.

The thinking as one people that had served the country well in WWII did work as well in the fight against communism. I came to feel I had more to fear for my personal freedom from the anti-communist than from some possible communist takeover. The seemingly natural paranoia of the right for some monolithic communist conspiracy did more harm to the nation than any communists anywhere ever actually did. And the final victory over communism came from peace not militancy. Certainly containment and the threat of annihilation kept the communism in check, but it was peace that slew the dragon. But the fear of falling dominos lead to our mistaken involvement in a war of independence in Vietnam and a distrust of the government and institutions that got us into it.

But our rejection of the establishment and authority came with a heavy price. I sensed a loss of feeling for community cohesion, national unity, and faith in civilized order such as our government and major institutions. Lack of trust is a doubled edged sword harming both the institution that lost its constituency and the individual that lost feelings of support and identity with the whole. I knew our intentions in Vietnam were honorable, but our goal was not realistic. I did not have the deferments Cheney had or the connections Bush had or even the personal patriotism Kerry had, and so when I was drafted, I went feeling I didn’t have any other choice.

I remember my father’s stories of the days after Pearl Harbor and how it galvanized the nation. He volunteered because he felt he would have to go anyway. In the seventies, I wondered at this feeling of national unity, but I knew I was different; I could not go there. Maybe it’s me or maybe it’s the culture I grew up in: To think independently of national intent, to question authority both right and left, to put the rights of the individual over the rights of the whole, to believe unfettered freedom will accomplish more than any collective society, to believe free markets are more efficient than planned economy. What would it be like to return to a time when people believed in their government and what it was doing?

And now I know. Perhaps it was 9/11 or maybe it was a mood against all things tainted liberal that had been slowly building through out the nation that became manifest some time before the year 2000. With the new administration coming into office, a new order or way of thinking seem to come with it. I wondered what it would be like for the old national cohesion that was prevalent during WWII, and now I am experiencing it personally. And what do I feel? Exclusion. Loss of freedom of thought. And the realization that this patriotic zeal is a step away from fascism. A majority of society or at least enough to re-elect a “you are either with us or against us” President seems to be the prevalent order of the day. Right wing bloggers seem on a campaign of unquestionable loyalty and intolerance for descent. I expect any day that the brown-shirted right wing bloggers will go on a spree of Kristallnacht in the blogoshpere. Get your mind right or get your ass off the net.

While I may have longed for a feeling of national unity, is the current situation what I or this country needs?
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