As one of the victory babies of the boomer or prophet generation, we must have explore the ways that we can bequeath to posterity our final states of consciousness, much like the four old men of the gilded era, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, John Greenleaf Whittier, and James Russell Lowell.
The psychological earthquake and the open wound on all baby boomers and their parents’ hero generation psyches has forever been the horror of the Kennedy assassination, on November 22, 1963, six days before Thanksgiving on November 28. VJ Day, the end of World War II and the Kennedy Assassination bracketed the consciousness of two generations. We all remember where we were when it happened.
I distinctly remember where I was when John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
I was a citizen of a country, the United States, at a time, the future seemed bright and full of possibility, and the people had hope for a fuller and better life.
I was a citizen of a country, the United States, at a time, the future seemed bright and full of possibility, and the people had hope for a fuller and better life. Home was a place where our feet could leave but our hearts could not, where our faith in love was like the wind, we could not see it but we could feel its warmth. Our love endured because we loved the same things together.
I was living in a country where a book was considered not just a read, but also a summit, a codification of a point of view. There was an emotional value to the paper on which the book was written. A book wasn’t just an artifact, but a synthesis of fully realized individual personhood with human continuity. Education, was an investment in knowledge and we understood that it paid the best interest
I was living in a country where its citizens enjoyed basic human rights, where labor unions raised the living wage standards of all workers, not merely those under its contracts, and there was a coalition of conscience between the forces of labor, the church, the academic community and the civil rights movement. I was living in a country that had a progressive proportional tax system, the sublime legacy of FDR taxes that built the infrastructure of our country, and the constitution was taken seriously by our elected representatives in Washington.
I was living in a country where Republicans and Democrats actually had respect for each other and worked together, respected each other and passed legislation that was for the benefit of the people. I was living in a time where we believed in Thomas Paine’s words: “that reason and only reason can raise man’s dignity from the depths of degradation, error and ignorance.” This is where I was when JFK was put to death.
Yet, today I don’t recognize this country any longer. It has been changed in a very negative way since the despicable men of Dealey Plaza ended the American Dream. It seems that at this tragic moment in our history doing better and feeling worse has become part of our cultures new declinism, bringing on a façade of self- denigration, in a disappointing youth economy, a life that seems to lead nowhere, slackers and singles dazed and confused amid a culturally splintered world, full of exploitative sexuality and remorseless violence, all with a sense of personal directionless. Knowledge and education have become just another commodity through the monetization of knowledge production to the corporate model. Civics and government are no longer taught, and the teaching of history has become a mere regurgitation of times and dates.
In the baby boom era of our youth, Hollywood had not invented the tech-enhanced violent action movie that would lead to the typical child viewing 10,000 acts of violence and TV mayhem by the age of 18. Capital had not started to cross national boundaries as it did in 1980’s driving the US economy to use LBO’s financed with junk bonds, laying off long term workers, while corporate stocks skyrocketed. There was no cocaine epidemic in our large cities throughout the country. There were no deinstitutionalized, homeless vagrants and prisons growing at the fastest rate in history. There was no legalized gambling, and state supported casinos and the Olympics were for amateurs not paid professionals.
Money and robber baron economics, the direct fraud of supply side economics, which was essentially a repudiation of reality, loans to the rich that the middle and lower classes had to pay back, and an ignore the future policy, had not turned morality into a matter of impersonal arithmetic, justifying things that would otherwise seem outrageous and obscene, making greed good. Violence and the threat of violence with the new phenomenon of terrorism had not turned all human relationships into the cold calculus of mathematics. There was no Fox News and its dominance of right wing propaganda, over non-ideological reality, its adherence to the corporate state, with all its attacks on liberal institutions and its attempts to destroy our moral autonomy.
Lying and blatant fabrications had not become the growth industry of Washington republicans. Politics had not become an extortion industry, keeping the middle class un-empowered by creating a politically engineered anxious class versus the one percent class. The machinery of politics had not required our representatives to become agents of injustice. Politicians had not been blatantly compromised, with no sense of ethics or morality, operating in a vain- glorious system of conceit, deceit, debt and delusion, all the while with a friendly face, and with the solemn conceit of pretending to do the public’s business.
The accumulated corruption of moneyed politics had not metastasized. In 1963 the Government had not been transformed from a public service and a public servant into a device for privatizing profit, eliminating the public sphere, totally liberating corporations, with sparse social spending. We were not living in a vile system where the hammer of freedom was divorced from the chisel of justice, and the common good, by the republicans in power, with their lobby money, and the uncontrollable corporate tyrannies that rule them, thanks to Citizen United in 2010, that attempted to design a control grid over a free humanity.
What has happened since that ignoble day in November of 1963, that has made Washington a pox on our souls?
Corporate America with businesses like Walmart have slammed competitors’ margins to the bare minimum, in addition to the captured population of its supply chain, through its punishing network effects. Transnational businesses have become narcissists, totally blind to where real value comes from, including the web of global interdependence that is at the core of their own value.
Colonialism and cancerous capitalism, long fueled by envy and avarice, has imposed its predatory grim logic: what was ravishing was ravished, what was captivating became captive. The cruel history of our country brought bloodshed, and it took root, spreading across the world landscape like a toxic weed, nourished on injustice and inhumanity. The politicized human rights activities of Washington power politics have brazenly traded off the rights of citizens for the residual rights of the corporation. This unholy policy has hardened into the radicalized identities of world populations and an official institutionalization of discrimination and human abuse. It has distorted the ideals of sovereignty and citizenship and replaced it with a modern colonization form of trusteeship and ward-ship.
Fiscally, todays problems that have steadily and belligerently grown since that fateful day in November, was like that of 16th Century Spain, whose landed aristocracy taxed labor and incipient industry in the towns, while living tax free in luxury. In 18th Century France, a similar tax shift sparked the Great Revolution. That was the only way they could break the rentier stranglehold adding to the cost of labor and its products. Is the end of history to be a new Dark Age of enclosures and privatizations that will bury the heritage of The Enlightenment’s drive to free economies from rentier privilege, which for nearly 40 years now since Reaganomics has been re-christened as “wealth creation.”
We have ended up with a maze of confusing paired opposites; egoism versus altruism, profit versus charity, materialism versus idealism, cold calculation versus spontaneity, none of which could ever be understood by us idealistic boomers, except by someone staring out from an amoral, craven, calculating self-interest in only market transactions.
What are we now? What do we believe? What economic model explains the criminal looting of the U.S. Treasury to bail out Wall Street banks allowing them to make obscene profits? When will we reject the lie that globalization fosters democracy, enlightenment, worldwide prosperity and stability? When will we stand up and realize that unfettered global trade and corporate profit are the enemies of freedom and the common good?
“It is only in showing men the truth,” wrote Holbach in 1772. “Then they will come to know their most vital interests and the true motives which should incline them towards what is good. For the less people know, the more obdurate they are in upholding, what they think they know.”
Nearly 250 years ago, our nation signed a promissory note; “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
We have become a lost generation since JFK, because our lobbied representatives, devoid of conscience, have failed to give mankind a peaceful society they were promised as the American heritage.
The great whale in Moby Dick, stands as a metaphor for the driver of this country’s evil since JFK’s fateful day; the Pentagon. We have been lashed to this great monster’s back, a figure of fundamental evil and forces that we cannot control. After the fated ship of Ahab and Starbuck went down failing to harness the gigantic whale, all that was left were seagulls, “screaming over the yawning gulf.”
People who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation, are people who want crops without plowing the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning, they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle is both a political one be a moral one. But, it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did, and it never will.
We must never compromise, never forget our born duty, and never become like the seagulls, left “screaming over the yawning gulf,” as the great shroud of the unbridled amoral power of the sea rolls on.
It was John F. Kennedy who warned us: “Those who make peaceful rebellion impossible make violent revolution inevitable.”