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Opinion December 2016

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A Sign for All Time

By Anne Ashley

I can recall confrontations and vociferous conversations with passersby that disapproved of us “dirty hippies” and our disobedience. Adults who had potentially lived through two world wars and the Great Depression, felt little sympathy for our energetic protests. To our elders then, we were spoiled and entitled brats that knew nothing of real hardships and unfairness!

While our latest election hullabaloo winds down (and unrest rises as I type) I am reminded of the ‘60s and the boomers’ version of civic discontent.

I’m reminded of defiant flyers being handed out and homemade placards being waved. I’m reminded of mantras and slogans being chanted as groups of us walked and marched and walked some more to educate the elder masses about our political dissatisfaction(s). We were the counterculture!

The civil rights movement, the student movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement, and the environmental movement, just to name a few. Our complaints seemed endless and almost insurmountable.

I can recall confrontations and vociferous conversations with passersby that disapproved of us “dirty hippies” and our disobedience. Adults who had potentially lived through two world wars and the Great Depression, felt little sympathy for our energetic protests. To our elders then, we were spoiled and entitled brats that knew nothing of real hardships and unfairness!

Just an important aside here … I was never even remotely close to being a bona fide hippy. In fact, just the thought of living a communal existence of flower power, free love and psychedelic activities scared the bejesus out of me. I was one of those ne'er-do-well, Johnny-come-lately kind of adolescents who walked the walk, talked the talk but refrained from actually wearing the caftans!

Anyway…

We were a radical bunch in the ‘60s and felt that our subsequent futures depended on us “fixing things.” And, no doubt, we played an important part in change. No doubt we achieved some satisfaction. No doubt we matured into grown-ups who apply the lessons of such lofty goals to our adult responsibilities as we turn into the older generation with older generation complaints and grievances.

But what strikes me most about my reminiscences is that today’s youth is still protesting and demonstrating the very same issues as generations before them – albeit with the help of modern-day technology and the immensely beneficial worldwide web that allows for instantaneous contact and rallying of the troops. In the olden days, we relied on word-of-mouth and sit-ins on college campuses to spread the word. Occasionally a violent demonstration would be broadcast on the evening news and the support for the cause swelled with the indignant and newly recruited youths. Previous generations of disgruntled citizens relied on whispers and coded messages to promote their gatherings and uprisings.

Also, in the same way as the activists of yore, today’s discontent is still aimed squarely at régime and control, at unfairness and prejudice, at the treatment of browbeaten and oppressed minorities, at women’s rights!  

As an independent minded, self-regulating female, I am obliged to recognize the sacrifices and the success of the cause of the suffragettes. Woman can now vote. Woman can now hold offices once firmly reserved for and protected by men.

Respect.

However, I’ll feel real progress was made when we fall in line with the rest of the super-powers and finally elect a woman as president of the United States, not just a man who pretends to sympathize with our causes during campaign stump to obtain our prized votes.  

So, is all this opposition and hostility just a rites of passage thing? Is demonstrating and remonstrating a baptism of fire? Does youth ever really change the direction of the big governing wheel?  Are we only anti-establishment until we become old enough to qualify as establishment?

Watching recent events unfold, it strikes me that these issues are to be reborn with every generation. Some battles and protests bring about change … but real and lasting change? I don’t know.

Much like any task to be performed, you’ve only succeeded today. Tomorrow’s tasks, the same as today's tasks and yesterday’s tasks, are waiting to be fought for all over again by a new lot of youth, strength, indignation and outrage.

 

Be sure to follow me on twitter@anneashley57.

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