Sunday, March 13, 2016

Paranoia strikes deep.

It seems like I've been taking a lot of breaks from Facebook lately, especially on the weekends.

I was all gung-ho on political posts for awhile there, when our presidential election season was just getting started. This isn't a political blog, so I won't tell you which candidate I'm supporting (although I'm sure you could make a reasonable assumption if I told you that my Facebook profile lists my political stance as "slightly to the left of the Dalai Lama").

But I'm finding more and more that I have to step away. Some of the stuff that's been happening lately transcends politics and heads into the scary zone.

It feels like the '60s again. Except this time, it's not college kids protesting against the government to end an unpopular war -- it's people of all ages protesting against a Presidential candidate. More than once, punches have been thrown. And instead of telling his supporters to simmer down, the candidate in question is continuing to use the same rhetoric that got them riled up in the first place.

It's getting me riled up, too -- but my predominant emotion is anxiety. See, I remember the '60s. I was a kid in August of 1968 -- just ten years old -- but I remember seeing on TV the protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, just sixty miles from where we lived. One candidate that year never made it to the convention; Bobby Kennedy was shot to death in Los Angeles in June. And two months before that, civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., had been assassinated in Memphis.

That was also the year Southern Democrat George Wallace ran on a third-party ticket, hoping to end school desegregation. He didn't like black folks and he didn't like hippies. (He once famously said that the only four-letter words hippies didn't know were work and soap.) He didn't win in '68, but four years later he ran again, this time for the Democratic nomination. And he did pretty well -- until, at a campaign rally in Laurel, Maryland, in May of 1972, he was shot five times. One bullet lodged in his spine, paralyzing him. He spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.

In between, in 1970, four students were shot to death by National Guard troops at Kent State University in Ohio.

Scary times, indeed. And now, almost fifty years later, it feels to me like it's starting again -- the heated rhetoric, the pushing, the punches, the intolerance of other views and other people. The parallels aren't exact, but the feelings are the same: like we're on the verge of tipping into chaos.

This song captures the mood for me. For What It's Worth isn't about the Vietnam War; Stephen Stills, who wrote it, has said it's about the Sunset Strip riots, which were in reaction to a curfew crackdown in Los Angeles in late 1966. Still, fifty years later, the lyrics hit home.

(By the way, "the heat" is slang for the police.)

These moments of chaotic blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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