Thursday, February 11, 2016

February 11, 2016--The Excitement Gap: "I Want My Own 1960s"

I have a niece who is in her mid-20s. She is enthusiastic about the election. More so than during any of the six or seven years she's been eligible to vote.

"Why's that?" I asked recently, suspecting I knew the answer.

"I'm attracted to Bernie Sanders' ideas and ideals. He's serious about issues and his resonate with mine. I also like his mien."

"Understood, but what about Hillary?"

"I suppose she's all right," she said making a face.


"I'm turned off by her condescending outreach to young people. Very much including my generation of women."

"I've been hearing that. Of course I have. By now, who hasn't?" So I asked, "Tell me something new."

"I don't know if this is new but he, and I suppose Donald TRUMP," she made a face again, "is bringing a lot of excitement to the race. Not for the specific reasons Gloria Steinem said. To meet boys." I waited for her to make another face.

"What are your reasons?"

"As we've discussed before, I know about the '60s and the Kennedys and the music and counterculture of that era. I know about the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement. How politically it brought down the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. In many ways I wish I had lived then," she shrugged, "But of course I didn't. And then there were the Women's Movement and the battle for abortion rights and before that the Civil Rights Movement. I wasn't there for them either, but I have been around to support Gay Liberation and same-sex marriage."

"I'm not sure I know where you're going with this."

"My point is that those were not only important times but exciting ones. I know not all of it was joyous--protestors got beat up by police in some cases and by hard hats in others. And of course college students were shot and killed by the National Guard at Kent State. I do know about that. But there are a lot of serious problems now. The familiar list of problems from friends and other young people trapped in student loan debt and underemployed so they have to live with their parents. And there is the feeling that our place in the world is slipping. And above all else there's the growing gap between the top one percent and the rest of us. Bernie's big theme. Something he's right about and that most people on the left and even the right are feeling frustrated and angry about."

"Isn't Hillary talking about these things too?"

"I suppose. But with her it doesn't feel genuine. Or uplifting. Like she'll say whatever she thinks she needs to say to get elected."

"But again what about the excitement part?"

"Though she didn't express it in the best way, actually how she said it was insulting, but Gloria Steinem was on to something."

That surprised me. "What's that?"

"That it was, it still is, exciting to be involved in a movement to chance things. To engage in it with friends and, in the case of young people, with others who through social media can work together using social network websites, including those that tell you where to gather for meetings and rallies."

"I get that. It was exciting to march to end the war even if there was the threat of getting clubbed and beaten."

"You had your '60s," my niece said, "And now I want my own 1960s. You had your anti-war movement and I want the equivalent. You got arrested for what you believed in and even if there is danger I want to have that kind of cause to believe in and get mobilized around."

"I can understand that."

"My generation--so-called Millennials (I hate that name)--have been characterized by middle-age people as being self-indulgent and entitled. For some that may be true. But with concern about the climate, the economy, the people left behind, the rights still to be won, and crises all over the world, we finally have our causes and . . ."

She trailed off. "And?"

"And, it's exciting. Very. And that counts too."

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