Listen to these lyrics:
It amazes me how relevant that song still is. So relevant, in fact, that every single line represents an aspect of the current state of our culture, be it the militant partisanship, gun control issues, the war between the generations, or the upswing of political activeness from all directions (without most of us actually being any better informed than in our pre-internet days, thanks to the media’s inability to report without an ulterior motive and most people’s desire to be told how to feel by their political leaders/heroes and to be “part of something” than figure it out for themselves).
Ultimately, it goes to show that generation studies experts and my undergraduate humanities professors are right — everything happens in a cycle. The ’90s-2001 can be likened to the ’50s — a veneer of success and relative peace, when many people were financially secure, business was booming, and status and conformity were everything. Then the Twin Towers were attacked, and we woke up from the dream. We went to war, got political, the housing market (and then the rest of the economy) crashed, we got more political, and now we’re in a veritable mud fight, where everyone is screaming and throwing mud but no one is actually listening.
This is simultaneously frustrating, depressing, and reassuring. Frustrating and depressing in that, in 50 years, nothing has really changed — some of the discussion points have, but not human nature. But it’s also oddly reassuring to know that all of this has happened before and we as a nation managed to get through it (on the whole) with our hearts and lives intact.
The funny thing is, I’m very conscious as I write this post that when people listen to the song and read my commentary — whether they listen to Rush Limbaugh and read the Dredge Report, or think President Obama is a godsend, or are somewhere in between — most will nod their heads and say, “Yep, that’s exactly what’s happening,” and blame the other side for it: the radical liberals who are immoral and hell-bent on destroying our nation’s most deeply held values, promoting abortion, secularism, gay rights, and inconvenient environmental consciousness; the radical conservatives who are bigoted, greedy, selfish, and warmongering; the “Peter Pan” youths who are entitled, immature, and overly idealistic; the older generations who are out of touch, jaded, and overly conformist; and, of course, the white majority and various minority groups (I’m not even going to write what I’ve heard in terms of race from people of all races). But we’re ALL a part of it, and until we admit that we’re culpable and are willing to change our attitudes and methods of communicating, it’s only going to continue. And this culture of screaming, cotton-in-the-ears mudslinging is not one I want my son growing up in.
Unless, of course, his generation is better than all of ours because of it and human nature improves. I’m not going to hold my breath, though. Even so, I’m going to raise him as best I can so that he, at least, will have the sense not to be part of it, that he’ll rise above it and make actual change in the world with whatever gifts he has to give.
I hope he realizes that we’re all just people, regardless of who we are and what we want for ourselves and the rest of the world. As I pointed out in my previous post, we have all experienced pain that has colored our views of the world and each other. We all, ultimately, want what’s best. It’s just that we don’t always agree about what’s best, and our fears have a knack of getting in the way of us doing the right thing, whatever that is. And sometimes our greatest fear is admitting that we might be wrong — at least a little bit.
Stephen Stills is as right now as he was in 1966 — it’s time for everyone to stop and look at what’s going down. Seriously, stop. Let all of your well-digested biases and indignation pass through your intestines, colon, and rectum and fall into the toilet where they belong, and — for the love of everything that is good and kind in the world — LOOK AROUND.