What’s going on? Do you understand the times? When can we go back to normalcy? Some say that will never happen. Should we be afraid?
We are experiencing a breakdown in national and inter-personal civility. We are witnessing social unrest sweeping the country. We are shut down due to a worldwide pandemic, causing illness and death like we haven’t seen in over a century and causing our economy to falter with massive unemployment and business failures not seen since the Great Depression. Our government is stalemated and seemingly incapable of fulfilling its mission. We are truly living in frightening times.
Fear and apathy don’t have to define this age. I argue this is a great time to be alive provided we assert ourselves and make it so.
I came of age and awakening during the 1960’s, a time now believed to have been when the culture of social cohesion and conformity was overtaken by the Boomer generation of cultural individualism and non-conformity. The Age of Aquarius versus the Greatest Generation. A time when the ethos of the group-oriented culture no longer made sense to the Boomers’ sense of “I’m free to be myself”.
What were the 1960’s like?
The Cold War was raging and we had weekly “air raid drills” in school to teach us how to survive a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. The Civil Rights Movement exposed the racism in America. It was a non-violent attempt to right two centuries of wrongs achieving the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Vietnam War raged in Southeast Asia. Young men were being drafted and sent to fight in the jungles of Vietnam. Many felt the war was immoral. Our enemy lost 1.1 million soldiers and 2 million Vietnamese civilians. We lost 58,000 service men. Massive anti-war demonstrations in the U.S. took place. Political assassinations shook American life. President Kennedy was shot in 1963; Dr. Martin Luther King was shot in 1968 followed by Bobby Kennedy 62 days later, while campaigning for the Democratic nomination for President. Officially, a police riot occurred at the Democratic National Convention and 13 college students were killed by the National Guard at Kent State.
There was a general feeling our country was falling apart. It wasn’t. In retrospect, the 60’s signaled the collapse of the old culture and the birth of the new.
David Brooks, a conservative political and social commentator believes we are currently experiencing the collapse of the 60’s culture of individualism. He is also concerned that tribalism is taking root as the answer to individualism. I concur.
I believe events today are a harbinger of a cultural shift in America, similar to the cultural shift that occurred in the 60’s. I join Brooks and pray we don’t accept tribalism as the ethos of the next age. I believe there is something better. Do you?
In 1961, John Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”, inspiring children and adults to see the importance of civic action and public service. These words challenged me and countless others to a life of improving the public good. I have tried to do this all my life. This pursuit has made my life meaningful.
I challenge you to experience a meaningful life too.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” Buckminster Fuller