Our Revolution and Yours

Some Progressives wanted a President who kicks butt like Abraham Lincoln, FDR, or LBJ.

Matt Damon seems to express the sentiments of present revolutionaries very well.  By starring in the Jason Bourne series of movies, Damon might believe that a complex situation like income inequality can be attacked with something comparable to guns and martial arts.

Like many of us, Damon worked hard to get Barack Obama elected. I know a lot of people who agree with Damon's comments in Elle Magazine: "You know, a one-term president with some balls who actually got stuff done would have been, in the long run of the country, much better."

Of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Damon says:  " . . . people are literally without any focus or leadership, just wandering out into the streets to yell right now because they are so pissed off ... Imagine if they had a leader."

As one who articulates the goals of the present revolution, Damon wants the same kind of things we wanted back in the day. His passion for justice is unrivaled. He is the founder of an organization whose aim is to bring clean water to millions of people in Africa suffering with diseases without it. 

He is a member of a star-studded group which focuses global attention and resources to stop genocide in Darfur. He supports another organization aimed at fighting AIDS and poverty in Third World countries.

He has appeared for free in the print and television advertising for a non-profit foundation committed to supporting, preserving and improving the lives of children in the United States, and around the world. And he is the spokesperson for the largest hunger-relief organization that runs food banks in pockets of hunger in the USA.

But many of us who were caught up in the revolution of the 1960s did not work for Obama's election hoping that an American President would lead a revolution. Thinks might seem the same now, but they are very different.

Back then, stars joined us -Muhammad Ali, Marlon Brandon, Jane Fonda, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Paul Newman. There are really too many to name. There are stars now: Michael Moore, Dixie Chicks, Sean Penn, Angelina Jolie, Bono, and George Clooney, to name a few.

Back in the 1960s we were out to change the world. The targets of our revolution were easy to identify -a lunch counter, a transportation or school system, a voting booth , a swimming pool, a war for which the unwilling were drafted to fight and die.  

President Johnson did not want to respond to us. Our outrage was not as intense as outrage was when Lincoln was forced to respond at the time of the Civil War. But our anger was certainly much stronger than the anger is now. For us it was more than a matter of  "wandering out into the streets to yell right (from being) so pissed off " Young Americans in today's revolution probably can't image how angry we were. 

In the 1960s we were more like those youth in the Middle East are today. We were so mad that we were willing to face shotguns in the Civil Rights movement and machine guns in the Anti-War Movement, and police dogs and fire hoses. We didn't care. We blew things up and burned things down. America was going to change or we were going to die.

Our revolution succeeded. Legal segregation was ended, unjust laws were changed, and unjust practices were outlawed. One measure of our success is that a black family is in the white house and a woman was within a hair of being there.

The revolutionary goals that young people now want were already won by us. What young people are suffering from now are the effects of a counter revolution. The Reagan Counter-Revolution, as it should be called, is still attempting to reverse everything that we did during the 1960s, and some of what FDR's generation did in the 1930s.

Most of the ills that cause Damon's rage were best attacked by getting Bush, the Reaganites, and foot soldiers of Reagan Revolution out of office. That was the reason many of us worked to get Obama elected. Yes, and getting him re-elected is the only way to keep more of our 1960s revolution from being undone.

Gaining ground is more exciting than holding ground, but the primary goal now is to hold ground. In the next post I'll get into specifics on how completely we changed the nation, how much ground we actually gained.

The 1970s was like Reconstruction, the period of progress after the Civil War. Much of the ground gained during Reconstruction was lost. Obama's task, and all of ours, is to keep that from losing ground again.

Read the next post in this series: Will the 60s Revolution Be Undone?

George Davis is creator of the forthcoming series of world-sourced, interactive books, Barack Obama, America and the World.

About the Author

George Davis

George Davis is professor emeritus at Rutgers University. His latest book is Until We Got Here.

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