The kind of anger that we had during the 1960s does not exist any more, and I’m glad. I am now rereading my Vietnam War novel, Coming Home. It has had a cult following over the years and readers who like it have prevailed on me to let them do a 40th Anniversary Editions this year.
It is not pleasant to remember all that “burn-baby-burn” and bra-burning outrage that transformed American culture; or the anger of all those national liberation struggles that had Asia, Africa and Latin America in turmoil. This anger freed three-quarters of the world’s population from colonialist or neo-colonist oppression.
The thing that I most disagree with President Obama on is his characterization of the 1960s as “excessive.” It was what was needed at the time. Reading Coming Home again I do agree that much of what we did was ugly, but the question is: Can real change happen without some one getting very, very ugly? During this time, I think it can, by being powerful and polite, as our President is.
The occupy movement seems to have fizzled. Legislation to get equal pay for women just failed in the Senate. The war in Afghanistan grinds on and on. A kind of mass indifference is allowing wealth to concentrate in an only slightly larger percentage of the population than before the 1960s.
It seems that groups of have-nots are trying to find ways to deal with being without, waiting for the 2012 election wherein:
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
as William Butler Yeats said of a similar war-weary time a century ago. But the best of the best do have deep quiet convictions beyond anger. We are still experiencing “The Second Coming,” as Yeats named his poem. We are still slouching towards redemption. The trick is that we’ve learned to enjoy ourselves along the way.