Strange how our values become galvanized when threatened.
So, we’ve somehow managed to elect the poster child of hapless, self-serving, demagoguery who has relit the old fire sticks of hatred, intolerance, and isolationism (as if they ever really went out).
So, we take to the streets and we protest.
The Flower Power movement was birthed in Berkeley, California in the late 1960’s as means of symbolic protest against the Vietnam War. Beatnik writer Allen Ginsberg, promoted the use of “masses of flowers” to hand to policemen, press, politicians and spectators to civilly fight violence with peace.
Today reminds me SO MUCH of the nineteen sixties. I remember the images of race riots, bloodied faces, nightsticks, state funerals of fallen leaders, Buddhist monks lighting themselves on fire. Death by gun violence then was two points higher per 100,000 than it is today. I was a few years too young (to my eternal gratitude), but the nation’s young were being forced from their homes, shoveled into boot camps and used as cannon fodder to fight an unjust war.
So, they took to the streets.
In 1967 they protested against violence and the war in Vietnam.
In 2017 they will protest against hatred and intolerance.
When we were kids, whining was not tolerated in my family. If my siblings or I cried too much about something that made us unhappy, we would hear that infamous question, “You want something to cry about? I’ll GIVE you something to cry about!” which was followed by a few swift smacks. It was meant to force us to consider whining as a poor strategy, but it always made me think, “Great, now I have TWO things to cry about!” Whining, you see, is complaint without action, and my parents couldn’t stand it.
The often-maligned Millennial, accused of laziness and whining, a generation coddled then forgotten, suddenly feels that sharp slap and the taste of iron in their mouths.
Now it’s different, now it’s personal. A once lost generation has found its purpose.
For someone like me, it is so deeply painful to watch innocence come of age in an ugly world, but it is equally inspiring. What will they forge in their crucible? What outcomes will they gain–for all of us.
Of all the images my young mind retained in that era, the most powerful and transformative one was the image of a flower stuck down the barrel of a gun. It takes some balls to face down an adrenalin-bathed military guard with a bayonetted rifle pointed at your head and approach with nothing but a flower. The symbology was perfect, “Make Love not War”, and the insight extraordinary in its time–You can’t fight violence with violence. The message of Love did an end run around the mind of violence and spoke directly to the heart of peace.
The protests mattered, and we eventually won.
I’ve been stricken lately with how much the protesters today against ‘he who must not be named’ look like the protestors from 50 years ago. They are just as brave, just as determined, and just as full of purpose. There is a laser focus to their intention that reveals a beauty in them that has lain dormant until now. Adversity reveals true mettle.
I hope they continue to know that you can’t fight hate with hate.
And we’re going to need more flowers.