Frustrations, Angst and Disappointments
By John Johnson
Writing today as a left political activist, frustration seems to be a prominent emotion.
The Civil Rights movement in the Sixties gave us spirit. The recent PBS documentary “The Freedom Riders” brought back the emotions of that day. The committed community could undergo the worst – beatings, firebombs, jail – and maintain their uplifting spirit, hope and sense of real community. Despite the harrowing moments, those were some A-plus times.
Then we had the anti-war movement, fortified by the massive radical student movement, peace movement and world alliances. But the bastards kept that war going on and on, killing millions of Southeast Asians for no reason other than the greed of empire. By 1969 it felt almost hopeless. We had finally mobilized a large segment of the population on our side, we had organized campuses, even the military. The “counter culture… hippie” movement expanded to touch every aspect of society. Feminists and gays, artists and movie makers, ecologists and others blossomed in the Seventies.
By the late Seventies I got into art, had some paintings displayed in art shows and a couple of galleries. Then I sat down and wrote the definitive book on the Sixties, though it was and remains unpublished.
The Eighties gave us Reagan, who was no more than a servant of the elite with all his little wars, his national security state, the wrecking of the economy, the beginning attacks upon the labor movement and the middle class, along with the transference of vast amounts of wealth to the already wealthy. He was a C-minus corrupted to an F. But by then, many had grown tired of protest and rebellion, and the creativity which they had once spawned.
Clinton came in blowing like a B-plus, but soon fell down with the continuing deregulation of Wall Street and the massive exporting of jobs to Latin America and later Asia.
Then we had our boy Dubya Bush, a D-minus at best, but aspiring to be a phony C. More of our wealth and the wealth of the world was systematically moved into the hands of the very rich. Tragic mass killings in Iraq and elsewhere, were clearly signs of a D-minus trying to impress his criminal friends, which demoted him to an F-minus.
Obama, he seemed to many to be a definite A at one time, but if so, the corruptions of the world around him have led him down a dark hallway.
My personal life was that of a B student. B grades mostly, B in athletes. Came in second in most of my high school swim team meets. And a B in my social life. Dated a bit, had some girlfriends, none lasted much more than a couple of years. Fell in love a number of times, but they always found another guy they liked better, and often married them. I do care a lot for my current B-plus. She’s really an A, but gets a point off for being a smart aleck at times. (Just kidding!)
In jobs I was always an A worker, but really a C-minus, because I could never dedicate my self to someone else’s business, which bosses usually preferred.
I’ve always liked music, played a guitar once, and the sax, but didn’t keep them up. Liked folk, rock and jazz but that grew thin. Was enlightened by LSD but that soon faded away.
I’ve been doing this paper for twenty years. In a number of ways, it’s the most satisfying thing I’ve done, other than the basic organizing in the Sixties and early Seventies. Yet I become very disappointed because I’m scarcely able to generate enough contributions to support it, let alone expand it. It sort of just gets by. Another grade of B, as in “Barely.”
So I raise a glass to all the Bs. At least your not a “C”. But seriously survival has become much more fraught in the past fifty, forty, even the past twenty years. Many a so-called A or B person, once more or less assured of finding their niches and flourishing, now flounder, scarcely able to make it from day to day, let alone from month to month. We are bombarded from every direction with messages about our inadequacies and failures. Branded with C, D and F grades for being anything less than “top notch” players in a system, increasingly designed to guarantee the failure of all its less than obscenely wealthy citizens.