With events surrounding the mass killings last week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in Florida fresh in peoples minds, and with the growing protests, gaining momentum and sweeping throughout the country, many people have been running comparisons to High School students in protest from an earlier time. The similarities now to the protests of the 60s – the Vietnam era; the Youth Culture in revolt.
However, the only comparisons you can really draw are the ages of the protestors – high school students protesting the Vietnam War, consisted of many 17 year old boys who would become 18 year old boys within months and the Draft Board beckoned. They drew the ire of the older generation and symbols of the establishment. We were branded unwashed, matted-haired, entitled, shiftless, drugged-out scum, for whom a two year stint in Vietnam would probably do us good. In retaliation, we marched – we threw rocks – dodged teargas, were beaten-up, dragged off to jail and reviled by mainstream press and parents alike. The Douglas high protestors, on the other hand, are a committed bunch – remarkably articulate and conscientious – have drawn universal praise from members of the community and law enforcement. We both had issues in common – in the 1960s our divisions were generational – in 2018 our divisions are political. In the 1960s anyone over 30 was viewed with suspicion. In 2018 anyone who sports a MAGA cap or supports the NRA is viewed with suspicion. Different issues, divisions nonetheless. In the 1960s we believed in blowing things up – we were, as those who were around at the time, a rather violent bunch – sometimes legitimately and sometimes by way of hijack. The Peace movement of the 1960s was fraught with chaos merchants – people who saw violence as the logical solution, or just liked the idea of stirring shit up. Now it’s an issue of across-the-board support and collective anger. Those of us who protested in the 1960s are doubtless the parents (and even grandparents) of those kids protesting today. And both generations had pundits who swore the protests would never last.
We see those students at Douglas High, see the urgency and fear etched across their faces and all we want to do is hug them and tell them it will work out – to be strong and stick to your convictions and don’t let anybody push you around. Somehow, they remind us of who we were once – angry and optimistic; picturing a life without killing – a life surrounded by peace and possibilities.
In April of 1970, when this episode of Kup’s Show, a talk/interview program hosted by Irv Kupcinet ran, the disdain for the younger generation, the Baby Boomers as they were known, was widely and vocally felt. The irony is that this broadcast took place almost a month to the day before the killings of students at Kent and Jackson State Universities – the incidents which became the defining moments in the anti-war movement, and some say brought the War in Vietnam to a close faster as the result.
Unrest, it would seem, is timeless – youth in opposition to the status quo is almost a rite of passage. Those of us who protested in the 60s have become tired, lost, sold-out, responsible, embarrassed at our youthful indiscretions or simply put our idealism on a distant back-burner. We look at the kids at Douglas High and know the future will be in good hands. Maybe they will get to accomplish what we couldn’t.
Maybe the 60s were the dress-rehearsal after all.