Dear Family and Friends: March, 2018
“I watched the news last night, oh boy…” I did indeed watch the news last night and it was OH BOY. Through an optimistic eye I saw hundreds of thousands take to the streets in protest. In 1968 we sang, “We shall not, we shall not be moved. Just like a tree that’s standing by the water, we shall not be moved.” And just like that old gospel song turned into a protest song, I witnessed what it said, “young and old together, we shall not be moved; black and white together, we shall not be moved; gay and straight together, we shall not be moved; all religions together, we shall not be moved.” It was an emotional news day, yesterday. And I certainly was moved.
But with a pessimistic eye I recalled those days of marches and sit-ins in the late 60’s. I remember holding the representatives of Dow chemical, manufacturers of the Vietnam war chemical weapon agent orange, hostage (if only during working hours that one day) so they couldn’t hold interviews on campus in Champaign/Urbana. I remember smelling tear gas on the streets of the University of Wisconsin. I remember feeling like I was part of a Movement that was going to change the world. Yes, that war ended five years later, but not because of anything I did.
It’s true that we couldn’t communicate (read organize) then the way these kids can today. We didn’t have Facebook pages or events, tweets or instant this and that. But even so, pessimistically I can’t help but think that summer’s coming, and with that, jobs at McDonalds, camp, resume building internships, all of which may get in the way of this generation's great momentum.
But there definitely is energy and commitment to an obtainable ideal. Something more doable than ending a war thousands of miles away. Here’s the ray of light. I heard chants and saw signs to the effect of, “We will vote you out.” Many of those kids out on Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday and hundreds of thousands more will be 18 by 2020. Our voting statistics are deplorable. Maybe this swell of activism will lead to a million more registered voters. And maybe those registered voters will actually vote for candidates that will represent them.
I think that should be the goal of this “Movement.” Maybe we can help. Maybe somehow we, the older folks, can continue to articulate the message, “GO AND REGISTER TO VOTE,” and then, “GET OUT AND VOTE.” I don’t exactly know how to do this, but I am going to try and keep this message alive here at Indiana University, and at the high schools in Bloomington. I’m going to call the League of Women Voters and see if there isn’t a way to bring voter registration to the schools. Let’s register a million voters, even more, so we can vote them out and vote them in. Politicians care more about votes than they do demonstrations. Let’s vote them out!