I wanted to be a believer, and I thought Miss Clark’s civics class taught me how. The government of the United States really worked despite very minor flaws, but there was always a liberal way back. I come from a liberal family with an unwavering faith in the electoral system here and hope to reform even the system’s most egregious domestic and foreign policies. The wrongs could be righted by our system of government. There was even a bit of a collective sense of reform in the latter.
All three branches of government functioned and there were checks and balances against blatant policies. Pretty funny stuff these many tattered decades later!
During the Vietnam War, I believed Martin Luther King, Jr.’s statement that the moral arc of the universe pointed toward justice. I became a war resister during the Vietnam War despite two opportunities to leave the United States for Canada at that time. I believed that society would become better in terms of social justice and ending war. And the long journey from Reaganism to Trumpism and the Biden administration’s lack of action provided opportunities to fight back, as I always have working with others in social justice and political movements.
by Ron Kovic Born July 4 (1976) is a well-rounded view of the Vietnam War and a protest against that war from the perspective of a Navy veteran. There was hope in the resistance against formidable obstacles. Ron Kovic included scenes of his company’s engagement in a Vietnamese hamlet and showed the disastrous effects on its unarmed inhabitants, something largely missing from Vietnam War narratives up to that point.
When the national anthem played before a basketball game at my alma mater in Providence, Rhode Island over a decade ago, I stood in silence as a friend of mine left the arena and the The other sat in silence next to me. We were all anti-war, and my friend who left the arena momentarily had experienced first-hand the ravages of American wars in Central America during his many working visits there.
Sitting with a group of war resisters who had left the country for Canada in Montreal in 1970, I returned to the United States to work and fight the good fight, although I always felt that a part of me remained behind in their just struggle against the war.
I had flaws like everyone else, but I believed the path to the best was to the left.
In 1981, while driving near my home, an FM station disc jockey argued that even with the reality of Ronald Reagan’s far-right administration, we on the left still had a stake in the functioning of this nation.
Now, unlike that voice on the radio of long ago, I believe there is no longer any hope of changing anything materially in the United States. I even regard my two forays into Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaigns in 2016 and 2020 as lost causes. I still had some of that liberal bent in my psyche that said the political, economic, and social systems in the United States would change for the better despite the proverbial writing on the wall that the game was fixed. Sanders would not leave the Democratic corporate and militarist party and any chance for a vibrant left-wing juggernaut was left in the dust. Sanders, while identifying as an independent, seemed to want to retain his power among Democrats and did not want to endure Ralph Nader’s political exile for Nader’s honorable hubris in challenging the Democrats in 2000.
It all went very wrong and all the signs were there for the situation to get worse: racism, police killings of unarmed people, shooting innocents, insurrection, suppression of the vote, jobs gone, degraded environment , income inequality, mass incarceration and endless wars and rumors of war. Everything was and is there for all to see. The left in the United States has long been siled against itself, and the far right is highly organized. Crowded religious fundamentalists like Mike Pence, among others in the former Trump administration, are treated like the adults in the room by some. Even a 10-year-old girl in Ohio is made to suffer for her Neanderthal and religious fundamentalism towards women and women’s rights.
To change, the opposition must have sympathy or empathy for its opponents. The far right in the United States has no sense of either!
It even went wrong in the community where I live in Massachusetts, the so-called bluest of the blue states. They, on the right, discover a person very early and their censorship is endless. As a local rabbi and lawyer told me, once our interests—those who dare to speak up—come into conflict with long-established local interests, we will suffer. The latter is provincialism at its worst. The government here, in this mountain town where I live, is made up of those on the right in terms of politics, economics and social relations, with a few neoliberals in the mix. In 2016, at a local Democratic Party caucus, a participant stood up and happily announced that she had recently changed her affiliation to the Republican Party. I can’t even go to the local recycling facility without feeling angry for speaking out about local issues.
Countless social, political and economic movements for change later, I received an invitation to a barbecue from the local Democratic Party group calling itself Left Field. No thank you, I’ve been there and I won’t go back now or ever!
Although I have benefited from the rise in real estate values here, fueled somewhat by the exodus of people from the greater New York metropolitan area to second homes and primary residences, I am surrounded by a wealth that I do not can’t imagine and extremely materialistic. Many locals work on these properties and I wonder if they can see themselves economically at the mercy of riches they also could not imagine. I hesitate to talk about the Facebook posts and articles about an airport in a nearby community that were discussed in an article in the Nation “Same flight at Great Barrington(February 18, 2022), for fear of reprisals. I got tired a long time ago of car and truck tire marks on my lawn and dumped trash in the same area. It’s more than the incivility of a failed debate!
In a kind of capture, the test of the flag in the New York Times: “The American flag is mine too and this year I’m taking it back(July 2, 2022), the writer argues that even in the American South the flag and its meaning can be picked up by those of goodwill.
I withstood the carnage of the Vietnam War. A few years earlier, outside my barracks in Fort Gordon, Georgia, at their communications school, a huge American flag flew atop a flagpole on the parade ground between the barracks and the base library. .
With the right-wing heavyweight escalating in the Supreme Court and other places in government, I feel like I’m free again in a country I hardly know anymore. I think it will get worse, and perhaps as badly as in the fictional account of a government gone far-right in the United States in Sinclair Lewis’ It can’t happen here (1935). It’s hard to predict accurately since we on the left are not soothsayers.
Salon posted an article about a far-right group called the Joyful Warriors (July 19, 2022). The group seeks to eliminate all talk of race and gender in American schools, has made an impact in Florida and elsewhere, and continues the far-right and anti-public school policies of Betsy DeVos and Ben Carson, among others. The group’s constant jokes about Maoism and Marxism in schools would be laughable if it hadn’t been for more than four decades of right-wing putsch against public school and teachers’ unions in the United States, as well than the charter school juggernaut. I wonder how Miss Clark would have countered this dangerous drivel?
We are ruled by a power elite made up of the few and the very wealthy, with a fundamentalist and violent religious base on their side. I wanted to believe the lessons of so long ago from Miss Clark and my family’s civics class and my best liberal leanings, but it all turned out to be so different and for the worse.