In my lifetime, I have seen the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the start of the Vietnam War. I remember watching on our black and white television the killing of 4 college students and the wounding of 9 others at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard. I witnessed the resignation of Richard Nixon, minutes before he would have been impeached. Presidents Ford and Reagan both survived assasination attempts, Reagan just barely. Ironically, the attempt on Reagan led to the Brady bill and some real, rational progress on gun control.
Fortunately, I also witnessed Roe v. Wade. Finally, women were told by the U.S. Supreme Court they could be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies–what a novel idea. To be gay and to have been alive during the Stonewall Riots feels like a gift from history now. Through Affirmative Action and social pressure and protest the face of corporate and government leadership is much more diverse than it was when I was born, though we still have a long way to go.
I have seen the boom of space exploration, starting in my lifetime with the 1969 Apollo moon landing. Who would have imagined an international space station? The entire space shuttle program went from planning to launch to being grounded in my lifetime. I remember the excitement of each launch and the shock and disbelief that met the tragic fates of the Challenger and the Columbia.
Of course, the events of 9/11 forever changed the world and helped to give George W. the amplified tool of fear. While we saw the world come together as a united globe for a couple of days, the legacy of 9/11 seems to be fear, and the vilification of Muslims.
Technology has changed in ways that make our lives almost unrecognizable. I remember the our very first microwave oven when I was in high school and the very first time I saw color television. Many people today carry more computing power in their telephones than existed in a typical business when I started grade school. The Internet has totally changed commerce, government, journalism, and social interaction, for better or for worse. Computing power and quick connections can be useful, but they also lead to snap judgments and a sense of urgency that impairs our better selves.
While I have witnessed a great deal in a relatively short period of time, I do worry about our country going exponentially backwards regarding civil rights and liberties. The rise of the Tea Party and the blatant racism we have seen since President Obama took office have been mortifying. Watching the GOP presidential candidates often shoves me into a dark and misanthropic abyss. Where are the voices of the progressive movement? Why do we vilify the Occupy Movement? When do we take our country back from the religious right hypocrites?
Action item: We have the ability to move forward. We have the ability to change systems and end the intersections of oppression. We have to get out and use our voices and we have to VOTE!