Thursday, May 29th, 2008.
I came of age during the tumultuous 1960s. On one hand I was a typical suburban kid who loved fishing and camping and going through adolescence (girls, of course, being a chief preoccupation) but I was attracted to the views of those advocating for the transformation in our society and culture. So as a teenager I identified with the “radical left” agitating for change and looking for new ways of being during this period: hippies, long hair, rock music, drugs, and free love (though I saw some serious abuse that turned me off instead of on sometimes and all that free love seemed to never involve me), as well as the social and political issues like civil rights for blacks and women, opposition to the Vietnam War, draft resistance, the war on poverty (the War on Poverty was the name given by President Johnson to certain legislative goals introduced during his 1664 State of the Union address), the environmental movement, and free speech to name a few.
Don’t forget there was strong traditionalist opposition during this period as well. The conservative Senator from Arizona, Barry Goldwater, ran for President against L.B.J. in 1964. It is often argued that Goldwater’s loss in 1964 is what stimulated the conservative renewal that resulted in the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and lives on in Bush II. Also, I remember the wild uproar and burning of Beatle albums following John Lennon’s March 4th, 1966 comment about the Beatles that “we're more popular than Jesus now.” Rock'in Roll was the Devil's music. It wouldn't take long though for Rock'in Roll to be sanctified by Christians and recruited to the cause of the Lord. Christians remembered what the reformer Martin Luther, being a musician himself, reportedly said, "Why should the devil have all the good music."
Being conservative is not a bad thing. There is much that needs to be conserved, nature for instance. Families are another for instance of something being crushed under the pressure of contemporary capitalist idolatry and the increasing commodification of our way of life. Reactionary forces, in order to mask the true nature of their programs, have stolen the word. When I think of affirmative conservatives I think of Wendell Berry or Jim Wallis, very different, but both conservative. I have always felt affection for the word, even calling myself one recognizing a strong conservative sentiment in me. Family is very important, preserving ways of life is important, taking care of our communities, defending the commons, preserving the environment, preserving our history—architectural and cultural--all invoke the concept of conserving. When I think of being conservative I think of love not capital.
INTERLUDE: I just recently watched the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon about John’s transformation from moptop to peacenik and the Nixon administration’s efforts beginning in 1972 to deport Lennon because of his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War. Highly recommended. The parallels between Nixon and Vietnam and Bush and Iraq are uncanny and kind of depressing. There is a significant reactionary undercurrent in the United States that continues to wreak havoc. In the latest good news on the frontlines of expanding justice and human rights against vehement reactionary opposition is the announcement that New York State Governor David A. Paterson has directed all state agencies to revise their policies and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other jurisdictions, like Massachusetts, California and Canada. Praise the Lord!
In addition to growing-up Catholic I think this era is crucial to understanding my thinking and life. It was a radical period in the U.S. and around the world. I don’t remember much discussion of the events and movements of the 1960s with my parents. I don’t remember them being critical of the movements or particularly supportive either way. They were generally anti-war—they didn’t want their son to go of course—and supportive of civil rights—I remember my mother being appalled that a neighbor would buy a house so a black family wouldn’t move into the neighborhood and they certainly allowed (sent me?) me to go to an all black summer camp during the early sixties—and my Dad was certainly a conservationist being a hunter and fisherman. Though my mother would never let me buy Beatle Boots--remember those pointy-toed shoes--but my parents did finally let me let my hair grow long (This was an answer to nightly prayers. Really!) in 1967 during the summer before Ninth grade. It seem that silence is equivalent to agreement at the end of the day. Also, my folks were big on allowing me to make-up my own mind without pressure from them.
I have always believed that the pen was mightier than the sword and that the printing press is one of, if the most, significant invention of all time (splitting the atom might rival it and, of course, there is agriculture). I liked ideas and my ideas where taking shape from a broad range of people.
The fundamental idea I had was that the natural world is a place of pleasure and meaning. It is where humans came from and it is home. This idea has always clashed with the spiritual for me but more on that later. Enough for today.
I think this is my new motto: “Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine.”