It started happening after JFK was assassinated, followed by Martin Luther King’s death and finally the brutal slaying of JFK’s brother, Robert in the kitchen of a hotel in Los Angeles. We were beginning to shift from a culture of “we” that began after the troops came back from the “big war – WWII” and everyone wanted to get back to normal life – having families, friends, and earn enough money to take a vacation every year, pay your bills and be able to educate your kids so that they would have a chance at a better life.
I was a kid in the fifties and it was a time when there was a real sense of community – definitely a “we” feeling in many ways. Our backyards all connected into one big play field for all the kids in the neighborhood with the “woods” being the un-chartered territory beyond. We ran free, till dark, feeling like our own tribe of “we” with our own set of rules. Everyone pretty much looked out for one another –parents looked out for their neighbors’ kids, kids watched out for other kids, moms helped out other moms and dads the same. We had a sense of community.
In the late sixties things began to change. The Vietnam War was in full swing, along with the Civil Rights Movement and student unrest was building to the “Arab Spring” of its times. Our dreams were beginning to fade – our friends were coming home in body bags, our cities and neighborhoods were being destroyed during the riots of the late sixties, and our leaders were assassinated, one after another. A shift was starting to happen. We were becoming divided. Fences and hedges started to divide our backyards, breaking up that once endless playing field. We were starting to become more about “me.”
As a culture we roared through the 80’s and 90’s following a path as a society that believed that in order to win, others had to lose. We became greedy, thinking only of our personal gain and caring little how that affected others. The divide among us has exceeded beyond what most of us would have ever thought possible. We have made an art of “ how to get nothing done” with our political system and no one is getting anywhere. We are expending so much negative energy and if we don’t turn that around, we are all doomed.
I’m not a pessimist – just the opposite. I think if we can all just stop and flip our mindset into what we “can do”, instead of slamming the “other guy”, we just might be able to turn things around. I see a younger generation, the 25-30 year olds who are thinking more in terms of the “we”, and getting away from the “me” mentality. I have great hopes for this generation. We are at a turning point. I’d like to look back at this time 10 years from now and say to myself “I’m glad I did something.”