“Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land
And don’t criticize, what you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters, are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’.
Please get out of the new one If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’.”
~Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’
“I can’t imagine bringing a new child into the world with all that’s going on,” cried Lucy (her adopted name based on a Beatles song). Several other girls nodded.
Lucy was sincere and troubled. Long brown hair, headband, tie-dyed blouse, bell-bottom jeans and sandals. She passed the joint around the circle of kids gathered to listen to Hendrix and smoke dope after the anti-war protest.
The draft-card burning and Vietnam war protests were getting bigger and more frequent, and generally more violent on both sides. The draft was in full swing, sending more kids either to jail or the war zone. The combat body-count was rising, even as the government tried to suppress the information. The 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, the 1970 Kent State shootings; things looked bleak, indeed.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the bottom. A lot of that energy, the awareness raised and the lessons learned translated into real change in that period. The Civil Rights Act; the resignation of Nixon; the end of the war; the Clean Air Act; the Clean Water Act; the rise of a whole generation that cared about environmental, social and political change.
Former hippies, draft-dodgers and protestors went on to become lawyers, judges, doctors, nurses, teachers, social workers, bureaucrats, businesspeople, socially-conscious entrepreneurs, even politicians — they grew up, were good people, bought new cars and nice houses and raised 2.8 kids per couple. The pendulum of history seemed, once again, to swing back in the right direction.
But, as everyone knows, it takes a lot of energy to start the pendulum swinging and even more to stop it. Eventually, entropy slows it down. History shows that hard, dangerous times come in cycles, as do times of peace and plenty.
Today, it’s pretty gruesome out there in the world — environmental crises, global warming, racism, misogyny, political corruption writ large, humanitarian crises, diaspora, economic disparities, war without end — the place is going to hell!
As usual, it’s the kids that are fearless in the face of the need to change. From gun control to climate change, teenage activists now provide the spark for change in the momentum, while we adults seem to stand by trying to understand what’s going on. These times are reminiscent of our youth, whether we were active or just observers then.
I wish I had told Lucy that it would be her kids that would make the changes happen when the time came. We adults get distracted by our mortgages, jobs and all those adult responsibilities and daily woes. Only the kids seem to have the energy and focus to see through the haze of daily existence to imagine the future. For the most part, it’s not that we don’t care, but in reality, most in my generation will be gone in twenty years and the younger generations will face the times without us.
Nonetheless, the old protest songs and tactics resonate and still stir our blood, even if just a little. As Bob Dylan sang:
Come gather ’round people, wherever you roam
And admit that the waters around you have grown
And accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’.
Bob Dylan, The Times They Are A-Changin’, 1964