As a member of what most people would consider the political left, I am often flabbergasted and let down by my colleagues (or in this context, my comrades). The history of leftist coalitions is one of faction and division. The 1960s and the aftermath of all its rage and radical politics showed little progress, in some cases facing strong backlash. The United States began a forty year turn to the right, joined by many European democracies. 1968 saw a devastating defeat for anti-Vietnam elements and the rise of Richard Nixon. There were also setbacks in the student’s revolt in Mexico, and the events of May in France; a series of unprecedented general strikes created a socialist opposition to Charles De Gaulle that took his government to the brink of collapse. Yet a few weeks later the conservative establishment was in firm control of France, convincing winners of snap elections.
I started talking with my father about this in the context of ‘generations’ but since generations are an increasingly eroded concept, we just switched to our lives.
My father was born in 1952, and considered the most important events in his life to be from 1968-1974. More or less it went from the violence of the summer of ’68 to the resignation of Nixon in ’74. What he pointed out is that had he been a year older, he would have been in college when Kent State (for the non-Americans, this was a shooting of student protesters, four died) happened, and he noticed that those older than him were much more militantly political.
Personally, I was born in 1990. It is not September 11th that is reflected in my worldview, but rather that America has not known peace for over half my life, and almost all of what I remember well. For me and those of my age, war is not only in our minds, it is background noise.
I have for days forgot that the country of my birth has spent trillions in a war with no clear enemy. I am not alone for those people who are not, through family and friends, close to the soldiers that fight. If anything it is the chief difference between my father and I- I have lived through wars without a draft, and thus without serious, endemic opposition to the war.