It started by marking the killing of Medgar Evers, then revisiting the March on Washington. I also went to see The Butler and last night, I watched a PBS special on the music of the Civil Rights movement. I, (along with many of you) relived a fifty-year-old decade last week.
There was a lot going on in the Sixties. Dreams ignited everywhere and movements formed around those dreams. Sometimes the dreams collided with each other.
When the media tells the story, it is about just one aspect. In reality, there was a magnificent pattern happening. As I run the newsreel in my mind, I see a great flowing river of historical change. It is like watching the old ideas slip off the cliff and new ideas rise toward the limitless sky.
Social class slid down. Color blended. Conformity died. Change exploded fast and loud. It was the Sixties. I was a part of it and I have never been the same. Neither has the nation. Dr. Raymond Charles Barker tells us that a consciousness, once stretched, never returns to its original shape.
The Sixties were a visible, rebirth of ideas. Other movements sprouted in the wake of the Civil Rights decade; the women’s movement, the anti-war movement, and the gay rights movement all began in that decade. We wanted it all and it was confusing.
We are still a long way from having it all, but we haven’t returned to the original shape either. No matter how much our legislative dinosaurs struggle to erase progress, freedom will not be stopped. The cat is out of the bag. The fat lady sings.
The Sixties were a great moral victory for all of us. Afro-Americans deserve to be singled out, acknowledged and celebrated. Their unique story captures our hearts and demonstrates our best. Now we must connect the dots and see that poverty, easy guns, unjust laws, unequal sentences, and poor education are more than an just an incomplete picture. They are seeds of despair we do not want to see sprout. There is much more to do.
The Sixties featured a decade of young people in an inspiring reach toward freedom. It was also a decade of faith, courage, and connection. TV was a powerful new medium and so we all witnessed a great moral struggle. We saw that the black hats were on the white guys heads and vice versa. Clearly. We saw that Love says yes. Fear says not-so-fast.
I was 30 and I thought I knew things. I’d heard the facts and read my history. I listened to gospel and folk music. I’d even attended an interracial camp when I was 15. Bayard Rustin taught me protest songs. I had black colleagues who were friends.
I knew nothing. It was terrible to see those young men and women huddled to protect themselves while the police terrorized them. I’d long ago lost my Christian faith but I could see they were believers. I knew I couldn’t put my life on the line. Those kids shamed me.
TV cameras were magic then. We weren’t used to watching war while we ate supper. TV hastened change and stole our innocence.
It took us time to learn that the cameras couldn’t tell the whole story. Today, as I watch events, I am more sophisticated. I know I see the tip of the iceberg. I know my channel leans left and someone else’s leans right. In those days, I was only suspected I was witnessing the great rebirthing of iealism. The women’s movement, the anti-war movement, the gay rights movement, and the civil rights movement were all part of my daily news. They all called for more freedom to exercise life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
The loving connection between the young people who risked their lives was the distinguishing aspect of the early Civil Rights Movement. It was obvious those kids were living their Christian lessons they’d learned in their churches. They were willing to turn the other cheek. They inspired white kids to join the movement. That brought more TV cameras.
We watched kids stand together and sing as they were beaten, then led off to jail. Many adults did not even have courage to watch anymore. As a nation, we were shamed into changing.
Certainly, the civil rights of the Sixties was based on Christianity and the faith was impressive. Not all the ideas came straight from the Bible, however. Many depended on the Transcendentalists who were our adopted ancestors. Our founder, Dr Ernest Holmes, was very inspired by Ralph Waldo Emerson. Other Transcendentalists, including Henry David Thoreau, Margaret Fuller, and Walt Whitman, can also claim a piece of the Sixties uprisings.
It was Emerson’s 1863 essay, Nature that set off our quest for self-reliance, self-trust, and the certainty that God is present everywhere. His essays Self-Reliance, The OverSoul and other topics presented influential ideas for modern theologians and everyone else.
Emerson’s friend, Henry David Thoreau wrote his1846 Essay of Civil Disobedience in a Concord, MA jail. Thoreau’s belief that an individual’s personal conscience was more important than civil law was exported to India where Ghandi adopted it as a rationale for fighting against Colonial rule. Thoreau influenced Ghandi and Ghandi influenced Dr. Martin Luther King. It was a circle of enlightenment and Civil Rights was an uniquely American movement.
All the freedom movements of that era had roots in Emersonian values of self-reliance, self-trust, equality and dreams of a classless society. If you are a follower of New Thought, you are connected to the greatest minds and ideas the USA ever produced. Those ideas are alive and well today.
I am certain that if Thoreau was reincarnated into the Sixties, he was writing another manifesto from jail. Margaret Fuller certainly would have burned her corset and Walt Whitman would have been reading his poetry at the Stonewall Inn during the first gay resistance in 1969..
When we think of the 1960’s, we think of social action and breaking down the old society. However, not all young Americans were sitting around San Francisco smoking dope. Nor were they all in Southern jails.
Many of them were reading, learning, believing and teaching ideas of self-reliance, inner guidance, and trusting yourself. The Bible was important to Civil Rights. Emerson and other the other Transcendentalists were also important. It took a lot of history to create a unique decade like that one.
Those freedom dreams of the Sixties are still pushing us. Yes, we have a black president. Yes, we have come a long way. Yes, there are some promises that are not yet realized. Yes, the dream is alive and well. Say Yes!
Do I feel free?
What would I need to believe to feel free?
What steps might I take toward the dream?
Do I feel connected?
What would I need to believe to feel connected?
What steps might I take?
When I sold my 1968 Volkswagon and packed it up for Mexico, my McGovern sticker was clinging to the rear window. The election was quite over but I was reluctant to tear down the dream. It seemed to me that all hope for world peace was lost. I was wrong.
Senator George McGovern died last week at the age of 90. He was a great man who opened minds to the possibility of peace in the world. When he lost the presidential election to Richard Nixon, I was discouraged but that was not the end of the story.
McGovern’s honesty and courage continued into next forty years. I thought his passing received less attention than deserved, probably because of the 2012 election news. On the other hand, everyone I heard or read praised him for his vision and called him a visionary.I also think he was a powerful change agent.
McGovern had strong personal convictions about what was right and wrong. Killing was wrong. Helping people was right. His deep seated notions are still at work in the consciousness of the United States.
Despite our drift into war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is clear that US citizens are running out of enthusiasm for war. I believe that Senator McGovern’s life has been instrumental in opening our consciousness to the advantages of keeping the peace.
He was courageous and vision-driven and even more important, he was consistent. McGovern was guided by his spiritual principles and he valued his beliefs more than winning strategies. The opposition painted him as a wild-eyed radical and he lost dramatically. McGovern won 17 electoral votes and Nixon got the other 520.
A recent New York Times article quoted McGovern as saying, in 2005, “It was an issue-oriented campaign, and we should have paid more attention to image.”
I realize this is history for most of the people living on the planet today. I write about it because history is important. That campaign is a factor in the image driven current campaign, for instance.
In the late 60’s and early 70”s, the Vietnam War seemed to come out of nowhere. There was a draft then and quite a few young men moved out of the country to avoid going to war. McGovern attracted a large number of young idealists who were anti-war.
There were other issues at risk in the 1972 presidential campaign. McGovern had a consistent liberal record in the Senate. He steadfastly voted for measures that helped the poor, supported civil rights, and championed women. He was for expanding food stamps and head start programs along with other liberal issues.
Not too long after losing that election, I left the country. It’s true that I was very disillusioned with American politics but I was also disillusioned with teaching, relationships, and just about everything else in my life. I’d started drinking again and I needed a place to hide out so I decided on a geographical change.
Oaxaca was a beautiful, old-fashioned state way down south in Mexico. It offered cheaper living, a lovely climate and wonderful folk art. The few Americans who were there were either hippies or snow birds. I was an eccentric age 40. The other expatriates were all their 20’s or 60’s.
I personally learned a lot in Mexico. I learned that I was a total alcoholic and needed to give up the idea that anything outside myself, including a move to a foreign land, could “cure” me. I learned that AA could help me quit drinking. I also learned a great deal about Mexican art and folk art. At some level, I loved Oaxaca and it was good for me.
My years there also taught me what a great country the United States really is. The level of poverty and corruption in Mexico, at that time, was astounding to me. The custom of mordida or bribe was so ingrained that it went unnoticed. When the Watergate scandal hit the US, it simply didn’t seem very important. All politicians were totally crooked. What was all the fuss about?
I almost completely missed Watergate. When USA tourists wanted to tell us about the scandal, we expatriates just yawned. We were living in Mexico where the police made 90% of their living on bribes and waiters “bought “ their jobs from their bosses so they could garner the tips.
That was then and this is now. My interpretation of how life works underwent an extreme makeover 38 years ago. Since I now see everything in the light of Science of Mind. I know that our lives make a difference and that consciousness creates experience.
I also know that an individual’s consciousness, once stretched, never returns to its original state. When I read that statement by Dr. Raymond Charles Barker, I laughed out loud. It made me think of consciousness as being like a pair of comfortable old shoes.
Sen. George McGovern had a comfortable consciousness and he helped stretched mine. I think he represents the best about this wonderful nation. His honesty, steadfastness, and courage are important to us all. I give him credit for helping us envision a peaceful planet.
Now that I a Religious Science minister, I have participated in many visioning workshops and led many presentations on the unlimited possibility of God. We say it something like this every Sunday because this is our belief system.
God is Unlimited and I am the recipient of God’s Love through spiritual law. I can achieve and receive what I can envision, believe, and accept. God is Divine Givingness and responds automatically to my consciousness.
I know that New Thought and other peaceful religious groups are growing in size and influence. Our national consciousness is changing and McGovern is one impetus for that change. You and I are another impetus. We are making a difference right now.
In church, nearly every Sunday, we sing the Peace. Song. We are diligent about accepting peace into our personal lives. We can also be diligent about accepting peace in our collective spiritual life. We even have a Season For Non-Violence in the late winter. The era of peace is not only possible but inevitable.
George McGovern lived with honor and he continued to speak out about his goals, vision and ideals. He did not let defeat in the 1972 presidential campaign define him. He made a difference in a big way.
He was one of my “wayshowers”. I have never swayed in my political views about what’s important. I vote for issues, not image. My life plays out on a smaller stage but I know it makes a difference. So does yours.
Thank you, Senator George McGovern. You weren’t a peacenik or hippie, but you were an inspiration. I believe that your ideas were the beginning of major shifts. Thank you for modeling hope and courage.
The ideas of the 60’s morphed into the 70’s and change began to happen. We not only withdrew from Vietnam, we changed the status of minorities and women in this nation. We expanded admission to elite universities, drilled holes in the class system and ushered in a profound interest in Eastern religions.
George McGovern, you were a conservative man. You went to church, cut your hair short, and wore neckties but you spoke your truth in a beautiful way. It was a short skip and jump from you to the Beatles, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. Our nation sang about peace and love and it is still singing.
What I know is that Hope continues the journey toward Peace and Love never dies.
Whom do you admire?
How does that person make a difference?
What qualities do you admire?
Do you also have those qualities?