WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young girls gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young girls gone?
Taken husbands every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the young men gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the young men gone?
Gone for soldiers every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the soldiers gone?
Gone to graveyards every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the graveyards gone?
Covered with flowers every one
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Those great lyrics to the title song were penned by the legendary folk singer/activist Pete Seeger and popularized by Peter Paul and Mary. Its lyrics resonated against the backdrop of the Civil Rights and anti-war movements.

The turbulent 60’s were when whites felt comfortable openly calling black Americans “Nigger” and treating them worse than that word sounds.

The turbulent 60’s were when local law enforcement in many parts of the South would openly beat the “Nigras” and anyone of any race who supported these folks’ efforts to live their lives as ordinary American citizens.

Thanks to thousands upon thousands of young and old blacks from every walk of life and thanks to singers and artists and actors and preachers and union members and secretaries and mothers and fathers

And thanks to the martyrs of the movement like Medger Evers and Viola Liuzzo and the no-names whose bodies were dumped unceremoniously alongside dusty roads in the Mississippi Delta

And thanks to the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Pride(In the name of love) indeed

And thanks to a President and a Congress acting in the name of the interests of The United States of America

We finally adopted laws prohibiting many of the most despicable of the acts of ignorant racists and offered protection to millions of people not powerful enough individually to protect themselves.

With the anti-war movement there is no such signature moment of triumph unless you want to count the abolishment of the active draft in 1969. But Vietnam cost Lyndon Baines Johnson his Presidency.

And that movement had its martyrs too, few becoming famous, a la King and Evers. But don’t consider them nameless. More than 58,000 of them do have names that you can view at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C.

Well most of us don’t demean all blacks these days. At least not directly. Now we demonize poor people. All poor people. None of whom has shown a shred of responsibility in their lives or else they would not be poor. None of whom is worth a damn or they would not be poor. None of whom is worthy of voting without major credit cards and the title to a Mercedes. None of whom is worthy of  any help from their government, though goodness knows they manage to leech billions of dollars out of the budget that could be better utilized for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Being poor is bad enough, but just as it once was an arrestable offense for being black, now it is an arrestable offense for being poor. (Frankly, since a disproportionate number of the poor are black, some of the sick sadistic bastards who torment the poor must take extra delight knowing many of their victims are black).

Here is what Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed, a book on living in poverty in America has to say. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-ehrenreich/nickel-and-dimed-2011-ver_b_922330.html

A couple of pertinent excerpts:

The most shocking thing I learned from my research on the fate of the working poor in the recession was the extent to which poverty has indeed been criminalized in America.

Perhaps the constant suspicions of drug use and theft that I encountered in low-wage workplaces should have alerted me to the fact that, when you leave the relative safety of the middle class, you might as well have given up your citizenship and taken residence in a hostile nation.

And

 …and it’s definitely Al Szekeley at any time of day. A grizzled 62-year-old, he inhabits a wheelchair and is often found on G Street in Washington, D.C. — the city that is ultimately responsible for the bullet he took in the spine in Phu Bai, Vietnam, in 1972.

He had been enjoying the luxury of an indoor bed until December 2008, when the police swept through the shelter in the middle of the night looking for men with outstanding warrants. It turned out that Szekeley, who is an ordained minister and does not drink, do drugs, or cuss in front of ladies, did indeed have one — for “criminal trespassing,” as sleeping on the streets is sometimes defined by the law. So he was dragged out of the shelter and put in jail.

“Can you imagine?” asked Eric Sheptock, the homeless advocate (himself a shelter resident) who introduced me to Szekeley. “They arrested a homeless man in a shelter for being homeless?”

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

Today we don’t have a draft but we have two wars in far off lands like Vietnam that have occupied, combined,  EIGHTEEN YEARS OF AMERICAN HISTORY!!!! Two World wars combined took ten years with American involvement for six. And those wars killed MILLIONS!. We retain the killer instinct but with much less efficiency.

We still have filled body bags returning from the war zones. Whether they number in the tens or in the hundreds or in the thousands is irrelevant. All these deaths are violations of the dictum in Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, that “these dead shall not have died in vain”

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

In the 1960’s those opposing the status quo pledged fealty to MLK or Abbie Hoffman. Today, those opposing the status quo, the Tea Party, pledge fealty to Grover Norquist. Whenever his birthday is I do not foresee it’s observance as a national holiday.

During the Civil Rights Movement we had Congressmen willing to vote against their political self interest.

During the Anti War Movement we had Congressmen willing to vote against their political self interest.

During the (imaginary) Anti National Debt Movement we had zero Congressmen willing to vote against their political interest. (Don’t bother me with the details that there were some who voted their conscience—look at the end product).

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

During the Civil Rights Movement church leaders from many denominations urged their members to support the rights of all Americans.

During the Anti War Movement church leaders from many denominations deplored the sinfulness of killing and prayed for peace.

During this period with fiscal and economically instability church leaders from many denominations are urging that competing religions be outlawed. Far from deploring killing they celebrate the deaths of “our enemies” and pray for more war to rid the earth of heathens.

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

In the 1960’s we had Congressmen with full consciences.

In the 2010’s we have Congressmen and their campaign chests with full bank accounts, courtesy of Exxon.

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

During the 1960’s, as in any decade, we had venal and diabolical politicians. But we also had so many politicians who had a sense of right and wrong who joined with the people they nominally served to try to better America. In some ways they succeeded.

During the 2010’s we have politicians with  a sense of right and wrong but they are thoroughly overshadowed by politicians who are greedy, who are cynical, who are inveterate liars about every single aspect of their political lives , and who exhibit nothing but contempt for the American people and, by extension, for America itself. And they are spectacularly successful.

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

In the 1960’s we had a President who, contrary to his Texas Southern conservative roots, promoted civil rights legislation and coaxed, cajoled, flattered and arm twisted until that legislation became law. In the process he became the greatest liberal hero since FDR, or would have become so if not for his tragic expansion of the war in Vietnam.

In the 2010’s we have a President who, contrary to his presumptive mixed-race, community activist liberalism, has coaxed, cajoled, flattered, or arm twisted no major piece of legislation into law. Instead he has meekly allowed enactment of legislation weaker than his announced intentions in the areas of health care reform and the stimulus and has acceded to Republicans when it comes to imposing tax sacrifices on the rich.

Additionally this President, due to the above and to his tragic expansion of whatever wars are currently being scheduled by the Department of Defense, has lost any chance at all of confirming the charges by extreme right wing politicians and bloggers and unfair and seriously unbalanced Faux news talking heads that he is a radical socialist communist intent on destroying the United States from within.

He certainly cannot have that destruction intent because he has never, I repeat, never worn a tea bag on his head.

He most definitely will not be thought of as the greatest liberal President since FDR. He’s barely to the left of James Knox Polk.

WHEN WILL THEY EVER LEARN?

We, the Americans with a heart, keep permitting these abuses of the 2010’s. The we I refer to is not only liberals. There are millions of sincere conservatives who must be appalled with the perverse application of their basic principles. Not all of them have greed as their middle name, just as most true liberals do not actually believe in a cradle-to-grave mentality. The great American middle is ill-served by both extremes.

We keep electing politicians who worship the God of Mammon and they accept his favors with both hands, favoring neither the right nor the left.

We keep electing politicians who profess their service to the majority of Americans when their loyalty is to the bankers and Wall Streeters who could not care less about the majority of Americans. Yet the great American middle is deceived into believeing that any attempts to curtail this allegiance to the super wealthy is actually directed at them.

In the pre civil rights South a lot of the racism was practiced by the working class toward blacks, fearing their own positions in society were imperiled.

Today, the middle class exercises great antipathy to the poor, the unemployed, the less educated, because they know that with this perilous economy they are a mere corporate restructuring away from dropping to that level themselves.

When will WE ever learn?

At this point it might seem appropriate to interject the proclamation of Howard Beale “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!”

I have preference for  more music. The iconic We Shall Overcome advanced from its spiritual roots in Negro churches to become an anthem of hope for blacks and other races alike.

Howard Beale appeals to the individual to vent his anger. I vent my anger all the time to no avail.

We Shall Overcome appeals to us to link arms or hold hands and join together to achieve the justice to which we are entitled. It encorages us to live a dream instead of railing at the denial of that dream.That old Negro spiritual has dozens of verses that have been sung depending on the circumstances. I believe this one is most apt:

The truth shall set us free , the truth shall set us free,
The truth shall
set us free someday;
Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,
The truth shall
set us free someday.

There is far too little truth today. If we seek truth and find truth and use truth we can become truly free.

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