When I was growing up, I was very nostalgic for the 60s. I longed to participate for a time where I could be a hippie, an activist. Where I could march in the streets and protest and make a real change. Where I could really be a part of something. The film of young people being active, the music of the time, the strides made in civil rights, women’s liberation and the sexual revolution — I wanted to have been there.
I had a teacher, Mr. Toman, in 5th grade and who I also went on to have in middle school history as well, who was a Beatles fan and who I just adored. For some reason, he made me think that these times were super exciting and that it would have been great to be there. Mostly, it was the Beatles love and his penchant for using strange words like rapscallion that made me love him ever the more.
But right now, the way things are going, I’m not sure those times were so great. They may have been exciting, but excitement and anxiety are the same emotions, you know. They manifest the same way in your body — it’s all in how your mind perceives them. Rollercoaster you love: excitement. Fearing you will be fired: anxiety. And I think that maybe those days of old may have left me more anxious than excited, it turns out.
Because it seems those days are back. At least from what I can tell. We’re watching people fight against women’s right to contraception. Trying to take away their right to legally get abortions. Slyly trying to get Jim Crow laws back on the books disguised as “voter ID/fraud” laws. And racism is flourishing, especially that against African-Americans, with people selling anti-Obama bumperstickers that say “Don’t Re-Nig” and actions that seem tantamount to public lynchings — people blatantly shooting unarmed black boys, claming “self-defense,” and being left to walk free, not even being charged in the first place.
How is this possible? How do we have a half-black President in the White House, and yet, we have a self-appointed neighborhood watch leader going around firing shots into young men after 911 dispatchers tell him to do nothing? After the boy has nothing but some candy and some iced tea in his hands? How is someone legitmately shot over a hoodie? This wasn’t a tragic case of good boy caught in gang gunfire. It wasn’t a tragic case of good boy turned bad getting caught up in the gangsta life. It wasn’t a million other stories you hear about African-American teenagers who get slain in cities every day.
This was a story of a man who thought he was above the law, deciding to “protect” something, call it “self-defense,” and kill someone in cold blood. Thing was, so far, he’s gotten away with it. Not “gotten away with it,” done it, gone to trial and been pronounced innocent. No, this man was never charged, never indicted. I don’t know which is worse. Well, for now, there’s still hope. Never charged means he still has a chance to go to trial and be held accountable for his actions. His actions — the ones that constitute murder. Not self-defense, not manslaughter. Murder. He murdered Trayvon Martin just as sure as I walk and breathe. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Google “Trayvon Martin case.”
And to make matters worse, the ludicrous statements by Geraldo Rivera on Fox News serve to drive home the point that some people will never allow the truth to stand for what it is; they will always strive to find some way to blame the victim. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, Google “Geraldo Rivera hoodie.” I will expound a little here, though. Geraldo basically said it was pretty much Trayvon’s fault he got himself into that situation — what with him wearing that hoodie and all. Let me tell you, if a hoodie is a prerequisite to being murdered, all the hipsters of Wicker Park, the bros of Lincoln Park, and everyone else who has ever just not felt that up to getting that dressed better watch out. Hoodies abound; at least here in Chicago.
I used to long for the days when I could march in the streets. Those days are here. To march for women’s rights. To march for civil rights. To march against the oppression of a police state and an ever growing class warfare. Here they are, but I’m not so young and I’m not so confident I’ll have a fantastic time in jail. I haven’t lost my optimism, but I’ve gained a real dose of realism, too.