March 25, 2011

Is it me or is it you?

I am wondering what happened.

Once upon a time I was surrounded by fellow liberals who believed that the world can change.  Who believed that people matter.  Who wanted the best for their friends, neighbors and family.  Who wanted to 'stick it to the man' because we all knew that 'the man' ALWAYS tried to keep us down. Who thought the environment mattered, how we used earth's resources mattered and how corporations corrupted most everything they touched.

We were all poor but it didn't matter because we were young and enjoyed life and all the new adventures that we just knew were just up ahead.  Most of the time, we were right.  All we had were our ideas, our ideals and our knowledge that we could change the world.  And we had our music which reflected all of that as well and put the soundtrack to each day.

Now I am sad.

For many of my friends and people I have known over the years have left me behind in a fog of their conservatism.  And I cannot fathom the thinking behind their actions or conversation.  They seem to me to not care about anything that might impact their current lifestyle.  It feels to me like "I've got mine, so screw all y'all".  It feels like they don't hear the pain in other voices and the songs that used to mean something are now falling on deaf ears.  I have tried to figure out if it is me that is just reading our conversations badly.  But when I consistently make a point about, say, the Madison protests and almost always get a response similar to "They should pay, the freeloaders" back no matter what point I am trying to make, it becomes difficult to think otherwise.

I would weep for them if I wasn't so angry at them at times. And dismayed.

Is it a matter of growing up and out of youthful optimism?  A changing of priorities that make people grow inward instead of embracing the plight of others? 

Or is it life experience?  I know some people who have never been involuntarily out of a job, who have never gone without health insurance and who have simply climbed the American dream.  And some seem like they think that they were just owed that.
There seems to be a disconnect over experiences.  Which, I suppose is normal - hard to feel anything for someone's plight if you have never experienced it yourself.  But what is wrong with universal health care if it doesn't hurt you at all?  What is wrong with collective bargaining if it doesn't hurt you?  

Is it gaining that plateau of material wealth and being suspicious, then, that everyone is out to take away what they have?

And yet they all still listen to the same music and think they are the same person they used to be. They sing along to "Ohio" and yet applaud a governor alerting the National Guard (as a scare tactic no matter how he spins it).  They sing "Give Peace A Chance" yet bluster about just firing 6,000 public employees since they are just freeloaders (even though I'm not sure how Tommy Smothers enters into this note).  They hum in their Hummers with Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and forget that Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed while fighting for worker's rights.  Enjoy John Prine's "Paradise" yet have no qualms when our governor wants to okay the destruction of wetlands for corporate use.

Can they really sing the lyrics to "For What It's Worth" and not see how it applies today?

I cannot believe that my old friends have become evil, or have forgotten their kindergarten lessons on how to share or that they actually hate others of their same economic class or that they are so blind that they cannot see the struggles others have and the resolve they have top keep their rights.

Or maybe they were conservatives all along and I was either oblivious or we just never talked about anything critical?  Did the music mean something entirely different to them than to me?

Or am I just still a dreamer?  

What am I missing here?  Where did our paths diverge?  And how did I not know to what distances the paths have separated?

And if your answer is "we just grew up" then fuck you 'cause that isn't a real answer.  Unfriend me now and don't let the mouse hit you on the ass on the way out.

In the words of Bob Dylan:

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.