History is hard to know, because of all the hired bull****, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened ...
There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.
When Hunter S. Thompson penned those words in his 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, he realized the United States was at the end of a very beautiful era in its history — an era simply known as the ’60s.
From his vantage point in a Las Vegas hotel room, the author was reflecting on the tide of change that started with the election of John F. Kennedy and hit a wall with the 1968 assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. And Robert Kennedy. And for the past 40 years, that wave has seemed to be nowhere in sight.
But I think if Hunter were still around he would agree that the tide could again be swelling the United States.
Within hours of Barack Obama’s victory at Moore’s Café — a late-night denizen for the city’s working class citizens and many black residents as well — I could already feel the hope sweeping through those who truly understand poverty and oppression.
In the days since, I can still feel the excitement, the energy, the momentum building once again. It’s like being up on that steep hill and waiting for the wave to break again, but I hope we have several more years before that happens.
Of course the ’60s were also marked by social unrest, racial violence and outright rioting.
So, that begs the question, will there be rioting in the streets like right wing political pundits are predicting?
If there is, you have to ask who will be rioting? Who are the upset people this time around?
They aren’t the angry black men and women. Obama’s half black after all. They’re not the radical white liberals. Obama’s known associate was a 1960s anti-war militant after all. The young people and students? They turned out to support him in mass numbers. The Muslims? Obama has studied Islam, although he believes in Christianity.
Our president-elect actually reflects everyone the right wing pundits would want to blame rioting on.
So who’s still upset?
The far right ultra-conservatives the same political pundits pander to. That’s who. And many of them are heavily armed.
What’s scary is that these folks rarely riot or have marches on Washington. Instead, covert sects of these individuals lie in wait in sixth-story windows with high-powered rifles in hand or terrorize individual citizens with racial and ethnic intimidation.
Take, for example, an Election Night assault on a New York Muslim teenager by a gang allegedly angry that Barack Obama was elected president, as was reported by the Council on American-Islamic Relations on Thursday. There was also a pre-election paintball vandalism of a mosque in Maryland, the advocacy group reported.
What’s scarier still is that some not-so-reputable Internet betting sites are offering 4-to-1 odds that the president-elect does not make it through his first year in office. (Judging by the delay in pulling up the two sites I checked, the Secret Service may well be adding today’s Internet excursion to my FBI file. Sorry guys, just research for this piece.)
And if some wacko or cult of wackos is successful in an assassination attempt, I think I would take the odds on some serious rioting and social unrest across the nation.
But I don’t think another act of violence will be enough to halt the change that is taking place in America with this historic election.
Of course, the country is going to have difficult economic times to weather as the waves roll in. And despite the shambles it all seems to be in, so many people seem to be happy and hopeful for the first time in a long time.
The “Fear and Loathing” Hunter Thompson ranted wildly about in his writings seem to finally be giving way to something still scary but less hateful.
I just hope it lasts because I’ve already started waxing my surfboard.
Reuben Mees is a staff writer for the Examiner. He can be reached at 592-3060, ext. 118 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.