A Generation's Loss
My generation is the one that came of age with hope and idealism, willing to embrace change, believing that we could transform the world. For me, and I believe others it began with the election of President Kennedy and ended with the murder of John Lennon. Between those events, one by one, we lost our heroes to violence.
Even among Canadians, President Kennedy was our "President". His style, young and fresh, and his message of asking something of us for a better world struck a responsive cord in us as well as Americans. The opportunity to make a difference for my generation was symbolized best in the Peace Corp and in Canada CUSO (Canadian University Students Overseas) which was formed a few years earlier.
I remember exactly where I was when the President was killed. I was near Milton Ontario traveling toward Toronto on the 401 in my old Austin car. I cried alone and in disbelief. This was the first of many losses for me and others of my generation.
I was a great admirer of Dr. King. His was a big influence on my life both for his courageous stand for civil rights and also his strong voice against the Vietnam War. He demonstrated a way to bring about change through peaceful non-violent direct action. I lived in the United States during the height of his activity and alongside Americans I marched and protested and organized and did my bit to affirm civil rights and resist war. His death left these causes without their strongest voice.
I was not as caught up in the enthusiasm for Robert Kennedy but I hoped against hope he would sustain the youthful enthusiasm for change and idealism that his brother began, That hope and promise was dashed with his death.
Malcolm X spoke with a more radical voice for the necessity of change in the American Society. Many of my black friends listened when he spoke. They wants so much more for themselves and their country. His voice became more moderate and more inclusive in his later days. The result was his assasination at the hands of members of the Nation of Islam who disagreed with him. I came to appreciate him after his death when I read his speeches and studied his life.
What got me thinking of the losses of leadership for my generation is that this is the 40th Anniversary of the death of Che Guevara. He was the revolutionary's revolutionary. After sharing in the overthrow of the Cuban government, corrupt with American and mafia influence,
he went on to bring about change in other South American countries, only to be murdered by Bolivian forces, backed by the US CIA. His driving ambition was to bring about social change in Latin American countries in which upwards to 80% of the population was poor. He was seen a a threat to the "colonial" American corporate powers , which could not tolerate the possibility of another Cuba. Those who follow the politics of Latin and South American realise that the concerns of Che Guevara are now being addressed with the rise of socialist governments in many countries, ready to address the issues of the poor. (Venezuela, Argentina, Uraguay, Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile) While the United States is distracted with the Middle East, we may be seeing the beginning of the United States of South American. (The loss of US influence on that continent is one of the legacies of the Bush Administration.)
I include John Lennon in this list of loss of leadership for my generation bacause his life reflected much of what moved us from religiosity through drugs and youthful tribalism to desires of peace. "Give Peace a Chance " is a mantra that moves us still.
Is it any wonder that the generation that followed us was more self serving and materialistic. Hope and idealism for us was dashed, time and again, with tragic losses of leadership. I wonder how different the world would be if these individuals who held up a vision of the possibilities for our society had survived, to grow old and wise among us?
Canada did not lose its idealistic charismatic leader, Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Like the Kennedy's he was young, stylish and with a vision for Canada. His creation of a Constitution for Canada , with a broad bill of rights, and the acceptance of official federal bilingualism and multiculturalism has come to continue to transform the uniqueness of our culture and Nation. He did live to grow old among us? He was not without his critics. I for one will never forgive him for using the War Measures Act against the Canadian people on the false severity of a terrorist threat in Quebec. (There were to be a 1000 FLQ cells thoughout the province. In the end there was one.) For this mistake he owed Canadians an apology, which wasn't his arrogant style. He did change Canada forever and for the better, leaving us very different that our southern neighbours.
The paintings in this blog posting are part of the remarkable art called New Constructivism by Werner Horvath. Visit his webside for a look at his fascinating work. I like his political art but it is broader than that in scope. Austrian art - the New Constructivism of Werner Horvath