Welcome to Perspectives, a blog of thoughts, commentary and observations ranging from autistic adolescents to intimate portraits of urban communities.


Fifty Years Ago

Later today I will participate in a panel discussion honoring the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to a small school in rural Massachusetts where I was a high-school senior. I wrote about his visit a year ago, and today’s ceremony takes me back to the 1960s, which was the formative decade of my life. It is a time now often disparaged because, it is said, it ended up glorifying violence and led to the narcissistic backlash of the “me generation.” Popular culture instead reveres what Tom Brokaw branded “the greatest generation,” a phrase that has always stuck in my craw. For that was that generation against whom my own was in rebellion, not because we saw our elders as an undifferentiated collection of other-directed organization men in gray flannel suits (as some books of those days described them), but because we saw a country, entering into unprecedented economic prosperity after a devastating depression and a global war, which was reacting violently to the demands of a people who were, in Dr. King’s words, “still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination,” a country that ignored an environment that featured a dying Lake Erie and a burning Cuyahoga River sending flames five stories in the air, a country that was itself engaged in a devastating conflict in southeast Asia. And while we were sometimes attracted to false prophets, we were struggling to change things we believed needed to be changed. They still do.


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