THE BLOG
11/20/2016 10:55 pm ET Updated Nov 21, 2017

Dreamed I saw Tom Hayden last night; alive as you or me

Cycles go 'round. Events and patterns persist, until sufficiently disruptive conditions call for something different, something else, something of deeper truth
I am mulling over the words of Aaron Sorkin to his daughter: "(in the results of this election)...Hate was given hope. Abject dumbness was glamorized as being "the fresh voice of an outsider". For the next four years, the President of the United States, the same office held by Washington and Jefferson, Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK and Barack Obama, will be held by a man-boy who'll spend his hours exacting Twitter vengeance against all who criticize him (and the numbers will be legion.) We've embarrassed ourselves in front of our children and the world..."
I have experienced in my time, the feeling of wonder while marching in the streets of Boston in the late 60's; experiencing the potential power of a generation who were willing to challenge, who refused to accept, who were willing to risk the reaction of those in authority.
That same generation was willing to carry out this exploration in purposeful social disruption up to the Democratic Party's 1968 Convention, in Chicago. There were other such expressions of potential social and political disruption... only to come to a point, and rather limply to retract, to wimp-out, and to take to the easier choices of, essentially, selling out. As has been described by others, my generation took all of a potentially real 'counter culture' movement and allowed it to ignominiously slip simply into an over-the-counter culture; easily side tracked by drugs, by Mad Men merchandisers, by, in the end, not much more than cheap flashing and shiny objects that mimicked change on very disappointingly surface levels, not much deeper -- depth of feeling, perhaps; depth of commitment, no.
If you are a Millennial, you have your cycles of real choices to make, and NOW. Those who feel they have 'won' (and those who won did because most of you did not vote); have stepped aside to permit the show to be taken away by the dated disco-beat of a Climate Change Denier, a sexual predator, a person who glories in a much dated 'ready, fire, aim' reactionary reality without having - until now - any consequences other than TV ratings to contend with. This is Marshall McLuhan on steroids.
As a counter, I invoke another cycle with a call to the spirit of the recently deceased Tom Hayden. I call on Hayden just as pointedly and forcefully as a union rep might call up the classic folk song invoking the spirit of Joe Hill. In this note to you, you the student, you the social innovator, even to you the millennial entrepreneur and all fellow citizens. The call of this cyclical return is to question what you may have been told was a bunch of socialists, or anarchists (a term I've just heard again for the first time in 3 decades to describe today's protestors). Bernie is also part of this cyclic recalling of Tom Hayden in many ways.
Hayden was a student in Ann Arbor who with a group of sincerely empassioned idealists took direct action under the banner of Students for a Democratic Society, or SDS. They came to campuses across the country; so yes, they were as labeled 'outside agitators'. SDS would recruit other fellow student-citizens to probe into the local body politic of national campuses with simple penetrating questions: "Do you understand why we are fighting in Viet Nam? Do you think leaking toxics from a factory into community water supply is acceptable? Do you feel bombing villages is what you support? Do you condone harassment in housing and job discrimination for people of color?"
Such questions are easily transported to today's local and global realities.
The call of SDS was to not accept "Business as Usual". To raise deep questions on campuses to a level that requested if not required university campus resources to be called upon to stop and focus their lens of inquiry directly into these pressing, immediately consequential questions. And with the draft knocking heavily on student doors, the immediacy was felt. One would imagine that instead of the military draft, students might feel bank-enriching debts as immediate, today. What could touch the heart and soul of what this generation must have for a future in which they can believe they have a future.
Do you students, you innovators, you start-up millennial entrepreneurs seeking to change the world really want to let this election just go by when driven by only 25.5% of fellow citizens who are seemingly well identified as mostly angry, white, uneducated-and-proud-of-it age peers? IS that good enough? Or, is the distraction of recreational marijuana enough to keep the cycles of deeper change from being addressed once again?
We don't have SDS. We have cynicism, and despair; and also jubilant forces of anger and hatred let loose on our civic life. There are reports of agitated bullying and outright assaults on blacks, women, Latinos, and 'other' religious groups at high schools, and college campuses right now. The empowering of the bullies has begun. Still, we don't live in TV-land. When a reported bully-predator grabs women by the crotch on public transport and calls out "America is great again", what future can we truly have, together? Make no mistake; we are all in this together. Michael Moore was accurate in calling this election cycle because he actually listened to others. The Electoral College has yet to meet. Dialogue and listening provides a chance for a way forward for us, and not just for 1% of us.
Tom Hayden was not an anarchist. He went on to be a State Representative, an engaged and productive leader of change. He wanted democracy to work for more people. He was a student of change in, and for, a more democratic society.