“A child is someone who passes through your life and disappears into an adult,” the caption read.
And so goes the story of everyone’s life.
Before the dawn of the Internet, I sometimes wondered what happened to my childhood friends from so long ago.
My very wise brother made any further inquiry unnecessary: “You know what happened to them. They disappeared into the middle class.”
So much for the children and the young adults.
But where do we go from here now that the middle class, to where all those children aspired, is itself disappearing?
We follow the boom, by which I mean the baby boom generation of the post-World War II years. It’s as obvious as a tennis ball slowly going down the neck of the national ostrich, notable for setting trends and national agendas just because of its size.
The boom started to bang in 1946. The average number of children per family stayed the same. It was simply that all those 30-something women who had postponed childbearing during the Great Depression of the 1930s started families alongside the twenty-somethings of the 1940s. From 1946 to 1964, bedrooms rocked and the nation rolled.
America’s economy peaked in 1968. The minimum wage was more valuable then than it has ever been since. That year also saw the beginning of the end of the American Dream.
The young people who propelled Minnesota Democratic Sen. Eugene McCarthy’s presidential campaign dropped out. McCarthy’s showing in the New Hampshire primary caused President Lyndon Johnson to retire. After Sen. Robert Kennedy, D-NY, was murdered, the nomination should have gone to the erudite Minnesota professor.
Instead, the riot-torn and thoroughly corrupt Democratic convention gave the nomination to Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who had not entered a single primary. Even burdened by the albatross of the Vietnam War, Humphrey almost beat Richard Nixon. He needed another three days of campaigning, but fell short.
Nixon’s racist Southern strategy (“law and order” as code words for “bash uppity blacks”) set the template for divisive elections still followed today. The uppities of 2004 were gays. This year, brown people will stand in the shoes of the scapegoats.
I fear another mass desertion of the young if a warmonger like John McCain is elected this year. If they do, they will be repeating the mistake of their parents and grandparents.
Nixon and Henry Kissinger won the White House in 1968 by promising a secret plan to end the Vietnam War. Actually, they torpedoed a peace agreement that the Johnson administration had worked out. They then used “peace is at hand” as their 1972 re-election campaign. By then, Nixon had stifled protest by ending the draft and the war faded as an issue because Americans wanted to get on with their mass disappearance.
Baby boomers as a lot have been oft-criticized for short attention spans. American marketers have thus found them easy marks for advertising’s two magic words: NEW! and MORE!
The first two baby boomer presidents proved to be short attention span dilettante disasters. Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton will very likely be the last boomer president. Our time is passing as we disappear into older age.
I don’t blame all those who dropped out. Job exports and shrinking incomes have required all members of the family to find work. Weaker households have severely shaken the foundations of our society. We are the most productive workers in the world and we haven’t had a raise in 30 years. We have one political party, the corporate party, which uses the resources of government to exploit us.
As parents of disappearing children who once disappeared ourselves, where do we go from here? The next week in these parts allows us to both think globally and act locally.
Last week, I wrote of an upcoming moment when the giants will walk among us again. It all starts this Friday as the sleeping giant of the United Auto Workers Union starts a brushfire at the General Motors Stead Warehouse. Union members will gather out front and stay there until they have obtained at least 1,000 signatures on a letter to Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., pushing for fair trade and against government-facilitated policies that export U.S. jobs to slave-wage countries.
A week from tomorrow would have been labor leader César Chávez’s 81st birthday. Join your friends and neighbors for the celebration at Circus Circus beginning at 6 p.m. on March 31. For complete info, go to CesarChavezNevada.com.
The late United Auto Workers leader Walter Reuther was a huge Chávez supporter. I’ll be posting an unpublished photo of the two giants with the Web edition of this column at Barbwire.US.
The highlight of the Chávez event will be a mythical dialogue between César Chávez and Martin Luther King, Jr., two men who never met in this life but admired each other.
At the end of next week, the First United Methodist Church in downtown Reno will have three days of events commemorating the 40th anniversary of King’s death.
Do yourselves a favor: participate. Bring the kids and grandkids. Show them the examples of these three great leaders who made every American’s life better.
Walter Reuther, César Chávez and Dr. King knew how to lead and knew how to fight.
We need them now more than ever and they need your help to reverse the disappearance of the America we still wish for.
Be well. Raise hell.
Andrew Barbano is a 39-year Nevadan, member of Sparks-based Communications Workers of America Local 9413/AFL-CIO, political action chair and webmaster of NAACP Reno-Sparks Branch 1112, producer of the César Chávez celebration and editor of NevadaLabor.com. As always, his comments are strictly his own. E-mail email@example.com. Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Tribune since 1988.