On March 31, 1968, President Johnson stunned the country by announcing he would not run for another term of office.
Back in February I wrote about where I was and how I am connected to this historical even and how it formed my political consciousness.
I was attacked for what I wrote. So It goes.
I had already joined the ranks of those opposed to the war in Viet Nam. By 1968 I was supporting Gene McCarthy, and actively worked for him as he campaigned for the Wisconsin primary.
On March 31, 1968, President Johnson announced that he would not run for re-election. His words: "I shall not seek," "will not accept" — are very well known.
Eugene McCarthy was giving a speech at Carroll College in Waukesha, Wisconsin. I know, because I was there.
Early in the speech the student stage manager, my best friend, Butch Lohmiller, came on-stage and handed a note to McCarthy who read it silently and then just stood there for a moment. He then told the news to the audience. He cut his speech short, and left the stage.
It was an extraordinary night for those of us in the audience. Two days later, Gene McCarthy won the Wisconsin primary and then went on to be abandoned by the Democratic Party machine, much the same as they abandoned Dennis Kucinich this year.
McCarthy did play an important role in our history and he did escape the fate of assassination that awaited Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
And America got Richard Nixon.
So in some ways it was a wondrous time for our country because there initially was hope. Amid the hated and vile military-industrial complex, the endless war, and the hideous party politics which blocked the nomination of the One People's Candidate. We then young Americans, in large numbers, had genuine strongly held beliefs for which we were willing to march, protest, fight and sacrifice.
Now, all these years later, our country finds itself entrenched in 2 new illegal, undeclared wars, just as vile, hopeless and disgusting to many of my generation as Vietnam was then. Now I do not have the any sort of the hope and optimism I had in 1968. Now, I am an impoverished, disabled senior citizen and seem to see next to nothing from the youth of today in actual protest to these horribly misguided and immoral wars. All I see is the lowest form of party politics and the most self serving for mof political celebrity worship.
In a way history has come full circle from where Eugene McCarthy led me. I am disgusted and despairing. Maybe Gene was a bit despairing even back then. He said that "being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game, and dumb enough to think it's important." Yet, in spite of knowing the game, he was not dumb and accomplished removing a bad president, and focusing the values of a generation that went on to lead the entire nation in ending the awful undeclared war.
And so, here we are today.
The one leader with the character of Eugene McCarthy,
Dennis Kucinich has been abandoned and discarded.
We have, it seems, learned nothing from our history.
The political process of narcissism, ego, lies, materialism, greed and fascism thrives in the United States of America. And those who would celebrate the current campaigners are well described in William Shakespeare's Macbeth:
“A poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more:
It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Worse than nothing. It signifies a delusion so deep, a denial so unrecognized, and an ignorance so complete, that it makes thoughtfulness, critical thinking and intelligent discourse seem impossible.
- Michael John Moynihan