Protestors of old believed their actions could change the world not secure shelter from it
In his article, Why Are Student Protesters So Fearful?, Todd Gitlin takes a look at the students’ “assumption of grave vulnerability.” He refers to the students as victims because that is how they seem to perceive themselves, and notes with some surprise that they “too often present themselves as weak, in need of protection.”
As a “veteran of movements of the ’60s,” Gitlin finds the fact that administrators are held, “wholly responsible” for protecting the students’ feelings as “strikingly strange.” Gitlin’s generation of protestors could not and did not rely on anyone to protect them. Unlike too many student protestors today, they believed their actions could change the world not secure shelter from it.
Today’s victims merely want to be protected by their parents from the cold world…or by administrators from hearing stuff they do not like, like arguments that disagree with their cherished beliefs. He writes, “They apparently believed that public assemblies ought to be “safe spaces,” meaning, safe from photography, which might have been thought to be useful for bringing the news to a larger public. Their starting assumption was that the press had it in for them.”
For some, Gitlin’s surprise is not surprising. They would argue that he can’t see his generation’s culpability for the sensitivity. They would say that he can’t see that the increased sensitivity is the natural result of the direction his generation took the fight for equity and equality. They would point to the fact that we no longer have ‘winners” and “losers.” Instead we have “participants.”
On the other hand, some would blame only the helicopter parents; the parents, who want everything good for their children, and do not want them to have to struggle at all. They would argue that too many from Gitlin’s generation abandoned the fight for equity and equality, and replaced it with the fight for comfort; wealth, safety and security. Their children are simply expanding their comfort zones.
The idea that the media had it out for them shows how little understanding they have of our system, or how our system is supposed to work. How it once worked when the images of the Kent State murders changed the national dialogue.
Over the years, they spent far more time talking about the evils of the oppressors and their tactics than about those who rose up and the winning tactics they used.
Maybe if those students were taught about the role the media played in bringing the ugly images of hate, and the magnificent images of peaceful courage, during those past struggles to the average Joe, they might learn to reach out to the average Joe and enlist him.
Instead the average Joe is now considered incapable of learning. They are less than. The media told them so.
The truth be told, the media have abandoned the role of reporting the news in favor of pleasing their corporate sponsors…think of the movie “Network.” Both the liberal media…CNN, MSNBC, the NY Times, and too many local papers, and conservative media…Fox, Breitbart, the NY Daily News, the Wall Street Journal… dance to the beat of their sponsors’ drums.
In fairness, the fact that the students’ “starting assumption was that the press had it in for them,” might show that they aren’t as unsophisticated as Gitlin and others believe them to be. They know the game. They know they can and will be props for whatever “news” entity comes their way. They will be demonized by Brietbart and lionized by the Huffington Post.
Don’t’ misunderstand – Missou’s Melissa Click’s call for muscle was outrageous, but her actions are not much different from those employed by editors across the country, which pick and choose what opinions they will and will not entertain on their pages. That is why news sites like the Daily Independents have grown. We don’t really care what you have to say, we just want to give everyone a chance to be heard.
To be clear, Click’s actions constitute assault by a public employee in a public space, while the actions of the editors are egregious as they are, involve the use of private property and are legal, if wholly unethical.
As a matter of fact, it was another student struggle that gave birth to the Arizona Daily Independent. During the debate about Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies classes, the Arizona Daily Star would not entertain opinions contrary to the one the Editorial Board held; which was that the students were right, the tactics used by students were perfectly reasonable, and the adults egging them on were sainted civil rights leaders.
Some of us wanted to talk about the fact that the students were being used by ideologues on both sides. That subject was verboten. The Arizona Daily Independent was born and now those who once despised us rely on us at times to share their truth.
What Gitlin misses entirely in his otherwise excellent piece that that everyone has their own truth. Unfortunately, not everyone’s “truth” is fact-based. But whose fault is that?
The public is no longer shown images and allowed to decide for themselves what they are seeing; they are told how to feel about what they see. They know they are being fed a lie, they just don’t know what the truth is and they are all in search of it.
The trumpsters think they know it, and those feeling the Bern think they know it. Both Trump and Sanders have figured out that large hunks of our people are alienated from politics and know almost intuitively that politicians of both parties are more interested in self-promotion than in working for anyone other than those who can keep them in office, generally that means the rich. Even though Trump is rich, the fact that he does not need the other billionaires to get or keep his wealth gives him a certain independence.
Because both sides have been demonized no one will ever hear anything they really have to say in order to decide if what they have to say is worth listening to. More importantly they don’t have to go into each other’s world because the HuffPo and Brietbart have provided them with safe cocoons in which to only talk to the like-minded.
Yet, it does seem that conservatives are far more willing to politely listen to speakers whose ideas they condemn while liberals are not. That phenomenon is one great advantage conservatives currently enjoy.
Our current student protestors were raised by those seeking safe cocoons.
Gitlin gets to what really matters in the Black Lives Matter debate, when he writes:
“A pattern is clear: Too many students doubt that their community is, or can be, strong enough to stand up for itself, entertain arguments and strive to persuade opponents. The extremity of their reaction suggests that they lack confidence that reason and values are on their side. They may well resent the fact that, after decades of civil rights reform and feminism, they still have to argue against people who “don’t get it.”
“But movements that change the world are the creations of confident people — confident despite their hurt, confident despite their fear. If they don’t start out confident, they learn how to create strong communities and become more so. As leaders test themselves in action, the better ones rise and the lesser ones fade. The militants suffer, yes, but they find ways to learn a broader repertoire of feelings and skills. They can imagine putting an end to their suffering, at least much of it.”
Yup, that is what we – the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers did to them. We need to take responsibility for that. We raised them in weak communities and Gitlin describes them. He nails them when he writes:
“When movements lose their belief in a larger community that can prevail, they lose their momentum, dwindle into closed circles, become more suspicious, more indiscriminate in welcoming enmity. Contrary to some recent folklore, victories for racial equality in America came not from a few thousand Black Panthers parading with firearms, but from millions committed to nonviolent action.”
He describes the Democrat and Republican parties’ enclaves in every community in the country; “closed circles, become more suspicious, more indiscriminate in welcoming enmity.” He left out old, angry, bitter, and hypocritical as they live out their remaining days in McMansions and gentrified digs while demanding that the youth accept their ideologies in total.
The millions of the past will never sprout from the astroturf of today. Not while ideologues demand strict compliance and demonize the “other” has having nothing to offer.
The students on the campuses have nothing more than the color of their skin upon which to draw comparisons to the kids being killed by cops. Their sensitivity might just come as a result of their shame for their hypocrisy. They live off the fruits of the system they despise, and unlike their predecessors they simply lack the mental agility to completely buy into the belief that the system that allows them to sit in college classrooms is ultimately evil. If you are not a true believer, you will likely lack the confidence to face hard questions.
The Blacks in the 60s had to fight tooth and nail to get into those colleges. Nothing was given to them. They were radicalized by their own struggles, not by reading abiout the struggles of other people they were protected from having to fight. And they rejected the victim mentality, and fought against it. The current crop of students embrace it despite the fact it is a large part of what perpetuates black poverty and violence.
Confidence comes from convictions or sheer volume.
If those students were to start talking about the crony capitalism that has guaranteed them a life time of student debt, they might gain millions to walk with them. If they were to start talking about the militarization of police forces, they might get millions to walk with them. If they were to make it clear that they want equal rights for all – and not special rights for some, they might get millions to walk with them.
As long as they make it about them and not about us, they will walk in small groups that probably do require protection.
And that is something we all bear responsibility for, and for which we should all be ashamed.