Permission to reprint courtesy of author.
“Heads up, all you pacificats, you retro radicals, you bohemian bourgeoisie. It’s time to get ready for action once again. Time for all good people to come to the aid of their country, their species, and their planet.
So, are you ready? Ready to get up, stand up, join the movement, take it to the streets? Go on strike – shut it down? Make some news of your own.
Sure. You can do it. Even if you’ve got a bad back, or a bum knee or some other hitch in your giddyap, just pop some Ibuprofen and put on those old tennis shoes and get ready to do something.
Maybe just like you, friend, I thought I was a retired radical, no longer needed. I thought I had turned in my badge and that all I had left to do was listen to KPFA and go to Mime Troupe shows and make donations to worthy causes, like “Clowns Without Borders.”
But I’m now starting to remember that exhilaration and purpose we felt in that distant past when just like now, “the operation of the machine becomes so odious, and makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part… and you’ve got to make it stop [Mario Savio].” Remember that feeling.
Maybe you’ll get inspired by looking through your radical memorabilia. Just go into the closet and pull out some of your old protest posters – the ones that you carried into the streets – thirty or forty or fifty years ago, back in the nineteen-hundreds. When the world was young.
And maybe you were there with me – way back in the civil rights movement – when we sang with Pete Seeger, “we shall not be moved,” and then Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and we thought we were pretty much done with that struggle, not realizing that it would take a few generations for any real integration to start happening in America. But remember, it’s solidarity “forever.”
And hey, there in my closet is a poster calling on people to boycott grapes – and we kind of won that one too – helping the farmworkers get their rights.
And way back there in my closet is the flyer that announced the march on Washington – when we chanted om and levitated the Pentagon. And later there were other anti-war rallies where we gathered hundreds of thousands of people, back when it didn’t take a weatherman to know which way the wind blows. And even though we didn’t exactly stop the war in Vietnam we sure enough slowed it down – and it’s one, two, three what are we fighting for… And don’t forget, People’s Park is still here, and the humpback whales are making a comeback.
So now is the time to get ready again, friends. Go dig out that old pair of jeans with the “authentic” rip in the knee – and there’s the t-shirt that got torn in the white night riots, and the hat you wore at the Diablo Canyon nuke protests.
And maybe in the garage you’ll find some signs and posters you can use again like “make love, not war” which is vague enough to be valid forever. I found one of my favorite posters – it says, “U.S. out of North America.” That’s still applicable. And there was that placard calling for a boycott of grapes. And maybe we could just paint it over and call for a boycott of the excessive consumption of everything.
And as I look through the radical memorabilia, I’m thinking we won lots of struggles – at least partially. And we changed the culture of America. And now it looks like we may be called upon for another tour of duty, if for no other reason than to protect the positive changes, the ones we helped to shape in the last half century.
So, get ready friends. Maybe all of us recently retired radicals can form a boomer brigade – we will protest anytime and anywhere, as long as we can fit in a little afternoon nap. And if they dare to touch our Social Security we will get our canes and walkers and go to the streets chanting, “Hey hey, ho ho. Now we’re old we want our dough.”
And finally, I am compelled to ask, what would Buddha do – and I know that, first of all, the Buddha would do no harm and inflict no pain. And maybe take the position advocated by the Dalai Lama, who calls the other side “my friends, the enemy,” acknowledging that all of us are members of a species out of control and we humans are just now learning how to overcome our greed, hatred and delusion.
So, we may not know how we will be called upon, to which crisis or what sacrifices we might be asked to make. But we’ve done it before and we can do it again. We can stand up for justice and truth – with compassion and strong determination – with the sole intent being to ease the suffering of all people everywhere, and to heal and sustain the life of the Earth.
Finally, friends, as we move through this winter in America, may I suggest that you offer some extra reverence to the sun, the s-u-n, el sol, our father who art in orbit, hallowed be thy rays. Celebrate the natural miracles that are inside of us and that surround us, the mystery of consciousness and the movement of the planets, and the immensely improbable wonder of our life on Earth. And this is Scoop Nisker saying, once again, stay high but keep your priorities straight, and if you don’t like the news, go out and make some of your own.