Friday, September 30, 2005

flood of memories

Last evening I was doing something quite rare for me, watching television. On PBS there was a special with musicians from the 1960s performing songs that merged folk and rock music. Much of this music was stuff I heard as a boy, on the AM radio that my mother played in the mornings. Some songs, like "Georgie Girl," my mom used to sing to me. I felt incredible nostalgia. Watching the audience was a blast. They were all baby-boomers, late 50s, mostly, and they all looked so happy. I loved it. Back then recording engineers were far more limited in how they could augment a recording, so singers actually had to be able to sing in tune, unlike today when people like Ashlee Simpson and Britney Spears have their voices so processed, but it is absolutely necessary since they cannot sing to begin with.

That show was followed by a documentary on the 1960s. I was born in 1962, and so the events of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War are etched in my subconscious memory, buried in the fog of childhood memories, all the more so because, for a child, they were scary. But when they showed footage of Martin Luther King, and particularly the assasination of that great leader and then Robert Kennedy, I was overwhelmed with the clearest memories. I was six when King was killed. My mother, who was deeply committed to the civil rights movement--she used to go to NAACP meetings in Philadelphia, and would be the only white person there--was crying and crying, and I was scared. Probably a more stable parent would have been able to keep it together and not scare her kids so much, but my mother was inconsolable. And watching the television last night, I started to cry, remembering.

Earlier I had been explaining to Yoshi that the present troubled me so--the war, Bush and his horrifying administration--and I missed the idealism of the post-60s, the 70s when a new society seemed possible, and I realized how much of that idealism has informed my own view of things. This is why I become so cynical sometimes. Idealists turn into cynics as we see, time and time again, our hopes and our dreams for a better world dashed. I didn't mean to be so dramatic, but I feel this deeply.

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