An open letter to sons, daughters and grandchildren: Boy, did we screw up. We are leaving you with a mess, but even those words don’t seem adequate to express our own sense of helplessness. I’m talking about those of us who lived through what are generally labeled the ’60s, but the time period ran from the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the end of the Vietnam War in 1975.

Bob Kalish observes life from a placid place on the island of Arrowsic (motto: You’re not in Georgetown yet). You can reach him at [email protected]

The last century, looking back from the present, was remarkable. In the space of 100 years we had a Great War, a Great Depression, at least three more wars and what might be considered another we could call the Iraqi War. You could make a case to call that 100 years the Century of War and Depression. That wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. See, the main theme of that period is change, like in the Dylan song, “The times they are a-changing,” and those of us who made up what was called the baby boom found ourselves in a bifurcated world by the time we were teenagers. Half of us lived in a world where order prevailed, where dad went to work every day and the wife stayed home and cooked and cleaned the house and Negroes worked for “the man” and didn’t dare complain out loud. As a male of that era given no special training to prepare for what life was really like, what I saw of the world was safe, predictable and boring.

Kennedy’s assassination – the first since William McKinley in 1900 was gunned down and allowed Teddy Roosevelt to be president – was a shock hard to imagine now with the vocabulary of terrorism having become common. Then came the period of reckoning, forgotten voices of women, African Americans, homosexuals sent out like weather balloons. Again Dylan and “You don’t have to be a weatherman to see which way the winds blow.” Those songs, those radical groups that sprouted like mushrooms in September like the Weathermen, Black Power, were the first scouts in the war on life as it was lived then.

That’s all in the past. I’d like to make a few suggestions as you rebuild life as we knew it.

  • Establish a Department of Peace, to balance the effect of the Defense Department, which used to be called the War Department. Think about it. Every morning throughout the world hordes of workers commute to their work place to think about war and defense and weapons. What if there were a Department of Peace, a Bureau of Kindness, with workers who spend their time creating peace, activities the Peace Corps has been doing for years. Such bureaucracies would influence other cogs in the wheel of a government motivated by peace rather than profit.
  • Let’s try again to stop glorifying violence, especially in sports. Make it mandatory to have at least one box of Kleenex for each bench. And injured players would have all the time they need before limping off the field.

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