Recently, I’ve come across several commentaries that compare today’s uprising in the United States against police brutality and anti-black racism with the political turmoil there in 1968.
In 1968, I was 11 years old, and I remember attending a worship service at Knox United Church in Cornwall Ontario led by the “High C” youth group. They titled it “Revolution” and played the song by that title, which had been released by the Beatles in 1968.
A banner inscribed with the word “Revolution” was strung across the chancel in which the “t” was transformed into a cross. I don’t remember much more about that service. But I was impressed by the daring of the youth in trying to relate to the political moment, which many thought might lead to revolution.
A big difference between 1968 and 2020, in my opinion, lies in the nature of the U.S. federal government. Even though the Democratic administration of Lyndon Johnson in 1968 was prosecuting a brutal and unjust war in Vietnam, and even though the Republican administration of Richard Nixon that replaced Johnson’s in January 1969 was anti-black and anti-youth, neither one fell anywhere close to the authoritarianism and lawlessness of the current U.S. government.
The proto-fascist nature of the current U.S. federal government raises the stakes of the current uprising, which in turn raises both my fears and my hopes.
In regards to the latter, this morning I received an e-newsletter from “The Obama Foundation,” which was formed by U.S. President Barack Obama a few years ago. His words bolstered my hope, so I reproduce them below in the hope that they will do the same for you — Ian
In the last several weeks—and the last several months before that—we have seen the kinds of epic changes that are as profound as anything that I’ve seen in my lifetime.
Although all of us have been feeling pain, uncertainty, and disruption, some have felt it more than others. Most of all, the families of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery and Tony McDade and Sean Reed and too many others to mention.
Michelle and I—and the nation—grieve with those families. We hold them in our prayers. And we are committed to the fight of creating a more just nation in memory of their sons and daughters.
This evening, I joined our My Brother’s Keeper Alliance in a conversation with local and national leaders to discuss the tragic events of recent weeks, the history of police violence in America, and specific actions we can take to encourage reform of our law enforcement system.
Part of what’s made me hopeful in these days, despite it all, is the fact that so many young people have been galvanized and motivated and mobilized. So much of the progress that we’ve made in our society has been because of young people. Dr. King was a young man when he first got involved. Malcolm X was a young man. Dolores Huerta was a young woman. The leaders of the feminist movement were young people. Leaders of union movements were young people. The movement to make sure that members of the LGBTQ community finally had a voice and were represented were young people. And the leaders of the gun violence and environmental movements in this country are young people.
Today, when I see young people all across the country stepping up and speaking out in such meaningful ways—when I see their talent and sophistication and passion—it makes me feel optimistic. It makes me feel as if this country is going to get better. But real change starts with a focus on results, and everyone committed to doing their part.
We’re calling on everyone—from mayors to city council officials to everyday citizens—to recognize and root out the tragic, painful, maddening effects of systemic racism and to take concrete steps to address police use of force policies in their communities.
It will take all of us working together to ensure we can reimagine policing so it recognizes the humanity of every person—so it honors the dignity of every person.
“My daddy changed the world,” Gianna Floyd, George’s six-year-old daughter, said yesterday.
Yes he did.
Yes we can.”