The Zeitgeist Of Our Time

The Wall of Moms, Portland, Oregon

I was just a child during the protests of the 1960s. One of the last big anti-war marches occurred in 1971 when I was fourteen. I decided with my friends to attend the march in Washington, D.C., but my parents refused to let me go. I was furious with my parents, but I did not go, even though my friend went.

It is hard to know how the world of the 1960s and early 1970s looked to my parent and their friends. From the vague memories that I have of my father’s comments around the dinner table, the anti-war protests were something far away from dad’s everyday world, but also something he saw as undermining American values and culture. Dad couldn’t understand the meaning of the anti-war protests and the winds of change my generation represented.

We are in the midst of a similar revolution of culture today. As I sit in my home in a quiet suburban neighborhood, the protests against the death of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter fight seems far away from my everyday world. Our community is peaceful. The supermarket around the corner is the same as it has always been, abet with the recent addition of masks. Our quiet part of Maryland is unchanged, or so it would appear. But underneath the surface, the world is waking up to a new way of seeing race and fairness. We are learning to think about what a person deserves by being alive, independent of race.

I am angry at the unnecessary and brutal death of George Floyd. I support the rights and values being fought for by Black Lives Matter. I cheer for the Wall of Mom’s and their courage. I am furious at the Trump Administration for injecting Federal troops into Portland to inflame the situation for political purposes.

At 62 years of age, I do not see myself actively protesting. My days of personally fighting the system with my body are passed. My son, in his mid-twenties, is much more active politically, and I support him in participating in recent protests where he lives.

I was inspired to write this essay by reading another news story that used the word zeitgeist, which got me thinking about the Zeitgeist of today. Zeitgeist is defined as “the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.”

What is the zeitgeist of our time? I do not remember a point in my lifetime where the United States was so at war with itself except the 1960s. There is so much rightful anger in this country for how black and brown people have been seen and treated. There is also a federal response, let by our sad excuse for a president, that has tried to twist the protests, I see as representing a just cause, ignited by George Floyd’s death, into something evil.

The announcement this morning of federal agents pulling out of Portland is welcome news, but one I suspect could also be countered by Trump at the last minute, not wanting to appear weak. Whatever happens, I am sure Trump will try and spin this as a victory.

Trump has the need to win at all costs and never appear weak. His distorted perspective is at the heart of the Federal Government’s inflammatory and divisive response to the recent protests as well as failed Federal response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Any other president would have expressed their empathy for the 150,000+ individuals whose lives have been lost to COVID-19. Any other president would have expressed sympathy and anger at the unnecessary death of George Floyd. Not this president.

Back in 2016, before the presidential election, I feared the chaos and disruption a Trump presidency would cause. We are today where I thought that we could potentially be, with the country at war with itself; with anti-science and conspiracy theories running wild; with the ongoing onslaught of the government trying to reduce or eliminate the rights of minorities, immigrants and groups that represent me, which are LGBTQ.

I hope that a presidential election and a change of administrations will begin the healing and recovery of this country.

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