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Don't Trust Anybody Over Thirty
by Harold Williamson
August 17, 2004

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[A]ge is no better, hardly so well, qualified for an instructor as youth, for it has not profited so much as it has lost. One may almost doubt if the wisest man has learned anything of absolute value by living.

-- from Walden by Henry David Thoreau

On Sunday, August 15, the Washington Post reported that recent polls show that President Bush's popularity has plummeted among young adults in the past four months because of their concerns over the war in Iraq and the sluggish economy. The article stated, "In the latest Post-ABC News poll, taken immediately after the Democratic Convention, Kerry led Bush 2 to 1 among registered voters younger than thirty.  Among older voters, the race was virtually tied."

It is difficult to believe that after four years of screwing all but the rich in this country and bullying the rest of the world, that there could be a single ordinary American with a lick of common sense -- especially older Americans who have seen the likes of this before -- who could vote to re-elect George Bush.  Whatever became of those young people who angrily cried out in protest during the sixties?  "Hell no, we wont go!"  "Power to the people!" "Make love, not war!"  Remember?  Truth is, their daddy's allowance ran out, and they could no longer afford their conscience.  They sold out, condemning yet another generation of young Americans.

Shortly after the latest heightened state of alert was announced, a young man living in New York City sent me an e-mail saying, "This is the first time in my life that I feel genuine unease about my future."  While reading his letter, I realized that this was the second time in my life when I have seriously considered what it might be like to be a Canadian citizen.

The young man's thoughts reminded me of Dustin Hoffman's character, Benjamin Braddock, who was perplexed and concerned about his future in the movie "The Graduate."  It was a time when he suddenly realized the perils that lay ahead in a world not of his own making, and the haunting lyrics of the tune "Mrs. Robinson" are as true today as they were then: "Goin' to the candidates debate / Laugh about it, shout about it / When you've got to choose / Ev'ry way you look at it you lose."

John Kerry has confused and disappointed many by saying that even if he had known what he knows now, he would have still voted to give George Bush the authority to invade Iraq.  If Kerry really believes that, then what does he consider to be a valid cause for this war?

It would seem to matter very little which political party gets elected, yet this time it really does -- at least according to "The presidential election of 2004 is not a debate about voting your fears or voting your conscience. It is not an academic or theoretical exercise. Real people's lives are at stake. Women, people of color, the GLBT community, our nation's poor, and many others, save for the privileged few, will face real consequences from the outcome of this election. As a result, we must view the effect of our votes collectively, not merely by what they mean to us as individuals."

The good are still dying young. 

I was an undergrad at the University of Illinois when the icy, bone-numbing winds of January 1968 howled across the prairie with the news that a high school friend had been killed during the Tet offensive.  I would have been there with him in the steaming jungles had I not been a fortunate son with good grades and the tuition money to stay in school.  I'll never forget what my friend did for me because after all is said and done, he did not die for America's freedom or any other principled cause; he died fighting an old man's dirty war so I could stay in school and have a chance at living a full life.

On August 6, another fortunate son, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, spoke to The Chicago Council on Foreign Relations/Commercial Club of Chicago. On that same day an op-ed article that he wrote ran in the Chicago Tribune comparing the Korean War with the war in Iraq, implying that Iraqi "freedom" will be worth the heavy toll in American troops and treasure.  Rumsfeld also added a personal touch to his self-serving piece by saying that Korea's freedom was won at a terrible cost, including a high-school friend of his that was killed on the "last day" of the Korean War.

What Rumsfeld failed to say was that during the Korean War, the United States had the blessing of the United Nations and the cooperation of Western Europe.  In addition, the US was responding to an invasion by North Korea, and only intervened to protect a sovereign South Korean government that was already in place.

It is no accidental oversight that he did not mention the Vietnam War, the only war in recent memory that even remotely parallels the snafu in Iraq, and I find it difficult to imagine that Rumsfeld actually believes his own sophistry that the Chicago Tribune was complicit in publishing.

For those of you who don't know about the free speech movement at Berkeley during the sixties, a twenty-four-year-old Jack Weinberg said, "We have a saying in the movement that we don't trust anybody over thirty."  Being in my sixth decade as a member of the human community, I think that is still damned good advice.

Harold Williamson can be reached at:  Copyright 2004, Harold Williamson.

Other Articles by Harold Williamson

* Faith in the Postmodern World
* Remember Who The Enemy Is
* Obscenity, A Sign of the Times and the Post
* Thinking Anew: A Do-It-Yourself Project
* America's Blind Faith in Government
* Think Tanks and the Brainwashing of America
* Bully for the Bush Doctrine: A Natural History Perspective