Regardless of the calendar, for all practical purposes summer ends after Labor Day. Kids are back in school. Vacation is over. Grass on the lawn has turned gray. Depending on the tree, the leaves have become less green or even changed color. Fall is on its way because department stores have brought out their school supplies and fall clothes; hoodies have replaced tank tops on the shelves. At home, flowerpots are wilting and the garden is beginning to look empty.
For the benefit of the 20-something generation, I must say that this summer we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. The event, 50 years past, was just a concert. But in the American psyche, it has left a distinctive mark. Let me say why.
Fifty long years ago, which to me seems like yesterday, America was fighting in Vietnam. While the citizens wanted the war to end, the government kept on fighting. The generals and admirals kept on saying that “a decisive victory” was almost at hand. But it took nearly six more years of fighting for a humiliating return from Vietnam. More than 58,000 Americans died. Therefore, Woodstock in 1969 was a respite from the dark clouds of Vietnam.
Because of the draft, a lot of young men were
being asked to go to fight against their will and nobody could clearly say why. Through singing and smoking, an entire generation was trying to forget the reality. Every generation faces its challenges and creates something to remember. For the baby boomers it was, among many other things, Vietnam and Woodstock of 1969. For their parents it was World War 11.
When I see the kids waiting for their school bus at the neighborhood intersection, I often wonder what they will remember from this summer. Besides a trip with Mom and Dad or Grandpa and Grandma to Ocean City or Yellowstone, they would definitely remember the wars happening all over the world that the news people and politicians are talking about. Trouble seems to be everywhere. People are yelling and screaming at their governments in London, Hong Kong, Washington and elsewhere. After seeing all this on television, the kids would remember that in spite of all the wars that we are involved in, there was no draft. Yet hundreds daily are volunteering to join the military to fight for the country.
For young adults, the memorable thing would be the fires in the Amazon rain forest and the melting of snow at an accelerated rate at the poles. Who can forget a hurricane of a speed of 200 mph? In spite of fires, hurricanes and man-made disasters, we continued to survive.
This summer, one of the most tragic things has been the repeated shootings of innocent people. For more than a decade, gun violence has remained a fact of American life. This year, it seems too much to tolerate. Yet there is no political will to do anything about it. One party blames the other. The president blames video games while the parents cry for the child who has been killed. The entire nation mourns the senseless killing. Yet nothing happens to control the use of high-powered guns by civilians. Last year a lot of children came out to protest. They came to Washington to lobby. They even left classes together to show their solidarity. Maybe this year they will succeed in shaming our lawmakers and the president into doing something about gun control.
Equipped with smartphones and hand-held computers, the young people are smarter than generations of young people who came before them. They know more about their world and all its beauties and predicaments. They are ready to discard old myths and accept new ideas. That is why they raise our hopes to save ourselves and the world.