Watching the CNN series on The Sixties, I wasn’t surprised that an entire two-hour episode was devoted to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I’ve seen so many programs on this in the 50+ years since. But this time, I watched it through a different cultural lens.
One thing that struck me was the size of the crowds lined up in Dallas, awaiting a glimpse of the President. JFK captured the imagination of the people in a Hollywood-star kind of way, for sure. And I noticed that most people were doing this:
Kids and adults alike were excitedly waving at the president in a way they don’t for presidents today. Nor can I remember a crowd this large for any recent president. I looked at their faces on that old black and white film: They were excited because seeing the President was a big deal. A very big deal. Especially for the kids.
One of the commentators on the program observed.
“People today want to be inspired in that same way.”
I turned to M.
“People today will never be inspired in that same way because people and society have changed so much,” I said. “The Sixties-maybe we saw too much. Today, we’ve become jaded. It takes more to impress us. Our values are different.” And not in a good way.
Back in the day, this was what families did together. The key word is “together.” They sat together and they spent time together. The innocent past-times of family picnics, playing ball, barbecues in the backyard–that was what the world was like. Lots of interaction between people.
But it’s different, today:
From a young age, children today are taught to live in an electronic bubble: just them, individually, and an electronic device. Isolated. Interaction is primarily electronic: text, email. They look down at a device, not up at one another. They consume media individually, not as a family unit. That’s what we all do now.
And we’ve seen a lot, since 1963. A whole lot.
It’s been a privilege to have a front row seat for so much social change. Back in the 1960s our focus on society as a whole and its evolution was exciting in a way young people today can’t possibly get. We saw the results of black people sitting in at a lunch counter. Women’s liberation from the constriction of limited roles was huge. The Pill.
There was darkness, too. Our world was shaken we four high-profile people involved in social change were murdered. That shook our lives, too, because we never believed most of the official stories behind them. We were forced into an up-close view of the horrors of war as Vietnam entered our homes every night on the news.
Meanwhile, the Brits revolutionized music. Not to mention the uptick in the use of drugs for consciousness raising and entertainment. Which has led to a pretty mess. A president resigned in disgrace. The energy crisis brought forward issues never before considered by mainstream Americans.
And so much more. Think about it–We saw so much in the Sixties–maybe we saw TOO much.
We’ve seen so much that we think we’ve seen it all and it takes a lot for someone, even the President of the United States, to impress us.
Since 1963 we’ve lost our naivete and our trust.
We’ve become each other’s enemies, polarized beyond imagination.
And our young people idolize celebrities who have no life achievements other than… a sex tape? Yes, our naivete is long gone.
I can’t think of a time in recent years when the populace lined the streets for miles just to wave at our President. When I last saw that kind of innocence and trust.
I just don’t think it will ever happen again.
That one act–or lack of action– symbolizes our world-weariness, our apathy, our disillusionment with so much of life.
With so much of life outside ourselves.
We’ve drawn into ourselves. Us and our devices. We’re….jaded.
And I’m sad about that.
Have you watched CNN’s series and has it spawned any observations? Even if you haven’t, what do you think when you read this?