Predicting 2014

I don’t have a crystal ball and haven’t thrown the I Ching, so I can’t really say what will happen. but Mark Bittman had an amusing column in yesterday’s New York Times about years ending in four.  Bittman seems to be of the opinion that nothing much that is good happens during such years, but we can hope that he just has a selective memory.

Bittman begins with 1944, but I’ll add 1914.  That was the year Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia to begin World War I. On the plus side, the Panama Canal opened and the Boston Braves won the World Series.
Bittman writes

1944 Those of us who don’t remember this year are lucky; a soldier cited in Rick Atkinson’s brilliantly horrifying saga of the last two years of the war in Europe, “The Guns at Last Light,” quotes King Lear: “The worst is not, So long as we can say, ‘This is the worst.’ ” The end of the war was in sight; getting there was the trick, and millions were killed in the interval. Things have not been this bad since.

1954 If there was a golden era of United States foreign policy, it ended here, as Eisenhower warned against involvement in Vietnam while espousing the domino theory. Good: Joe McCarthy’s power began to ebb. Not good: The words “under God” were added to the Pledge of Allegiance.

1964 The last year of the baby boom was mind-blowing. In the 28 months beginning that January, Bob Dylan made five of the best albums of the era — and there were the Beatles.

Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life in prison, and Lyndon Johnson single-handedly sent everyone into a tizzy by signing the Civil Rights Act, sending more “advisers” to Vietnam, talking about bombing North Vietnam and proposing the Great Society. Huh? The first anti-Vietnam War demonstrations and draft-card burnings took place. Pot smoking officially began. (Not really, but sorta.)

1964 was also the year my husband graduated from high school.  I’ll call that a plus.

Skipping to 1994

Whoa: Not only did Nelson Mandela not spend his life in jail, but he became president. The Brady Law went into effect, and Bill Clinton signed the assault weapons ban. (It expired in 2004.) O. J. Simpson spurred a national obsession. Four bombers were convicted of the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center.

Reagan was implicated in the Iran-contra cover-up, but it seemed more important to torture the Clintons over a bad real estate investment. (Still, Paula Jones wasn’t the Republicans’ fault, was she?) Clinton fired Joycelyn Elders for discussing masturbation.

The first credit default swap was created. Nearly everyone in Rwanda became either a killer or a victim, or so it seemed. And there was that messy thing in “the former Yugoslavia.”

Netscape Navigator was released.

1994 was an important year for me.  We got married and I moved to Boston.  Thomas Menino was mayor but not yet The Mayor.

Which brings us to 2004.

2004  Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic convention and there seemed reason for hope; then John Kerry went windsurfing and W., incredibly, became president again (what were 62 million of us thinking?) several months after endorsing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, which Massachusetts had already legalized. (By 2013, even Utah is on the right side of this issue.) W. also promised to improve education and access to health care; we all know how that worked out. Lance Armstrong won his sixth Tour de France; we all know how that worked out, too.

And also in 2004, the Red Sox won the World Series for the first time in 86 years ending the mythical curse of Babe Ruth.

So, 2014.  I know what I hope for:  the Democrats retain control of the Senate and, at a minimum, creep closer to a majority in the House. I hope the ACA enrolls so many people who like their benefits that we don’t have to listen to Ted Cruz reading “green eggs and ham” again.  I hope, though it seems unlikely, that we get tax and immigration reform.  I hope that President Obama has a better year. And I hope everyone comes home safely from Afghanistan.  I wish Marty Walsh all the best as he becomes mayor and I hope that Michelle Wu gives up her crazy idea of voting for Bill Linehan for City Council president and picks Tito Jackson instead.  Most of all, I hope that all of us have a safe and healthy year.

2014

The 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom: My memories

Fifty years ago I was a sixteen year old high school student living in New Jersey.  My parents were community activists and very politically involved.  My mother and several of her friends decided to go to Washington for the march and took me and several of my high school friends.  I know there was some discussion about whether the march would turn violent and some calls were made (and long distance was a big deal back then) to my uncle who lived in D.C.  He must have reassured them and said that he had signed up to make sandwiches to give out to people who didn’t bring their own.  I remember being impressed because he was still a bachelor and, as far as I knew, wasn’t much of a cook.

So we kids were allowed to go along.  I remember the bus ride as long and the bathrooms at the Maryland House really horrible.  When we got to Washington, we asked to go off on our own and set off with a thermos jug of ice water (No bottles of water back then, just a jug and paper cups)  and some bags of oranges and peanut butter and jelly (they wouldn’t spoil in the hot weather) and set off.  It was an interesting little group:  me (Japanese American), at least one African American girlfriend, and several white American boys.  We wormed our way toward the front of where the march was to start instead of going to the end.  I remember people shouting and seeing the folks from the famous picture of the front of the march go by.  We fell in behind them.  I later learned that some people had already started marching and the dignitaries were trying to catch up.

Baez and Dylan

Baez and Dylan

Once we got to the Lincoln Memorial, we first found a spot to sit near some trees, but we soon moved closer to the Reflecting Pool so we could see better.  As it got hotter, and it was very hot,  we joined many by putting our feet in the pool.  We were pretty close to the front, close enough to see Joan Baez and Bob Dylan as well as Marion Anderson and Mahalia Jackson.  We heard rumors that President Kennedy was going to come join us.

I’ll be honest and say that there were a lot, a huge number, of speeches.  I don’t remember very many of them, to be honest.  I know that I was excited to hear and see Myrlie Evers, Rosa Parks and Daisy Bates as part of a tribute to women of the Movement.  But the speech that I remember best was not the famous one given by Martin Luther King, Jr.  The one I remember most clearly was given by John Lewis.   I think that was because he was with the Southern Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and I had met SNCC organizers.  Also he was young and had been arrested many times.  I had no idea at the time the speech was given that it had been censored, but it was still the most militant speech given that day.  He ended

To those who have said, “Be patient and wait,” we must say that we  cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually but we want to  be free now.

We are tired. We are tired of being beat by policemen. We are tired of  seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again, and then you  holler “Be patient.” How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and  we want it now.

We do not want to go to jail, but we will go to jail if this is the  price we must pay for love, brotherhood and true peace. I appeal to all  of you to get into this great revolution that is sweeping this nation.  Get in and stay in the streets of every city, every village and hamlet  of this nation until true freedom comes, until a revolution is complete.  We must get in this revolution and complete the revolution. In the Delta  of Mississippi, in Southwest Georgia, in the Black Belt of Alabama, in  Harlem, in Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and all over this nation the  black masses are on a march for jobs and freedom.

John Lewis at the Lincoln Memorial, 1963

John Lewis at the Lincoln Memorial, 1963

They’re talking about slow down and stop. We will not stop. All of the  forces of Eastland, Barnett, Wallace, and Thurmond will not stop this  revolution. If we do not get meaningful legislation out of this  Congress, the time will come when we will not confine our march into  Washington. We will march through the South, through the streets of  Jackson, through the streets of Danville, through the streets of  Cambridge, through the streets of Birmingham. But we will march with the  spirit of love and with the spirit of dignity that we have shown here  today.

By the forces of our demands, our determination and our numbers, we  shall send a desegregated South into a thousand pieces, put them  together in the image of God and Democracy. We must say wake up America,  wake up! For we cannot stop, and we will not and cannot be patient.

I still carry that image in my mind.  A young black man thundering, “We want our freedom and we want it now.”   But if he had included words he had wanted to include it is likely that the microphone would have been cut off.  The original text included

I want to know, which side is the federal government on?

The revolution is at hand, and we must free ourselves of the chains of  political and economic slavery. The nonviolent revolution is saying, “We  will not wait for the courts to act, for we have been waiting for  hundreds of years. We will not wait for the President, the Justice  Department, nor Congress, but we will take matters into our own hands  and create a source of power, outside of any national structure, that  could and would assure us a victory.”

At sixteen those words would have sounded so much better than “I have a dream.”

View of the Lincoln Memorial

View of the Lincoln Memorial

I think this was taken relatively early in the day.  My friends and I were at the pool on the left, not too far back and for all I remember, we might already have been there when this was taken.

It was a long ride back to New Jersey and it turned out that I had heat exhaustion, but it was worth it to have been part of history.

There were about 250,000 people there and probably many more will claim that they were there, but I really was.  It was my first large demonstration, but by the time the War in Vietnam was winding down, I was a veteran at these events.  I’m not planning on attending the 50th Anniversary March this year, but I will be there in spirit.

Photograph:  Baez and Dylan uncredited from Wikipedia

Photograph:  John Lewis  Bettmann/ Corbis

Photograph:  Lincoln Memorial  Miles Hodges, Kingsacademy.com