Dedicated to NAPA, aged 101 years.
YET ONE MORE PROTEST SONG
I am not an angry young man. I am an angry old woman whose wrath has been aroused anew by two newspaper articles recently read. One lamented the death of a folk (?) singer who ran out of causes, inspiration and money, and committed suicide at the age of 35, at which age he was one of the “old” he once scorned. The other concerned a woman who was publishing letters exchanged between her and the husband who went “underground” two years ago to escape the FBI, and who last wrote a year ago to tell her he was in love with someone else. While she seeks to find and maintain her “identity” she accepts welfare because she prefers not to be “exhausted” by a combination of job-holding and housework. She talks of being hungry while she smokes incessantly. Her son’s clothing is supplied by his widowed grandmothers. And I am tired of being ridiculed and exploited by all such people.
I like the starry-eyed idealism of youth. There is a certain sadness in the injuries it must suffer when it first enters the lists and tilts with reality. Yet that is the point where the adults begin to separate from the children, a separation that ultimately has nothing to do with age. The mature adult accepts the responsibility, the obligation, to work within the law to bring his world a little closer to his ideals. The perpetual adolescent bewails wrong and wrongdoers to the accompaniment of his guitar. He decries war and preaches love even while aiming a gun, pulling a knife, tossing a bomb in the odd notion that only his violence – his violence – produces justice. He becomes a degree bum, an unwashed drifter, a brain-washed cultist, despising the “establishment” and the nation which protect and support him. He destroys himself with drugs and drink when the world that was supposed to be his apple turns out to be flavorless and even wormy.
Yet I would not spray insecticide indiscriminately on all such. There is a need for gadflies to sting awake the social conscience. But I would grant them no stings more deadly than their repetitious lyrics, discordant chords, smears of paint, plotless prose, pointless plays, unintelligible verse, and the endless protest of their marches and placards and shrill speeches.
I also ask of them a similar scornful tolerance for my way of life. I have a right to believe in “the wisdom of the ages,” “the voice of experience” and the beauty of disciplined art, music and literature. The traditional is not to be ridiculed simply because it is old, any more than the modern is to be castigated simply because it is different. Better reasons must be found both by the aging and the young to justify what they would retain or eliminate in the culture. For in every generation the best culture comes of the endless blending of the old with the new to their mutual benefit.
For all that, there are limits to my tolerance. I want the kind of civil right that bestows a job on the basis of ability and/or trainability, that grants promotion and tenure on the basis of performance. I am sick of the sloppy workmanship and indifferent service that seem to accompany hiring by quota and failure to fire because some union says it is all right to goof off if you pay your dues first. I detest the greed in high places and low and right through the middle that sees all economy as what you have that I want, and has no compunction about grabbing it, although it bankrupts the nation, cripples or kills an individual in the process. I am disgusted with the glorification of youth that goes off to find itself instead of to work; that demands as its right a place on governing boards where, out of its vast inexperience, it offers criticism freely, solutions vaguely; that takes it for granted its crudities will be overlooked, not corrected; its whims catered to, not ignored; its excesses smiled at, not disciplined; even its violences excused and its many victims forgotten.
In short, I am an angry old woman who hopes devoutly (and likewise profanely) that those were the years, my friend, and that they will soon end and that the juvenile delinquents of all ages will have learned they are not bound to have their way forever regardless. For I am also a tired old woman, tired of being billed for the piper while someone else dances.
Published by Louise Lincoln and A. Walrus
Tuscon, Arizona 85710
Printed in Cranford by our friend