I’ve had this song bouncing around in my head for the last week or so and just can’t seem to get it out of there. I find it hard to believe it was written way back in 1966 by Stephen Stills and later recorded by Buffalo Springfield. Even though I was a young shit way back then, the words, to me at least, seem just as relevant today as they did then. It’s called “For What It’s Worth and it pretty much sums up my take on things.
There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
Let me get this straight, Democrats and Republicans are both arguing over events that occurred 35 years ago in Viet Nam. Each side argues who was braver, who did their patriotic duty, who answered the call and who didn’t. I try explaining these things to borgette and she doesn’t get it. She’s more concerned about things that are going to happen rather than those that already did. I suppose I am too…
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
Did you see the pictures from Boston and the recent Democratic National Convention? Law enforcement officials patrolling the streets with automatic weapons outfitted in body armor in an attempt to provide some measure of security to the events that were about to unfold. I’m sure the same will occur at the Republican National Convention scheduled to be held in New York City later this month. It doesn’t make me feel any safer.
I guess guns can come in all forms. We’ve got things like the Patriot Act that can monitor just about everything one does and free speech zones that do nothing to foster free speech. They both act as a sort of deterrent and you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ve both had an effect on me as I conduct my life, both in public and in private.
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
I think people are too quiet these days. There’s not enough outrage and if there is, people are afraid of the consequences. I think the word “children” in that line is the operative one. Sure, back when it was written, it was geared toward the college students and the disenfranchised. Today, I think it applies to all of us.
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Don’t believe me? In the short time between when Stephen Stills penned this song we’ve had war on just about everything. War on Poverty, War on Crime, War on Drugs, War on Education, War on Terrorism and the War on Iraq to name a few. We’ve got an Administration who is adamantly opposed to gay marriage and actually want to adopt a constitutional amendment banning it. It would be the only amendment other than the infamous Volstead Act that sought to restrict the freedom of the people rather than to expand it.
Recent surveys have shown that gap between the rich and the poor is widening much faster these days. Prison populations are on the rise. There are approximately 43 million Americans that don’t have health insurance and that number is going up. There is despair amongst us but somehow, nobody seems to notice.
The sad thing is, I don’t know that if by replacing the current Administration with the next one, things will get any better.
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I wish I could say that was true. I wish more people would speak their minds without fear of being branded as unpatriotic or sympathetic to the terrorist threat and/or cause. Yes, I remember the tragic events that unfolded on September 11, 2001 but somehow I never thought they would have an effect on us internally, I thought those who were responsible would be made to pay. In a way, I think we’ve all been made to pay.
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Can you see it yet? Who would have ever pictured the day in America when the books you checked out of the library could be held against you? When you might be assigned a color code that designated your travel status and affected the way you could move around the country? When there’s talk of some kind of National ID Card system that can monitor your location no matter where you are. Shit, there was even an idea out there to delay the elections. The land of the free indeed.
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
More and more cities are headed towards Orwellian type methods of surveillance in the form of camera’s being posted on buildings and street signs. I recently tried to go to the main branch of my local post office here in Columbus, Ohio and was greeted by an armed law enforcement officer. I was then required to produce a drivers license and to sign a register with my address, the time I went in and the time I departed. Sure, it’s an isolated thing right? But, when I think of the thousands and thousands of people who have came and went since, well, the thought scares me.
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
Not these days, not if you don’t want to be arrested. That is, unless you’re holding up sign that praises rather than criticizes the current policies being inflicted upon the people. I think it’s a sort of progression. I think it’s the same mindset that espouses that if you aren’t doing anything wrong then you don’t have anything to worry about. What worries me is about this is not knowing who decides what’s right and wrong. I’m not talking in a criminal sense here, everybody knows that murder, rape and other brutal crimes are wrong, I’m talking more of an ideological sense. When ideas are censored and when the mere mention of them can brand you as part of the lunatic fringe, then it’s time to start worrying.
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
I guess I’m sort of a paradox in terms. Maybe that contributes to my growing sense of paranoia towards the world. On one hand, I consider myself to be just be another aging hippie even though I don’t wear my hair long, smoke pot, do drugs or indulge in any other behavior associated with the genre. I’m going on 47 and have never collected an unemployment check in my life. I’ve spent four years in the United States Marine Corp and would still lay down my life for a just cause. I’ve paid my taxes and done my best to raise four kids. Sure, there have been bumps in the road along the way, that’s to be expected, almost anticipated but then again, as I watch events unfold, I’m surprised at how helpless and demoralized I feel about the direction that we are taking. I reminded of the President’s words when he said “You’re either for us or against us” when it came to the War on Terrorism. Unfortunately, I think that his rhetoric applies to his domestic agenda to. I still think there’s room for all of us at the table.
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down.
When I pose these questions towards my friends who lean to the right, I’m usually asked something along the lines of “Well, what would you do instead?” Sadly, the answer I usually give is that I don’t know. It’s almost like that feeling you get when you know you’re sick but you just can’t explain what’s wrong. Or maybe it’s like that unspoken doubt that sits in the back of your head when you know you could have done something so much better but the lack of effort on your part leaves you where you are today, always wondering.