Biff America: Bravery and Boomers (column)
Being an aging baby boomer isn’t pretty but it beats the alternative. That said, we boomers have been blessed to be born and raised in the sweet spot of history.
We will be less affected by climate change. Even if we continue to follow the path proposed by many in the current administration that the best course of action for our changing global condition is to pray and build arks, we will be dead before suffering the worst results of our environmental neglect. I will point out that our children and theirs will not be so lucky.
We also grew up in the golden age of sports. Great dynasties like the Celtics, Packers, Montreal Canadians and Yankees. Great and humble athletes Mickey Mantle, Willy Mays, Wilmer Rudolph, Billie Jean King, Dick Butkus and Bill Russel who played with pride and passion which suggested to the fans that they realized how lucky they were to be where they were.
I also maintain is that we baby boomers and the times we have lived in have produced inspiring examples of courage. This is in part due to the marriage of mass media and the conditions of our times. Often the heroes of old’s deeds were either unnoticed or embellished whereas, even before the internet, we often saw valor in real-time. Combating great injustices requires great courage.
Much of this came to mind on MLK day. The radio replayed speeches and reminded us all of the courage and violence that was part and parcel of those times. Men and women of faith gambled (and sometimes gave) their lives for the cause of civil rights. I wonder how many preachers, pastors and religious leaders today would risk their lives to walk across that Edmond Pettis bridge into the clubs, dogs and tear gas of state and local police? But of course the injustices of today can’t compare to the inequalities of 1965 — or can they?
“The time is right to do what is right.” — MLK
It took beatings and bombings to force this country to look in the mirror in the ’60s. And this was possible in part to the then fairly recent circumstance of most homes having TV. Reportedly ABC cut away from a much anticipated film called the “Judgement at Nuremberg” which documented the Holocaust and shed a harsh light on the sins of those who justified their crimes with the “just following orders” excuse. You can imagine those watching a film depicting the horrors of the German genocide and the Nuremberg trials of 1945 to, 20 years later, have that film interrupted by footage of peaceful protesters, in our own country, beaten and in some cases killed, by police paid by tax dollars. Everything the law men did that day was legal.
“Never forget everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.” — MLK
Before and after that, mostly white northerners, young, old, Jews, gentiles, boarded buses to head down south to help voter registration and bear witness to the civil rights struggle. In some cases the local police gave the KKK 15 minutes to stop the buses and beat the freedom riders to their hearts’ content. Despite that the buses kept leaving the East Coast.
I can only imagine the resolve it took for these heretofore sheltered kids to leave behind their protected and privileged lives to board a bus and ride into the belly of the bigoted beast.
Martin Luther King, Jr. knew the risks and thought the cause was worth any one person’s life, his included.
Muhammad Ali didn’t risk his life per se — he simply surrendered his wealth, fame, future and legacy to do what he felt was his right. He suffered greatly and remained resolute. For me he was an emblem of personal courage and integrity. Can you imagine an athlete today giving up what has to be one of the coolest jobs on the planet to stand up for his beliefs? Well, I can think of one.
The list of the courageous of my generation is long and proud. Men and woman of all faiths and political parties stood up, and sometimes, suffered for their principles.
“The opposite of bravery isn’t cowardice, it is conformity.” I’d like to think that we baby boomers, and those born after us, have the energy for a few more courageous stands for what is right, decent and American. The “Me too” movement is inspiring but I believe the era is ripe for more raised voices. We need to spend our time and (if possible) money to get involved and engaged. Yes it takes some effort but it’s more effective than building an ark.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Biff’s new book “Mind, Body, Soul.” is available at local shops and bookstores or Shop.HolPublications.com/products/biff-america-mind-body-soul
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