My Children Will Climb the Trees
I wasn’t born in the sixties--I came around in 1972--but I am so glad for my proximity to them.
Kids today...they aren’t running through fields with daisy chains in their hair. Their fathers aren’t playing guitars late into the night with long-haired carpenter friends; they don’t wake in the morning smelling of woodsmoke with tangled hair and sticky faces; they don’t lie on their backs and count the stars, or make the clouds disappear with their minds, or wear the clothes their mothers made for them.
My stories from childhood are mostly about deprivation and heartbreak. But they are also about fresh air and freedom, exploration and independence. My parents’ generation--they dreamt of things. Things like peace, equality, and justice. They were keen on freedom of expression, spiritual quests, and living off the grid. As corny as it sounds in today’s climate, they were into…love. And they brought their children with them.
I suppose it is a sign that I am aging--greater than the wrinkling of the skin around my eyes or the sagging of my breasts—that I am worried for kids these days. I am worried for their hearts and minds—and for their bodies—so susceptible to corporate control. I am worried that they will not learn to think for themselves, or to treasure the essential (simple) things in life. They have so little quiet time to climb the trees, or chase lightning bugs, or build little worlds of their own. They are plugged in to iPods, computers, televisions, and cell phones; they are whizzing across paved terrains in busses, trains, and cars. They are missing the barking of dogs and the swishing of air in the trees. They are living in flavorless suburbs unaware of the scent of a forest at dawn, or the feel of a warm egg gathered right from the nest of the hen who laid it.
I am worried that they are living in a climate of oppression, a time of fear, aggression, and isolation. They are witnessing massive, criminal abuses of power by the politicians and corporations who run our country. It reminds me of McCarthyism. It reminds me of the Cold War, and the climate of fear and conformity in which my parents were raised. I think about the “war on terror,” and then I think about the duck and cover drills of my parents’ childhoods. I wonder if we will ever learn.
And then…I feel hopeful. I remember that, in the short-term, the 50s brought us death, oppression, black lists, weapons stockpiling, undeclared wars that caused the deaths of thousands upon thousands. But that what sprang from those Levittowns, dress codes, Senate hearings, futile land wars in Asia; what came from McCarthy’s repression and extremism--was my parents’ generation.
I was raised, like hundreds of thousands of my peers, by hippy parents who grew their hair and their vegetables. They let us run naked and paint outside the lines. They sang us songs and named us Meadow, and Moonunit, and Summer Day instead of Mary, and Jane, and Sue. What came from the 50s were the 60s, and from the youth of the 60s came us—the children of the 70s.
I don’t have children yet. But if history repeats itself, and if human nature prevails, my children will be just in time to catch the next wave of rebellion. They will laser off their corporate tattoos, stick daisies in the ATM machines, and refuse to pay their taxes. They will grow their hair and their vegetables, and they will text message one another when it is time to gather en masse at the Pentagon—or perhaps the World Bank or the Bechtel Building in San Francisco. Perhaps they will even cast their votes.
If this climate of right wing political oppression continues, if the branding of everything from sports arenas to the backs of people’s heads goes on, I am certain that my children and their friends will eventually say, “Enough!”
I am certain that the Christians and the Muslims will come together, and they will say, “Enough!” to the politicians, who are selling extremist versions of their faiths to acquire more profit and power—always more profit and power--at any human price.
The suburbanites, the city dwellers, and the rural kids will do what their grandparents did, and what their suffragette and abolitionist great-great-grandparents did before them. They will come together, they will march, give speeches, hold protests, and sing. They will listen to the music their grandparents played for their parents, and they will ask the world to give peace a chance.
If they will have me, I will be there with them. I will lock arms with the children of the New Millennium, and I will bring my parents, who taught me from a very young age to think for myself, to make art, to love the land, to be kind to others, to tolerate and celebrate people’s differences...and to climb the trees.