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Showing 1-12 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 14, 2011 9:58:55 PM PST
CJ West says:
Judge Markham sees the members of "the movement" as being irresponsible to the rest of society. Did the members of the movement do more good for society while they were active members or later in life? Did they ever contribute enough to satisfy Judge Markham?

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Posted on Feb 15, 2011 6:56:26 AM PST
K. Brewer says:
Glad to see this discussion of a very good book!

I think the members of "the movement" -- as portrayed in Libby Fisher Hellmann's book -- contributed an enormous amount to society, both during the "Revolution" at the end of the '60s and in later life. However, as also happened in the real world, some of them chose to work for the betterment of society while others chose to pursue selfish goals. As "Set the Night on Fire" and Judge Markham himself shows, selfishness and narcissism didn't start with the Baby Boomers.

Posted on Feb 15, 2011 9:00:52 AM PST
Of course we worked for the betterment of society. At such young ages we saw so much that was wrong. At very least we contributed a dissenting voice, which is mandatory in a democracy (as we've finally seen in Egypt.) I've always believed it was marching in the streets that ended the Vietnam war. Oh, excuse me, "conflict." Then, when we got older, assumed the new responsibilities of supporting ourselves and our families in the style to which we were accustomed, some of us (I'm thinking of Jerry Rubin) began to contribute to society in a different way. I think Libby's book takes account of that and I loved reading it.

Posted on Feb 15, 2011 9:05:32 AM PST
Judge Markham naturally saw the movement as being irresponsible to the rest of society, because Markham was wedded to the status quo and didn't want to see any changes in society. He was right that the young people he talked to hadn't thought things all the way through, but he had no interest in really engaging with them. He just dismissed them. Which, of course, is what happened over and over in that era.

I wouldn't use Judge Markham as any kind of standard for assessing the lives of the movement characters. Aside from that, though, I'd say the movement characters are like anybody else. Some contributed a lot and some didn't. It's interesting that many of the young people today are contemptuous of the baby boomer generation for being selfish.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2011 10:08:18 AM PST
Jay G says:
It is thoroughly ironic that Jerry Rubin was involved in multi-level marketiung at the time of his ignominius down by a car crossing the street. In college, he told me that I should "off my father" who was a judge in Massachusetts, as great "guerrila theater". I declined.

Posted on Feb 15, 2011 11:08:00 AM PST
I think the members of "the movement" were trying to do good for society. Sometimes they succeeded and sometimes their methods were off. Dar was trying to do good by taking care of Billy & Alix and trying to make a family. However, bombing Kerr's department store wasn't a responsible decision. I think in Dar's mind he thinks he was doing good for the "movement" but he was doing it in the wrong way.

As somebody else said, some members of "the movement" were productive at that time and continued to be productive members of society while some members went down the wrong path.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 15, 2011 12:31:50 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 15, 2011 5:54:47 PM PST
Rick Kay says:
The counter culture in the sixties said and did a lot of things that pushed a lot of buttons with the parents, politicians and pundits of the time. A lot of it was for shock value and just because we could. As we got older, we made choices as we took on responsibilities, jobs and families. Some of us appeared to sell out and join the mainstream. But...our sensibilities didn't change, we found ways to work for change from within. Judge Markham would see sedition and betrayal in Barack Obama's success and the unbelievably swift change in  Egypt. We see it as inevitable and welcome. The Judge would need to retreat from the reality of the change. He would need an exit strategy and have to leave a false legacy of being a benign, caring involved victim of circumstance. Can you say

Posted on Feb 15, 2011 12:56:28 PM PST
I am inclined to agree with Rick. Again, I wasn't alive in the 60s. I was born in 1979 so I don't know anything about this time period from a personal standpoint but I don't imagine it's terribly different than present day. I think a lot of what people were doing in the 60s was as a form of rebellion. Parents & authority figures said "You can't do that" so it became that much more important to do. As you grow up and begin to have responsibilities in your life, you have to make sacrifices and learn to live within a different set of ideals. I know that even though I wasn't 18-19 until the late 90s I was still pushing the envelope with my parents and other authority figures doing things merely for shock value and to be "different" although I was just like many of my friends.

Posted on Feb 15, 2011 1:21:02 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 15, 2011 1:34:10 PM PST
I think it's ironic that the attitude of people like Judge Markham, who saw little good coming to society from those young people, probably cemented their determination to change the system in any way they could. When people responded to protesters' chants with "America, love it or leave it," young people felt there was no way to work within the system or reasons to preserve a status quo that refused to hear any criticisms. Some resorted to destructive and violent acts without thinking carefully about possible consequences.

Libby's book is amazing in the way it takes us back to those days in the 60's/70's. They were terrible days for our country but they were exciting days too in that many people felt a sense of commitment to ideals and believed that mass actions could bring about change. Baby boomers have become not only more invested in society over the years as we've taken on responsibilities of family and careers, we've also seen how hard it is to effect lasting change. When Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex he wasn't whistling Dixie. Some of us who were members of the movement still work for change within the system while others of us pay little attention or even feel little need to change. Few people are set in aspic as they grow older. The characters in Libby's book are no different than we are.

The question about whether those people did more for society as young people or later is in some ways a painful one to contemplate. Their actions had devastating unintended consequences but they still contributed to the larger good of society. This discussion almost begs for Kant to be dragged in. I agree with Maine about the unsatisfying prospects of trying to satisfy Judge Markham.

Posted on Feb 15, 2011 3:24:23 PM PST
This question does seem in some ways painful to me. Many people I knew at the time became the older generation they had fought against and treat young people the way they didn't want to be treated when they were young. It was an idealistic time and I'm not sure that hasn't been lost.

Posted on Feb 16, 2011 11:07:12 AM PST
I'm technically a Baby Boomer (born in 1963), but I was five years old in I missed everything. What comes through the most for me in Libby's book is the sense the "movement" characters have that society needed to change, and that it was up to them to do something about it. They chose different ways, some good, some not, but at least they recognized an obligation to try. Do we still?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 16, 2011 1:41:20 PM PST
Diane, I am from the era of Libby's book but didn't have the same view of society as did the characters in the book. I think this may be for a couple of reasons, mainly I was an Army brat and military life is in a cocoon. Oh, I "sat in" at the Administration Building at college but never quite agreed with the SDS members. And I marched to stop the Viet Nam war but mainly so my dad wouldn't have to go back.

You asked if we still recognize an obligation to try to change what we see as wrong. I think we do. I think you'll find a lot of the Tea Party rally participants are remembering the late 60's and looking for ways to make those changes they see necessary.
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Participants:  11
Total posts:  12
Initial post:  Feb 14, 2011
Latest post:  Feb 16, 2011

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Set the Night on Fire
Set the Night on Fire by Libby Fischer Hellmann
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