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Thursday, September 15, 2011

STUDENTS FOR A DEMOCRATIC SOCIETY





America’s greatest wasted resource is its youth. The obvious corruption in government that three decades of college students have grown up with have led to a political cynicism in this group that rivals that of their parents, who lived through the changes in our government that they are still struggling to understand if they have not given up trying. College students are making tremendous efforts to prepare for a future that is increasingly uncertain, yet most have dismissed the value of spending time in protesting a government and society that has largely abandoned the children of the shrinking middle class and the growing numbers of the poor.

As a result of such fatalism, only a small number of college students are engaged in the political process, mostly in the form of education and protests, neither of which gain much attention in today’s distracted society. In 2008 they enthusiastically supported candidate Obama, only to discover that their parents seemed to be right in dismissing all politicians as liars. Obama has kept very few of the promises he made to average Americans, while clearly keeping promises to corporate interests arrived at behind closed doors as he solicited support for his presidential campaign.

As the fascists who control the US government advance toward their goal of privatizing every government function for their personal profit, the ability to acquire an advanced education has increasingly become a privilege rather than the right that Jefferson argued it must be if the American experiment in democracy is to succeed. As college becomes increasingly inaccessible to our youth they are left with few choices. With jobs being shipped overseas by the millions, many fall victim to the job recruiters from the US military. In effect, they are economic conscripts of international corporate terrorists.

During the Vietnam War students were much more attuned to the effects of war on their future. For ten years, an entire generation of young men faced the prospect of being drafted to fight in a pointless corporate war. The women who faced the loss of their loved ones were affected as well. For those of us not yet of age, the future did not look promising and those of us who understood what was at stake joined the opposition in any way that we could.

The peace movement in the 60s and early 70s grew despite the lack of the critical organizing tool of the internet. Only the cynic would argue that the fact that the corporate media publicized both the war and the protests allowed the movement to grow. In truth, the reasons the movement proved unstoppable were that those involved were determined to achieve victory in spite of the obvious corruption of the US government that declared war on them. That generation was not indoctrinated in the belief that democracy was dead. They knew that their entire generation had been made pawns in the war for corporate Empire and that only their combined efforts at resistance couldend the war.  They were willing to fight to assure that the hope for democracy in America would live on.

Students for a Democratic Society was formed to help organize the members of the resistance to fascism in that day. Like all organizations it had its growing pains in terms of crises in identity and leadership. Those involved persevered and over time, SDS became a leader in the peace movement. It became a leader in promoting the idea that the war was only a symptom of the disease of fascism. Leaders in the fight for the rights of women, African-Americans, Native Americans and gays stood shoulder to shoulder in defense of the right of each of us to liberty and justice.

The only way to engage the youth of the US is to give them reason to hope that they can become part of the struggle to end fascism and war in our lifetime. If those of us old enough to remember the victories of the past can use modern networking tools to get our peers away from their computers and out in the streets, we may be able to inspire a new generation of students to work for a democratic society.

Every generation must have its own leaders. Those who have been in the vanguard of the fight for the last several decades must allow new leaders to emerge from every generation if they are truly more interested in the cause than in self-promotion. There are many young men and women prepared to take up the fight. It is our duty to educate them about our successes and our failures so that they may look at them with fresh eyes and find ways to use this knowledge to mold a 21st century strategy to wage asymmetric warfare against fascism and war.

It is our youth who will live to see the ultimate effects of the effort to create a democracy in the US from the fascist horror that it has become. We cannot leave them to their fate just because most have come to accept that justice and democracy are dead. It took generations for the fascists to create this illusion and the spell cannot be broken overnight. Good parents understand that children mature only when they understand that as adults they will be responsible for their own future and ultimately, for the future of their own children. This happens when they are given responsibility and when they have had good role models to emulate.

If students get out on the street with petitions calling on their members of Congress to introduce a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood and support any candidate who will, they may yet have reason to hope that they will live in a democratic society in their lifetime.

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