Sunday, May 5, 2013

all the flowers

It was coincidental, but still eerie, to go to the movies last night and see "The Company You Keep"--a  movie about 60s activists now in their late 60s.  I had decided to see a movie since it had been a while, saw that this one had gotten good reviews, and went--on the anniversary of the Kent State murders.

The audience was composed of people of my vintage.  Many in the theater could identify very clearly with the characters in the film.  At one point the silence in the auditorium was so evident that I did not want to eat my popcorn because I knew that the sound would be audible throughout. Not an exaggeration.

Yesterday I posted something on Facebook about the Kent State murders.  A number of contemporaries commented that the victims of this incident could easily have been themselves.  If you are about to collect social security, you very likely marched or otherwise protested the war in Viet Nam.  It could have been you at Kent State or Jackson State.

I saw another posting this morning from a high school classmate about the killings.  He wrote simply, "What has changed? Tell me." and then subsequently, "Where have all the flowers gone?"

The power of the film last night was enhanced by seeing aged film stars in the various roles. We don't know Robert Redford and Julie Christie personally, but we do through their acting and we have seen these two as youngsters in The Sting and Shampoo and others. In this movie they have aged (and it seemed to me made up to make sure they looked older).  Redford, Christie, Nick Nolte, Susan Sarandon, and other familiar faces show up. And it is as if we can see ourselves aged.  How they reacted to time is akin to how those we knew from that era also reacted.

I think my classmate with his "what has changed" question was saying, in essence, that nothing has.  When he asked "Where have all the flowers gone?" I'm thinking he was asking what happened to the ends we desired and what has happened to all of those/us who once advocated for a world where flowers would not go to young girls, girls to soldiers, soldiers to graveyards, and graveyards to flowers.

The day and movie made me wonder how much off course I have gone since those heady days.  It is important, I think, to do this self analysis now and again and get back on track.  I never was a militant protestor and I found that some of my contemporaries were less interested in political reform than political power.   Some characters in the film reminded me of those whom I could never consider in my camp.  But others seemed to have stayed true to principles even after they went mainstream and I hope I can say that of myself when the dust settles.

The film had some gaps in the plot, but if you are from the sixties and in your sixties, I think you will find portions of the script spot-on, you will recognize the characters, and maybe you'll see yourself in the movie.  "Where have all the flowers gone?" is a good question.  After seeing the film you might feel like I did, that you need to look into the mirror and see if you're on track to contribute to what you claimed you desired for us all in the 60s.

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