Not Again

When I woke up this morning… Rock Hits: 1965 playlist popped up on my Apple Music. I was 9 years old in 1965, and Donald Trump was 19 years old. When Trump talks about Making America Great Again, I guess he’s… talkin’ bout my g-g-generation.

Many of my memories of that time are fond — I was, after all, still in my golden years of childhood, and it was all I knew. The mayhem, near and far, and the attendant anxiety, well, I figured… it’s my life. And that man comes on the radio, saying… take a look around you, boy, it’s bound to scare you, boy… I did, and it did. It wasn’t until I had the perspective that comes from aging through several generations that I appreciated just how jacked up things were back them. I don’t mind America being great, it’s the again part I’m just not getting. As I remember the time, many of us feared we were…on the eve of destruction.

I grew up in a suburb of the Los Angeles basin — a low-lying coastal plain surrounded by high mountains and deserts. At the time, Los Angeles County had a population of about 10,000,000 people. With no public transportation system to speak of, everybody drove, resulting in soul crushing traffic. You didn’t want to be anywhere near the Santa Ana freeway after about 6:30 am or 3:00 pm. The topography of the area created an inversion layer that limited air circulation and trapped all the manufacturing and tailpipe emissions, including lead particles from the gasoline. The thick smog obliterated any view of the San Gabriel Mountains and their foothills. Smog alerts were common — days when outdoor child play made breathing painful and asthmatically shallow. On those days, I retreated to our TV room, where my chain-smoking grandmother lived. I had troubles, woah-oh, I had worries, woah-oh, I had wounds to bind.

The cold war nuclear arms race was raging. Just a few years before, I watched Walter Cronkite report on the Bay of Pigs Invasion and stand off with the USSR on our black and white TV, then the reruns of the assassination of President Kennedy. At school, we practiced bombing drills — closing the blinds, moving away from windows and crawling under our desks while covering our heads. At 9 years of age, I was preparing to be bombed… all day and all of the night. If the button is pushed, there’s no running away…there’ll be no one to save with the world in the grave.

Laying on the floor of our smoke-filled TV room, trying not to move as each small breath hurt, I turned the channel of our black and white TV. Watch it now, watch it, watch it… the white police with riot gear and dogs club and gas black people marching across a bridge in Selma Alabama. Turn, turn, turn…I watched serious men in suits talk about the need to carpet bomb North Vietnam — I saw rows of caskets draped with flags being unloaded from cargo planes. Turn, turn, turn… I watched young men with guns wading through swamps and jungle. There again were the police in riot gear, this time violently opposing young people with long braided hair in tie-dyed shirts holding signs about love and war. These visions that were planted in my brain still remain.

I’m yearn for America to be great. I’d give the moon if it were mine to give. I’d give the stars and the sun for I live. And I got a feelin’ down in my shoes, said way down in my shoes, that America can be great. Don’t you understand what I’m trying to say? Can’t you see the fears that I’m feeling today? I just don’t want America to be great again.