[The text of this sonnet is printed below.]
This sonnet is a call to the veterans of the movements for social change of the 1960s and early 70s. It was written several years ago in the context of climate change, economic inequity, racism, increasing masses of refugees and wars.
Today the social, economic and environmental injustices we tried to stop in the 60s are destroying our democracy and the ability of life on earth to survive. We saw this coming when we were young. We knew it would be the result of the policies and world-views that we were fighting. Prophetic voices articulated it clearly back then, and now the nightmare fears of our youth have become the reality of our elderhood.
We knew the answers in the 60s and 70s—go back and read Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Revolution of Values” speech, just one example from hundreds of leading voices—and just because those who opposed us fought back and made the problems far worse does not mean we were wrong.
Just because many of us abandoned our ideals and either became inactive or else actively worked on the side of the systemic wrongs does not mean that we cannot come back to our senses now, when our society and planet are in mortal danger.
I know that many of us have been contributing to our families, communities and the world in positive ways, being models of our ideals and always ready to do more. What I am saying is, now is the time to do more—in fact, to do as much as we possibly can do.
The youth of today are rising as we did, and even more powerfully. We have something to offer. They could use our resources, they could use our bodies to stand beside them as allies, they could use our senior positions of influence assisting them.
We have something else, as well. The world needs the wisdom that can come with full maturity (and not the stubborn closed-mindedness that can also come with age). People in their 60s and 70s (as most of the veterans of the 60s and 70s now are) have the potential to move into the most mature developmental stage of human consciousness. At that stage we finally can see clearly the oneness of all people and all life on earth and find a way forward through seemingly irreconcilable polarization.
We could help our society grow into that developmental stage of oneness now, just as we helped the global culture become more pluralistic and liberated in the 60s.
Humanity needs a vision of oneness if it is ever going to live by an ethic of true equality and compassion for the vulnerable and oppressed. Humanity needs a change of consciousness in order to solve the problems that threaten our existence. That change needs people to articulate the perspective of oneness and model living by it. And it needs us to be part a powerful social movement that says to Pharaoh, “Let my people go,” and leads humanity from slavery through the wilderness to the Promised Land.
We have so much to offer, and we have very little time to turn things around. So…
Come Back to Life and Live
O generation of your flowers slid
down rifle barrels aimed at you and songs
rocking your jail cells—how many years you hid,
passive or worse. A climate change of wrongs
wilts all your blossoms, tortures those who sing.
My generation, voice your silenced scream.
If our world’s ending, let the rending bring
a last bold song, a winter flower’s dream.
If you will, I will raise my voice again
and risk that ache of gunned-down, mocked ideals.
Let’s pick up where we left off way back then
before we chose a life that sleeps or steals.
We wake to find it’s those who sacrifice
who truly live. Last chance to pay that price.
copyright 2020 Thomas Cary Kinder