In response to the letter from Gina Bautista (“CNN got it wrong,” Sept. 17) I want to point out that an important reason the protests of the 1960s are generally regarded favorably is that, in large part, those protests were in the name of very positive steps forward toward social equality: civil rights, women’s rights, an expansion of the higher education system, and curriculum reform to include the voices traditionally left out of history. Many protests were also concerned with ending the Vietnam war—a position history has for the most part judged to have been correct.
The Sept. 12 protests in Washington this year Bautista referred to, however, seem to have been based on vague, unfocused fears and are predominately negative in character; there is little positive to be found in protests geared toward restricting health-care access, or calling President Obama a socialist.
The protests of the 1960s were about expansion of opportunity and possibility; it was an exciting time, full of promise about a new, inclusive, more egalitarian future. The conservatives who have been storming Washington do not offer an exciting possibility of a new society. Instead, as Bautista wrote, they are fighting for what “we once
were as the United States of America.” This is a regressive and essentially meaningless position. What we “once were” can never be agreed upon or returned to, or even properly defined. It is hard to find much to get excited about in protests based on vague fears of socialism, which call for restricting millions of Americans from access to health care.
Remember this: we have had more than 40 years to look back at the 1960s, and many of the baby boomers involved can look back at the period with a great deal of enthusiasm and nostalgia. Such may may eventually be the case with the conservatives’ protests in Washington: they’ll simply have to wait for the hindsight history allows.