The Times They Are A-Changin. But What About Us?

changes-us-elections

As I drove to my kickboxing class yesterday, Bob Dylan’s iconic song, The Times They Are A-Changin came on the radio.

Dylan’s call for change, written in 1963, couldn’t have been more prophetic. Less than a month after Dylan recorded the song, President Kennedy was assassinated.

I remember the first time I heard his haunting song about change, which was released in 1964. It came at a troubling time in American history. It seemed like our entire country had gone haywire.

Kennedy was dead.

His alleged assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was shot to death on national television.

Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique catapulted the feminist movement.

The U.S. Surgeon General concluded that cigarette smoking caused lung cancer.  

Union leader Jimmy Hoffa was convicted of jury tampering.

Black teenager James Powell was shot and killed by a white off-duty police officer in Harlem, NY, prompting 8,000 people to take the streets, smashing windows, setting fires, and looting local businesses.

President Johnson launched a full-scale war against North Vietnam without securing a formal declaration of war from Congress.

In a collective act of defiance against the war, students burned their Vietnam draft cards and declared, “We won’t go!”

The FBI finally found the bodies of the three missing Freedom Summer volunteers, Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney, buried in a Mississippi earthen dam. Local officials refused to prosecute the case, causing federal investigators to step in.

The People’s Republic of China successfully tested a nuclear bomb, making it the fifth nation in the World with nuclear capabilities.

And Senator Barry Goldwater was nominated as the Republican presidential candidate, placing his conservative agenda in direct opposition to more moderate Republicans and declaring in his acceptance speech: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

We will never know how different our country would be today had Goldwater won the election.

As I write this blog and look back on the events following the assassination of President Kennedy, I am reminded that time indeed marches on and maybe it even heals all wounds. I said maybe.

But, our country more than survived the tumultuous and turbulent 1964. What seemed like a doomsday year was just a tiny blip on the American screen. So I still have faith in America and my fellow Americans.

And yet here I was driving to a workout, 52 years later, with Dylan’s resonating words and gravelly voice covering me in a blanket of anxiety—and goose bumps.

Come gather around people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing

Yes, indeed, times they are are a-changing. In ways that I both fear and welcome.

Let’s get to the bloody changes already. Because I am sick and tired of all the political ugliness.

And yes, in some ways I wish the media would change their monotonous tune. Because I’m sick and tired of all the spin spin spin for the sole purpose of ratings ratings ratings. And yet ratings aside, the media serves as an all-important watchdog. We all need to be vigilant in the coming days and months—including the press. Our lives and country depend on our vigilance.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon

For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no telling who that it’s naming

As I listened to Dylan’s soul searching song, it felt like he was singing about me. About 2016. About us.

And he had me captive audience in my ten-year-old car, asking myself a lot of things like:

Will Trump be receptive to moderating influences or will he merely listen to the last person he speaks to?

Will Trump do all the frightful things he said he would, to satisfy and appease his constituents, or will he reconsider his promises and do what is best for all Americans?

And Trump has on so many occasions bloviated, “We’re going to have so many victories, you will be bored of winning.”

Will we win? What if we don’t? And who is we? Am I part of the we party?

Will I be a bored loser or a bored winner?

For the loser now will be later to win
Cause the times they are a-changing

On the bright side, there’s always the 2020 election, which will start gearing up in early 2018.

Hell, for half the country it began on November 9.

I don’t know about you, but I’m so tired of it all. Maybe our elected officials are tired too.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s the battle outside raging
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changing

And what about us as friends, family, strangers? How about us as fellow Americans?

How will we treat those who we have hurt us and who we have disagreed with? Will we be receptive to change? How will we react to policies that may not be best for all Americans? And how long will all this changing take?

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly aging
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
Cause the times they are a-changing

There is thankfully no deadline for mutual empathy, understanding, acceptance, or mending fences.

As I sadly hummed along with Dylan, all kinds of doom and gloom ran through my head. But then I thought back to 1964 and hummed it hopeful all the way to its end.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slowest now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fading
And the first one now will later be last
Cause the times they are a-changing

 

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