Wednesday, October 24, 2012

McGovern and Means, RIP

     Two men who were politically significant in South Dakota in the 1970s have just passed away.  George McGovern was 90; Russell Means was 72.

     Each was considered to be operating from the left side of the left-right paradigm.  Which I suppose they were:  you can't argue with the left-right paradigm, can you?  (But you can change it, for yourself.)

     Senator McGovern's campaign for the presidency in 1972 was coincident with the first presidential election in which I could vote.  And I, quite ignorantly and conventionally, voted for his opponent that year.  I clearly remember walking out of the voting booth, with a voice inside me saying that I had wasted my vote, my first one, on the wrong, winning ticket.  I remember being surprised; I had not expected that point of view.

     It took seven years for me to understand the significance of that inner voice, and I learned it from a fellow teacher.  He was an industrial-arts teacher (and self-taught furniture craftsman), and he and his wife had spent several years teaching on an Indian reservation in South Dakota.  He was firmly happy that he had voted for McGovern in 1972.  (Again I was surprised.  I knew he was a good Christian fellow: and he wasn't pure-bred Republican?)  Clearly, he knew something, up close and personal, that I did not.  But the voice had known.

     Well, back to the present.   Former Senator McGovern has been seriously ill for some time, and his passing was not a surprise.  So there have been several "looking back" articles that have appeared on the web. I'll give some links.

     Bill Kauffman wrote a profile of Senator McGovern several years ago for The American Conservative, titled "Come Home, America." 

     Nick Gillespie has just written a piece for Bloomberg: "George McGovern's Legacy As A Libertarian Hero."

     Here is an article by Conor Friedersdorf for Atlantic: "On War And Peace, George McGovern Will Die Vindicated." 

     Here is a very brief You-Tube tribute. 

     The unspoken theme that is implicit in these viewpoints is that the left-right, evil-good stance simply doesn't work.  Whichever pole we choose, the paradigm forces us to dismiss and oppose people who think differently than we do, rather than listen to their ideas.  We choose to listen to our handlers instead.  Which is usually, in America, the media.  "Secular" or "Christian," take your pick.


     Russell Means was an activist with the American Indian Movement, famous for his participation in a standoff with federal authorities at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, in 1973.  I have recently read a couple of books about that incident and its aftermath.  But since I don't know all of Russell Means' beliefs and reasons, I withhold comment about him.

     Suffice it to say that at the time of his notoriety, both South Dakota senators, George McGovern and James Abourezk (Abourezk more than McGovern), saw something in Russell Means and the American Indian Movement that was worthy of their respect and at least qualified support. Both men tried to mediate the conflict between AIM and FBI.  They were not successful.

     Here is a link to an article from the New York Times.

     Ryan McMaken has written a very brief note, "Russell Means As A Conservative Bogeyman."

     I know from direct memory that the Establishment/FBI/media insisted that we all believe that Russell Means and AIM were a communistic organization.  As were all "liberals," such as Senator McGovern and the rest who opposed the Viet Nam War -- communists, fellow-travelers, and radical hippies they were.  So we were told.  So we are still told.

     Am I saying they were right about everything?  No.

     Am I saying they should have been listened to, and their viewpoints treated with serious respect?  Yes.  They were calling attention to important problems, mistakes, and injustices -- most of which we still live with today, and they have gotten worse because we have pretended these situations do not exist.

     At this point, I can not muster up a single cheer for the left-right paradigm.  

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