Dick Bernard: The New Year, 2017, and the Millennium Canons

Flag drawn by 5th grade student, early October 2001, in aftermath of 9-11-01


This morning I was preparing for a planning meeting, tomorrow, of an organization in which I’ve* long been an active Board member.
One of the preliminary papers to read was a “”Youth Statement”, produced by youth leaders” before 2004, “…to guide the organization’s leadership on how to outreach to younger members and activists.”
Four lines down, in the third paragraph, these “youth leaders”, unidentified in any way, but probably mostly “progressive” in ideology, declared “we do not trust government. We did not grow up with JFK, FDR and the New Deal. Instead, we grew up with the Vietnam War, Watergate, Iran-Contra, and a steady stream of campaign finance scandals. Government has taken advantage of our generation. And so, most of our generation is reluctant to buy into….”
Since the Vietnam era began in 1961, one presumes these “youth” were as old as their early 40s when the “Statement” was written, and are now 13 years older.
Their disconnect with “government” was disconcerting. Who, other than them, and all of us, was “government”? Who, other than them, and us, have created the mess they seem to disavow as their own? How could they officially buy into the notion that “government” was bad; that government was against them, rather than the reality that “government” is each one of them – the very essence of democratic governance?
A couple of days earlier, a friend had sent a Jan 3 Editorial from Bloomberg News titled “A patriotic response to populism”. I read it, and commented back “of course, they’re being “fair and balanced”, but one must never forget that the [anti-government Republican] guru, Grover Norquist, and his lieutenants like Karl Rove and Tom DeLay, had a deliberate strategy to make Americans become disgusted with their government. The collapse of the integrity of the congress was intentional, on the part of the Republicans, to make simpler a takeover of that very same government they despised.”
Today, Jan. 6, 2017, is in my mind the beginning of what we citizens have (it seems) asked for, indeed demanded.
The leaders of the American intelligence community go to Trump Tower today to report to Donald Trump on their findings about Russian meddling in our election; the incumbent President seems to have more confidence in Julian Assange and Vladimir Putin than in America’s own intelligence community. We will wait, today, for Trumps Tweet(s) about the meeting.
This seems to be the destination we willingly have arrived at: a declaration to “drain the swamp” seems to have translated, already, into refilling the exact same swamp with even worse characters.
Those “youth leaders” quoted above are, it would appear, representative of most of us.
We are going to have a very long couple of years, at minimum.
As for the “Millennium Canons” in the headline:
January 1, we were at Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall for a performance by the always magnificent Minnesota Orchestra.
The first piece on Sundays program was a piece called Milliennium Canons by Kevin Puts (b. 1972). The full Minnesota Orchestra did a great reading of the piece. Millennium Canons premiered June 19, 2001, to, the composer states “usher in a new millennium with fanfare, celebration and lyricism….”.** His composition succeeds. Our version was 7 minutes.
The Canons were a statement of celebration of the dawning of the new Millennium in 2000.
Less than three months after the premiere, came 9-11-01 and we have, ever since, in my opinion, descended into a “swamp” of our own making, in which we are still stuck. We are terrorized, fear ridden. The swamp is ourselves, no one else.
It is up to “we, the people” to recover our bearings, to become again, the re-creator of a government which too many of us have chosen to despise.
We are our government. Let us never forget that.

* – My personal ‘slant’ has been very public and well known since I began this blog in March 2009. Related to the recent American presidential election, see here.
**(The relevant program note is on page 19 (4th page of attachment), here: MN Orch Jan 1 2017001 Also included with the link is a neat essay on Resolutions in the program booklet by Kim Ode. The latter is the last page of the attachment.)
POSTNOTE: There is a great plenty of information available on the pre-inaugural “dance” in Washington. A favorite source for me, a condensation of the primary stories of the previous days news, is Just Above Sunset. The two most recent posts, “American Tribal Warfare”, and “Paranoid and Vindictive Men” relate directly to this post.
COMMENT
From Nancy: I’m disappointed that the main thing you took — the only thing you shared, at least — from the document is dissatisfaction that these former youth had checked out of what they “should” be tuned in to. Youth leaders [there] were expressing why it’s hard to pull in their peers. Their historical experience is their reality. These youth are sincerely trying to explain to older generations why their message [wasn’t] resonating widely with their generation. A message that they are deluded to think government isn’t them is not hearing them.
You said the youth were unidentified — they were identified as “youth leaders of the then-named… members and activists.” And I’m sure they would have been in their 20s, not 40s.
… Date [of the document] indicated as 1997, with two later essays added.
If we want to reach youth, we’ll have to listen to them, not judge their wrong thinking. I shared the document with that intent; sorry if that was misunderstood.
Dick Response to Nancy: I have long maintained that youth have to be their own future. Our generation seems intent on dismantling any safety net of entitlement they have – at least many of them – had to rely on. I also agree that we need to find ways to communicate across the chasm now existing (multiple ways of communicating; differing priorities….) The young people will pay the consequences if they stay unattached from their own future. (I see a lot of exceptions of course, and perhaps there are as many activist young people now as there were back in the activist days of the Vietnam War era. But they seem more individualist, now, than then.)
The youth quoted above really represent all of us, really (at least the working majority who seem to control the election.)
I had seen the statement I quoted before, but never the date of 1997.
Perhaps it is impossible to find a “ground zero” for the Republican anti-government strategy.
First I remember is Ronald Reagan’s very successful declaration that government IS the problem in the run-up to the 1980 election. He probably didn’t come up with the refined version of that himself. Grover Norquist, et al, have a long history, long pre-dating even 1997. He and others were real active College Young Republicans, I believe. (DeLay, Rove, Lee Atwater, too, I believe.)
First time I ever connected this particular set of dots was back in the late 1990s, when I first read a bio piece in the Washington Post, while at a meeting in Washington DC, about Karl Rove, George W. Bush, et al, the first time I read about the 2000 election to come; thence about Lee Atwater in Life magazine, when he was nearing death. I noticed him thanks to Rove and Atwater’s close association as Young Republicans. Best I understand, the Young Republicans were trained to be utterly ruthless – most anything went.
There has been a very long active campaign against government by the Republican party. At the moment the Republicans have won: in control of a government they declare is worthless.
That’s the way I see it. It’s part of the necessary conversation.
POSTNOTE, JAN. 7: After writing the above I looked at my file from 2000, on the Bush/Gore presidential race. Within were two articles which helped define my assertions, from the Washington Post on Karl Rove in the summer of 1999; and a Life magazine profile on Lee Atwater in February, 1991. Rove and Atwater were working together as Young Republicans at least from 1972 on, perfecting their tactics on the road.

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