Recently I viewed a special on PBS which featured an old acquaintance. I feel more like a friend since he was such an influence during the sixties. However, I was more in tune with him than he was with me. In actuality it was honestly a very casual acquaintance . I guess in my mind it was more, since it was such a brush with greatness.
His name was Phil Ochs, a true progressive patriot with a beautiful singing voice and a wizard on his gibson. His “I ain’t marching anymore” took the folk world by storm. In fact it becomes relevant again and again as our beloved Red, White and Blue continues to invade and occupy. As a frequent visitor to the old Gaslight Coffee House in the heart of MacDougal St in Greenwich Village. It was there that I started my life of activism. This is where Phil frequently played along with the likes of Dave Van Ronk , Patrick Sky and yes, even Dylan. After his show Phil would often sip a few at the old “Kettle of Fish” a gin mill which was right next door. We would sit at the bar and have a few words and a few beers from time to time. He didn’t look like a typical Village dude as he was often sporting a dress jacket. Sometimes though in black leather jacket. In my memory he was quietly angry off stage but hell fire unleashed on stage.
His severe bi-polar disorder got the best of him and tragically Phil committed suicide at the age of 35.
The PBS special was a grim reminder of the horror of the Vietnam Nam era. The country was angry and vocally divided. However in retrospect although very ugly at the time, there was a more honest aire about what was really happening.
The news actually covered the war live. You could sit in your living room and watch the horror. Flag draped coffins were pictured in the press. Could you imagine in your wildest dreams, our corporate controlled media airing this much truth today ?
The Chicago Democratic convention showed the brutality of Mayor Daley’s neanderthal like police. The Kent State shooting made the front page. The Tet offensive was reported thoroughly by the news media. Things were happening and we were all aware.
The absurdity of how our current day administrations and press gets away with the dumbing down of our country is an absolute outrage.
However blaming the government and press is like blaming a chicken for hanging around the hen house. I therefore place the blame squarely on the American people.
They would rather ingest the novocain of “Do you think you can dance!” or “American Idol” rather than focusing on the utter destruction of our Nation.
I remember back in the sixties, as I was part of a peace march down fifth ave in Manhattan. I remember the shock in a French woman’s voice when she pointed out a girl carrying a sign that said “I am ashamed of my country “. It was shocking even for those days.
Well now that I feel that way, I don’t feel so shocked. I am in fact ashamed of my country.
I am ashamed of the ignorance of the American people . Ashamed of the lack of caring of the murder we commit as we invade the Middle East, of the shear self inflicted ignorance of the corruption in our government. It astonishes me of how many people don’t even know who Blackwater is. Nor do most realize that a whopping .56 cents of every one of their tax dollars goes towards our obscene $678 billion dollar military budget. They are not even aware that this budget is completely discretionary. Nor do they know that only 10 percent of this budget goes to our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
They will not look any further than their nose as they consume the pablum of ABC , CBS, NBC and CNN and the like.
There is no excuse for this ignorance. Never in our society has there been so much available information. Never in our country has there been so much apathy.
To my so called progressive friends, please wake up and see that there is little difference between the Democrats and the Republicans. Be loyal to neither.
To my brain dead fellow Americans. Shame on you!
You are why “I am ashamed of my country.”
Ed Dunphy is a political Activist and a small business owner in the New York-New Jersey metro area.