1970


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It’s 1970.

Really.

At my parents for Thanksgiving, this year, I looked around in the early morning and the only thing telling me it was 2015, not 1970, was the family cell phones and iPads charging, laying about the living room and kitchen.

That’s it.

There were trees. Cars sitting in the driveway of my parents’ Yankee Barn house, made quaint and beautiful by my dad’s woodworking, my mom’s Julia Child cooking, their Depression-era, no-nonsense good taste, their Puritan work ethic.

The newspaper delivered to the top of my parents’ driveway sat on the table: the headline? A Russian fighter plane had been shot down in Turkey. So…Russia versus NATO. Also: Race tensions. Remember the cold war? The race riots in 1970?

2015 isn’t any different.

In 1969 man walked on the moon. And what have we done since then?

Are there any new major metropolitan centers in the United States?

No. Some are better. Some are worse.

Nice neighborhoods, bad neighborhoods in ratio and location pretty much the same.

In 1970, there was a little music from 1925, but not much. There was a lot of music from 1870 (Brahms was pretty big) and 1670 (Bach was everywhere).

But in 2015, nearly all popular music, from Bruno Mars to Adelle, derives from 1970.

My point is: why has time stopped? What’s going on? We hear about the tumultuous, technological rush of “the new” every day.

But if 2015 is essentially 1970, where is this rush of “the new?”

It doesn’t exist.

Is the United States population smarter or more interesting now?

Nah.

In 1970,  poetry and art were modern and ugly and moneyed and hip and we longed for the beautiful and the old.

In 2015, poetry and art is smart and modern and ugly and moneyed and…

Yup. It’s the same thing.

And does the whole world still look to America and strive to keep up?

Internationally, the truth of this is the same.

Significant change came to a halt in 1970.

1925 music in 1970 felt absolutely dated.

“Let It Be” or “American Woman,” released today, however, in 2015, would be welcomed as exciting and trendy.

In 1970, we had “Earth Day,” and environmental destruction/mass starvation was a huge issue. American imperialism was massively discussed and documented by elites and the poor, alike. The “I Have A Dream” speech was famous. Every political issue on the table today was on the radar in 1970.

Discussed. And discussed.

But what has changed?

Nothing.

The New World Order still calls the shots, no matter how many stories we see in the papers, or on TV, or the internet.

That’s right. Liberals, conservatives, radicals, activists, progressives, evangelicals, libertarians, conspiracy nuts: as it was in 1970, so it is in 2015.

The same straightjacket templates, created from above, still exist.

In 1970, there were spiritual preachers of various stripes calling for change on the inside. Political activists of various stripes calling for pragmatic change on the outside. In the very same ratio, with all the same ideas. Exactly the same as 2015.

What is on our computers and cell phones? The exact same stuff one would find in 1970. Unless we are talking about jokes—about how everyone is on their cell phones.

1970 would have a good laugh at that.

Since it was Thanksgiving, I was able to test my ideas on my young, whip-smart and connected nephews; I asked them if there were a car today better than the greatest car made in 1970. The progress cited, even by the one who had owned, and taken Porsches apart and put them back together, was: the electric car.

But are electric cars on the road today?

Not much, they admitted. But it’s coming!

Then, I happened to be watching a little TV that afternoon, after swimming at a fitness center—which I hear people did, every now and then, in 1970—and the televised program calmly informed me that in 1909, electric cars were on the road, and as popular as gas cars.

When does progress go backwards?

Here it was again: the pride of the now—crushed by the reality of the past.

To be educated in today is not even to be educated.

What have we earned with today’s massive debt?

Ignorance.

We flex our “new” muscles.

Above the yawning grave.

And still more information flowed out of the TV screen: During our great-grand parents’ day, when electric cars were being manufactured and sold, the following was true:

Guys liked gas cars, for the noise, the smell, and the speed.

Women preferred the clean and quiet electric cars.

I fell down a hole today, as 2015 cried, It’s 1970!

Then I fell into another hole.

We are always falling.

Some things never change.

THIRTY TOP MASS APPEAL POETRY MOMENTS IN U.S. HISTORY

 

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1. “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe is published in the New York Evening Mirror, January 29, 1845

2.  Robert Frost reads “The Gift Outright” at John F. Kennedy’s inaugural, January 20, 1961

3.  Martin Luther King delivers his “I Have A Dream” speech, August 28, 1963

4. Dead Poets  Society, starring Robin Williams, released, June 9, 1989

5. Neil Armstrong’s moon landing speech, July 20, 1969

6. “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” first played at flag-raising ceremony on Fort Warren, May 12, 1861

7. Lincoln’s “Gettysburg address,” November 19, 1863

8. Cassius Clay, boxer and poet, defeats Sonny Liston,  heavyweight champion, February 25, 1964

9. “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus recited at the Statue of Liberty’s Dedication, October 28, 1886

10. The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan released, May 27, 1963

11. “The Star-Spangled Banner” first published, in Baltimore, September 20, 1814

12. Sylvia Plath’s suicide in England, February 11, 1963

13. Japan wins Russo-Japanese War, starting Haiku rage in the West, September 5, 1905

14. “Old Ironsides” by Oliver Wendell Holmes published in Boston Daily Advertiser, September 16, 1830

15. Jack Kerouac reads his poetry on Steven Allen show (with Allen on piano), November 16, 1959

16. James Russell Lowell delivers “Ode” at Harvard Commemoration, July 21, 1865

17. Mick Jagger reads Shelley’s “Adonais” at Brian Jones’ memorial in England, July 5, 1969

18. Ella Wheeler Wilcox publishes her most famous poem in New York Sun, the year she publishes controversial Poems of Passion, February 25, 1883

19. Dana Gioia publishes his essay, “Can Poetry Matter?” in The Atlantic, May, 1991

20. “Mary Had A Little Lamb” by Sarah Josepha Hale published, May 24, 1830

21. Actor Jimmy Stewart reads poem “I’ll Never Forget A Dog Named Beau” on the Tonight Show, making Johnny Carson cry, July 28, 1981

22. Ronald Regan’s Challenger Disaster Speech, January 28, 1986

23. Maya Angelou reads “On the Pulse of Morning” at Bill Clinton inaugural, January 20, 1993

24. Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha” published, November 10, 1855

25. Ezra Pound wins Bollingen Prize with NY Times headline: “Pound In Mental Clinic Wins Prize for Poetry Penned In Treason Cell,” February 20, 1949

26. “Rapture” by Blondie released, January 12, 1981

27. “The Music Man” by Meredith Wilson opens, December 19, 1957

28. Elizabeth Alexander reads “Praise Song for the Day” at Barack Obama’s inaugural, January 20, 2009

29. Publisher Horace Liveright makes offers for works by Pound, Eliot, and Joyce, January 3, 1922.

30. Favorite Poem Project launched by poet laureate Robert Pinsky, April 1, 1997

 

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