Thursday, April 16, 2009

Some 1960s Memories

(more thoughts and memories inspired from reading Goldberg's Liberal Fascism

Crime soared after LBJ's Great Society was implemented. In particular, black-on-black crime soared. Riots exploded across America on LBJ's watch. Out-of-wedlock births among blacks skyrocketed. In the two decades beforethe Great Society the biggest drop in black poverty took place. Thomas Sewell has shown that the trend stopped almost entirely in the 1970s "when the impact of the Great Society programs was fully realized." Nevertheless, Shelby Steele has noted that liberals have convinced themselves that support for such programs is proof of their own moral worth.

Shelby Steele understands the racism inherent in liberals' thinking. "We'll throw you a bone like affirmative action if you'll just let us reduce you to your race so we can take moral authority for "helping" you. Steele writes, "When they called you a nigger back in the days of segregation, at least they didn't ask you to be grateful."

Though I had the required amount of liberal guilt as a young man, especially about racism, I could not stand Lyndon Johnson, who I thought reaked of phonyness. In the 1968 election, I voted for comedian Dick Gregory. The civil rights movement, which had captured the public's sympathies through Martin Luther King's message of equality and colorblindness, quickly degenerated.

After the assassination of MLK, riots erupted across America. I remember attending a conference in a small hotel in the ghetto of Washington D.C. shortly after the riots there. I walked the streets during the daylight hours, and there was complete devastation everywhere. For some reason that I don't recall I had occasion, along with some other conference attendees, to go into the first floor room where MlK's former right hand man, Ralph Abernathy was staying. All I remember is that I had never seen so much liquor in one room.

I began to realize that being involved in a "movement" that encouraged people to see themselves as oppressed victims did them and their families a severe disservice. I realized that the true promise of America was individual initiative, and that promise was open to everyone, regardless of race.

I took a job in Colorado, training caseworkers around this beautiful state. I fell in love with one area of the state in particular, and three years later became the director of two social service departments in counties that served the towns of Durango and Silverton in southwest Colorado, where the movie Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid was filmed. Four years at the helm of a bureaucracy was enough, though, and I was bitten by the entreprenuer bug. I owned a store called the Greenery for thirteen years. It became hard to eat the scenery, though, so I returned to the Denver area to work again as a child protection worker and county director.

As a director of social services, I was still an activist, but became more and more conservative. I filed grievances against the local nursing home, when I realized that social service dollars were being used to perpetuate inhumane conditions for the elderly residents. I tangled with powerful lawyers and politicians who sat on a board that administered a program whereby developmentally disabled adults were paid 10 cents an hour (plus their welfare checks) to assemble fish hooks. I felt these adults could be paid much better wages and do much more significant work in the community. I organized "Club Esfuerzo" to provide a way for elderly residents in the community to come together to perform volunteer work. I hosted a radio program called Senior Saturday, which featured colorful old timers telling stories of their lives. I exposed fraud in the food stamp program.


mRed said...

I followed the same path, but by a much different route than you. When I worked at NCPAC we had a "Blacks for Reagan" group (Yes, I know the jokes, is, it shoulda been "Black for Reagan"). In researching for the project I fully realized how urban renewal and the Great Society had devastated blacks as individuals and their communities. A true loss for all citizens.

Good read, Bob!

Terri Wagner said...

I was fortunate to be raised as a military brat so I skipped the whole racist issue and still can't understand why white people should feel guilty. And I still find it incomprehensible that rioters destroy their own property but I suppose the answer lies in what you have seen: it's not really their's so it means nothing to them.

Webutante said...

So interesting knowing more of your background, Bob, and more of the experiences that have shaped your conservatism.