I recently watched “The Company You Keep” starring Robert Redford, Susan Sarandon, Chris Cooper, Julie Christie and many other fine actors and actresses. I expected a political thriller, which it was. I did not expect a meaningful discussion on the anti-war Movement, which it provided.
I joined the anti-war Movement in 1971 when I was 17 years old. At 18 I applied for and was given Conscientious Objector status. At 19 I dropped out of college so I could devote all of my energy to political activism and social change.
Eventually the War ended. The Movement slowly faded away, with everyone going their separate ways. I lost touch with my fellow activists. I decided to go to law school. I thought a law degree could be an effective tool to combat injustice and lessen suffering.
The discussion of the Movement in “The Company You Keep” led me to reflect on how my thinking has evolved over the years. Here are a few thoughts.
- The anti-war Movement was right about the Vietnam War. History has shown that the Domino Theory that justified the war was false. The communist empire of the Soviet Union imploded and is no more. The communist empire of the China has abandoned socialism and is embracing capitalism.
- I have lost faith in the truth of “ideology”. The Right was wrong on the Vietnam War. The Right was wrong about the civil rights movement. Today the Right is wrong on global warming, wrong on gay rights and wrong on the treatment of immigrants. Yet, in all honesty, I cannot say the alternative the Left offers is much better. The Great Society programs of the 60s did not achieve their intended results. They created a dependent welfare attitude among many of the poor. I have seen waste and abuse up close in the federal housing program, the food stamp program, unemployment benefits, jobs programs. I no longer believe the federal government is capable of fixing most of society’s problems.
- I believe every American has a right to meaningful health care.
- I no longer see the world as Black or White. Most of the time it is very Gray.
- I met a lot of “true believers” in the Movement. But to genuinely seek truth, one cannot be a “true believer”. There is no belief system that has all the answers. To seek the truth requires being open minded and being open to change.
- I find “Love” to be a better guide as to how to live one’s life than any ideology.
- A law degree can be an effective tool to combat injustice and lessen suffering.
- We live in an imperfect world. I wish it was not so. There are no simple answers.