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September 23, 2005

Dress Up and Let’s Pretend

Norman M. Covert

We are in the midst of what might be called a “human comedy,” were it not of such a grave nature. It was at Safeway in Frederick. How proud my like-minded compatriots would be witnessing my emotional “Crossing of the Rubicon” at that moment. No anger arose, just a smirk at the naiveté of a young man and the realization that this was “Just Pretend.”

He was wearing worn out jeans, a scruffy beard, uncombed long hair and a dark T-shirt that proclaimed, “Vote Peace, Not War.” On the back was a candidate’s name – one I had never heard.

There was realization that the young man was just reenacting history – as many do today by donning replica uniforms of the Blue and Gray to reenact the battles of Monocacy or Gettysburg. He was reprising the role of a street soldier in the dissent of another time. Yep, it’s nothing more than “Let’s Pretend.”

Then there was the Hood College student, who thought an anti-war movement should be started on campus last fall. A dozen or so might have joined up before the election was lost.

Frederick is just not the center of anarchy. Yes, there were the justices in November 1765 who rejected the British Stamp Act, but they weren’t street rabble.

Counting the well-meaning, but historically naive “Women in Black,” the “Peace Center” with its contentious proclamations on Church Street, and the 104 registered Greens, then you have someone for the local clarion to quote on a slow news day.

We saw an unkempt gaggle in Texas in August. They rallied around surviving long-time communists, anarchists and aging Old Hippies. They were wearing the same clothes, perhaps still unwashed. They embarrassed the horridly rich George Bush haters so much that these elitists procured a nice big tent and bought out the local Wal-Mart’s propane stoves and lanterns to minimize the dirty campsite.

The Texas anarchists’ audience counted 200 strong for a concert by an aging folk singer the late cartoonist Al Capp drew as “Joanie Phoney.” Half the audience was media, and later photo ops with such opportunists as Al Sharpton needed cropping to hide the obvious staging of crocodile tears.

Thank goodness for the mainstream media. You’d think there was a sizeable anti-war movement. There were plans for a rally on the Mall in D.C., and we’ll see if the numbers justify The New York Times’ sponsorship in column inches. It will get coverage because many reporters believe a career can be made with these re-enactors. Count up “startling and amazing” stories reported about Hurricane Katrina which are being discredited now that the sun is shining. Returning to the kid in Safeway, who doesn’t know why he’s wearing his hair long except that he has seen that in pictures from the Sixties. The hairdo lost its glamour when it became THE vogue for performers from Lawrence Welk to Country and Western artists like George Jones. It was the hairspray, perhaps, that killed the look.

Let’s pretend, he is saying, that this is 1968 and John Kerry has just thrown his ill-gotten medals in the direction of the Capitol Building. He believes Forrest Gump is there, too, surrounded by a mob of people wearing dirty jeans, T-shirts, scruffy hair and beard, yelling and screaming.

Anarchy is fun and games. It is taking over the dean’s office and demanding equal rights for whomever. It is smoking weed in defiance. It is bell bottom trousers, old fatigue shirts, no soap and driving around in old VW Microbus.

We are a generation or so removed from those kids who grew up in the squalor of socialist communes. A huge number of these children rejected the lifestyle, returned to mainstream religion, looking for a meaning in their lives and searching for the God they hoped existed, and who survived a terrible thrashing from these anarchists, communists and atheists.

They spawned a generation that rejected socialism in favor of raging free enterprise. They moved into suburbia with patios and barbeques. They are Cub Scout leaders, Brownie leaders and soccer coaches. Their children are our Eagle Scouts, not head-in-the-sand Greens.

They earned their degrees, reveled in the joys of America, drive SUVs and perhaps supported surviving parents, who became lost in their own confusion. Less-than-hardcore Old Hippies found jobs and are surviving into their own Sixties now.

They are a lost generation.

Still, there is the wonder of adolescent rebellion, just as my generation fell in love with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Elvis and Jerry Lee. We had our Luckies rolled in our white T-shirts’ sleeves and our long, ducktail haircuts to show our rebel angst.

I’m sorry some of today’s young people and the media have gravitated to one of America’s decades of despair. It’s almost akin to wishing for a return of the Depression. If it’s “just pretend,” that’s all right, but for some folks, sadly it’s a peace they would prefer, for the hell of it.

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