Friday--June 28, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 289
"Silent Majority" Of The '60s Can Still Protest For
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
GROUND ZERO, New York City, June 28--Today's silent majority
represent the hell raising revolutionaries of the 60's. At
least that's Maureen Dowd's take. She's an
editorial writer for the New York Times, and in a June 26 op-ed
"The Age of Acquiescence",
skinned today's silent majority who once was composed of those who railed
against government's "big brotherism" and "big businesses' lack of ethics
and morality," but are now lapping up their fair share of the spoils
They are armchair travelers today, protesting nothing regarding the
ills of society they once bannered as America's demise.
Ms. Dowd used the word "acquiescence"
to describe their impotent reactions to today's tyrannies. I
read the word to mean "Complacency"--the ultimate tool of Terrorism.
In her editorial, Ms. Dowd conveys a
conversation she had with a friend over the weekend who was an "idealistic
child of the 60's," fighting against the "establishment." Here
is the reflection the Times' columnist reported June 26.
|"We thought America was being run by the
corporate-military-industrial white male power structure," she said.
"We were certain there was a right-wing conspiracy. We thought civil
liberties and free speech were imperiled. We were suspicious of rich
people. We had reason to believe there was corporate malfeasance and
Wall Street was bad. We worried that the government was backing
coups in Latin America. We figured the administration wanted to
topple all the overwrought, self-appointed messiahs who didn't know
how to run their own little societies. We assumed that powerful
people were rigging elections. We feared there were people who
wanted to blast roads through forests and rip up the tundra."
A generation later, the leaders and
pawns of the "Flower Children" have fallen silent, she claims.
In their 50's, they sit back and watch history
unfolding. It is not unlike the visions they protested against
before Geritol and Ensure commercials began to capture their attention,
before their stock portfolios grew enormously during the 80's, or the
"creature comforts" of home and family and assimilation into the "middle
class" duct-taped their mouths.
In a lamenting commentary, Ms. Dowd reports
her friend as saying:
"And now," she concluded with a rueful smile,
"all our worst paranoid nightmares are coming true. We wake up in our 50's
and our enemies from the 60's have crept back into power. And we were the
empowerers, because we've turned into the same selfish people we thought
we were against. We forgot to be suspicious."
The editorial is gloomy at best. It
leaves a sour taste in my mouth because it is void of any hope, any
resurrection of cause from the "revolutionaries of the 60's." It
doesn't call upon the young men and women who stood up against the status
quo nearly forty years ago and challenge them, in the sunset of their
lives, to take the Sword of Vigilance in their hand and do battle with the
ills of America today.
The last line of Ms. Dowd's editorial says:
"These utopian sentiments were buried in the rubble in Lower Manhattan."
Reading those words strikes me as a capitulation of any hope, and
certainly the funeral of any responsibility to bring to life again the
passion of the 60's as a tool to fight the Complacencies our society faces
In the article,
she quotes former Black Panther Bobby Rush, who became a Chicago
Congressman, as saying:
"Yet we are paralyzed in the headlights.
We don't know exactly how to react to the right wing trampling our
Constitution and dictating to the world who their leadership can be. The
American people have been scared beyond all imagination because of Sept.
11. But now we are getting to the point where we can't use a library card
without opening ourselves up to Big Brother."
Buried in the rubble of Lower Manhattan?
I find such comments loathsome.
Yet, I am reminded that the media, instead of being the Vigilant protector
of human rights, has become not a Voice of Liberty, but one of
Complacency. It shovels dirt on America's grave rather than digging
down to refresh its foundations.
It reports the news, it doesn't make it.
It offers no standards for the people to rally behind as did Thomas
Paine's Common Sense Pamphlets, or the passions expressed when
competing papers in a city fought for circulation. The media
has forgotten about Peter Zinger-- who fathered the legacy of the Fourth
Estate--and his challenge for the press to stand as the Vigilant warrior
shielding the People from Complacency, from, as Ms. Dowd euphemizes,
On October 3, 2001, following my
experiences at Ground Zero on September 11, I wrote an impassioned plea to
the media titled:
"What Would Peter Zinger Do?"
I challenged the media to rekindle Peter Zinger's
legacy and make journalism a tool rather than a diaper to change the face
of America's Complacency. I don't think that message found any
listening ears. Had it, Ms. Dowd would not have ended her editorial
by zipping up the body bag of Complacency and turning her back on the
opportunity to strike the Bell of Vigilance.
- Combat Ready
I was a child of the
60's. Instead of protesting, I went to Vietnam and fought.
When I returned with far too much blood on my hands, I viewed the
protestors as commie pinkos, the slime of the earth, draft dodges,
silver-spooned kids who ducked their duty to their country and "got off"
by urinating on our country's foundational principles.
I isolated myself from radicalism, considering it
a geek-necked, dope smoking society of rebels who, at the root of their
beings, were nothing more than cowards, who knew nothing of offering their
life for principles of democracy, who spat upon me when I returned, who
burned my flag and defecated upon it, who lauded Jane Fonda for sitting at
an anti-aircraft gun and pretended to shoot down brave men who risked
their lives to remove tyranny and oppression from a country no one really
gave a damn about.
Demonstration in VN War - Washington, D.C
I focused my attention on raising my children to be
Vigilant. I did my best to convince them that one's beliefs
should be rooted so deep that no storm could ever bend them into
Then I broke. My life shattered.
My belief systems crumbled. My narrow, conservative, hawkish
point of view shattered as safety glass, into thousands of tiny pieces.
Cancer, bankruptcy, foreclosure, wealth, poverty, success, failure all
conspired to reduce me to ashes. All my beliefs seemed to sift
through my fingers. I found desolation and depression my only
friend, and its horror was far worse than an Enron scandal, a Terrorist
attack on the World Trade Center, or the government returning to a
tyrannical state allowed by people who had no conscience desire to stand
up for their rights.
That's when I chose to become a Sentinel of
Vigilance. In my own demise as a "warrior of liberty" I had
beaten my head against brick walls in business and life, and only given
myself concussions. I was fighting without focus.
I grabbed whatever cause I could find to try and keep my life afloat, but
none was made of rock, all were composed of Jell-O.
Then I became a grandfather.
Then I moved to New York City with
my wife to be close to my grandchildren, in hopes their presence might
spark something in me, provide me with a handhold to give my life
meaning--to give me something to fight for again, some cause that might
justify my presence as a human being on earth.
I had enjoyed all the money a man could wish for,
all the success, all the accouterments that life could offer. I
headed up one of the world's largest businesses as the leader of its
marking systems. I had limitless power to change the world in my
niche, and did my share. I could pick up the phone and beckon
masterful minds like Buckminster Fuller to come spend a day with me, or
call and get Ronald Reagan to come speak to my people. Then I
fell from grace. I abdicated my power, for it was empty.
I wallowed in the sadness of having everything and nothing. My life
went to the skids. I picked up a booze bottle and gulped it down
until my soul was anesthetized, and I couldn't see or think.
I was looking for my primary mission--the one I
once believed in so desperately--that I could make a change in the world.
Time, circumstances and my own frailties as a human being beat me to a
pulp. I stopped fighting. I curled up on my couch
wishing to die--the once great warrior reduced to slobbering tears of
self-sorrow, impotent, unworthy, useless.
Then fate directed me to be at
Ground Zero on September 11, 2001. I witnessed the horror of
Terrorism. I saw the face of death grin at me. I saw the
Beast of Terror rise up out of the flames and smoke and throttle our
society, driving us into caves of Fear, Intimidation and Complacency.
I saw what Ms. Dowd so depressingly, but accurately
stated in her last line of the June 26, op-ed: "These utopian
sentiments were buried in the rubble in Lower Manhattan."
As I sat in the dust and debris of the attack, pounding
on my laptop, capturing the destruction of American utopianism, I saw the
Sentinels of Vigilance rising up out of the ashes. I saw them
swirling around the vortex of destruction. I saw their spirits
come together as one unified body, resurrecting a new challenge, a
powerful challenge to all the "lost souls of radicalism" such as myself.
Cliff McKenzie at Ground Zero
I heard them whisper to me: "Semper Vigilantes,
Cliff. Semper Vigilantes!"
Always Vigilant. Always Vigilant.
I rose out of the ashes as the Phoenix Bird.
I walked slowly uptown, ashes covering me from head to foot and sat in
Tompkins Square Park pounding out the rest of the story I had witnessed,
drafting up the Pledge of Vigilance, realizing that for the first time
since Vietnam, my life now had a purpose--a mission--matured far beyond my
wildest dreams, and most vivid imagination.
My mission was to rally the Parents of Vigilance, to
fight not just the Terrorism inflicted upon our society by the Osama bin
Laden's, but the more nefarious Terrorisms of Fear, Intimidation and
Complacency so common in all of our thinking.
I knew our society had gone soft. We had
become a nation of convenience, and our causes were external rather than
internal. We had forgotten that building our children's and their
children's children's Courage, Conviction and Right Action was far more
important than sating our own desire to "live the good life."
"The good life" was gone. Terrorism had ripped
away the idea of utopianism. America was just as vulnerable to
attack from without as any other nation on earth. And, as I
began to search for Terrorism of all different kinds and shapes and forms,
I found the most frightening of all--the neglect we as a society have
given our children. We have not attended to their Fears, their
Intimidations or their Complacencies--but rather have fed them.
We have materialized their beings, making their self-worth contingent upon
what other people thought of them, not on what they thought of themselves.
We fell into this trap because we sought our own utopias, and wanted our
children to have them too--and they were based on "things"--the
materialisms of a society.
Our divorce and abortion rates only solidified
these neglects. Our obsession with "staying young and rich"
overwhelmed our duty and responsibility to insure our children had
"character," had the Courage to face their Fears, had the Convictions to
not kowtow to Intimidation, and the ability to stand up and take the Right
Action rather than turn their heads to vital issues that would impact not
just their lives, but also their childrens' and their children's children.
We stopped generational thinking--the core of the
radical thinking in the 60's--and assumed "Now Thinking"--what was good
September 11 did indeed bury the utopian
sentiments of our society. But it didn't leave us empty handed.
That's the issue I take up with Ms. Dowd.
It wasn't our innocence that died that day,
it was our right to be selfish that went up in smoke and ashes.
Selfishness is but a synonym of
Complacency. And Nine Eleven hallmarks the Birth of Vigilance,
not the Death of Utopia.
I believe the friend of Ms. Dowd, were she
to read the 400,000 plus words I have written since September 11 on
Vigilance, would pick up the Shield of Vigilance and realize that her
radicalism of the 60's was a training ground for her Vigilance Battle in
the 21st Century.
I believe that any "radical" who has
matured over time, and who can look at the true issue challenging our
society, will want to become a Citizen of Vigilance, a Parent of
Vigilance, a Grandparent of Vigilance, or a Loved One of Vigilance.
Further, I am convinced that the sparks of
revolution are just being kindled. Each day, the sores of our
society are opening for inspection. Our government, our
business, our morals, our ethics are all subject to forensic view.
We cannot point fingers above us without first looking at our own feet.
We cannot abdicate responsibility for what is or isn't without first
looking in the mirror and asking: "What am I doing today to insure
my children are free from the Terrorism of Fear, Intimidation and
Within this question lies the answers to
all the ills we see around us. For when we start to fight for
our children's rights, we then fight all the enemies--both within and
without our nation--to secure their future happiness.
There are Parents of Vigilance Clubs to be
formed. There are Citizen of Vigilance Committees to put pressure on
government yet to be established. There are Vigilance rallies yet to
Radicals of the 60's unite.
There is a way to make the beliefs you cherished come to fruition--and the
blossoms will become your children's, and their children's fruits.
And thank you, Ms. Dowd, for reminding me
the fight has just begun.
To June 27--The New Pledge of Allegiance--To Vigilance Not God
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