On Sunday, June 14, I took advantage of the nice weather and rode the North and South County and Putnam Country bike trails. The South Trail starts in Yonkers and the Putnam trail ends in Brewster. It is a short drive to get to and there is ample parking along the route. I would recommend the North County and Putnam County parts of the path, since it’s newly paved and has nicer scenery. While I was in the middle of my bike ride, I saw two teenagers walking, one of whom was carrying a sign stating, “Black Lives Matter.” A few hours later in Carmel, New York, I heard the song “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and saw a small group protesting. “Blowin’ in the Wind” was written and sung by Bob Dylan aka Robert Zimmerman in 1963. The song was made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary. It’s the 1960s all over again.
Part of downtown Seattle has been occupied by a group of demonstrators who have set up their own community. The New York Times and other left-wing outlets make it sound like Kumbaya. On the other hand, some on the right have compared them to ISIS. The truth is probably in the middle. The situation in Seattle also reminded me again of what happened in the late 1960s, when flower power morphed into something more sinister.
There was a popular song in 1967 called “San Francisco,” by Scott McKenzie. It was a celebration of the “Summer of Love” in San Francisco. Lyrics included, “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair. If you’re going to San Francisco, you’re gonna meet some gentle people there.”
One of those “gentle” people who went to San Francisco for the summer festivities was Charles Manson. He and his followers, most of whom came from middle-class and upper-class homes, murdered nine people between June and August 1969, including actress Sharon Tate, who was eight months pregnant. The Manson family’s use of the Spahn Ranch was a key part in the 2019 movie Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In 1975, one of Manson’s disciples, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, tried to assassinate President Gerald Ford.
Many in the Jewish Community have taken up the cause of “Black Lives Matter.” There are some legitimate points. There has been little police accountability. It is rare that police officers are prosecuted and even lose their jobs when they commit perjury while testifying at a criminal hearing or trial. The problem is that the current system has an inherent conflict of interest. The prosecutors need the police to investigate the crimes and testify at the trials. That is why they are reluctant to go after police officers. However, it is crazy to argue that they should defund the police. It is a recipe for anarchy.
Also, I agree that it is time to move the confederate monuments from city squares and state capitols and change the names of military bases named after Confederate generals. It always bothered me when I went South and saw all the monuments and the Confederate flags, especially when there is an absence of the American flag. For example, I visited the Virginia State Capitol and saw inside one of the chambers a six-foot statue of General Robert E. Lee and busts of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the vice president - but none of President Abraham Lincoln. These men rebelled against the United States, resulting in many deaths and destruction. They are not heroes but rebels. However, the removal of the monuments should be done in an orderly and organized procedure, and not by a mob destroying them.
In the 1960s, there were also legitimate causes which galvanized some in the Jewish community. In 1964, as part of Freedom Summer, many Jews joined Blacks to go down South to register Blacks to vote. Two of the three volunteers who were killed in 1964 were Jewish and from Queens. This led to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
In 1968, the Jewish community in New York was shocked to see that the community they had helped had turned against them. There was a fight between the Black community board in Ocean Hill-Brownsville and the teachers’ union, led by Albert Shankar, who was Jewish. Over 95 percent of public-school students in Ocean Hill–Brownsville were black or Latino, while two-thirds of the teachers were white. The community board wanted to bring in African American teachers and get rid of the white teachers, who at that time were mostly Jewish. On December 26, 1968, Julius Lester, on WBAI radio, a station geared to the African American community, interviewed Leslie Campbell, a history teacher, who read a poem written by one of his students entitled “Antisemitism: Dedicated to Albert Shankar.” It began with the words, “Hey, Jew boy, with that yarmulke on your head / You pale-faced Jew boy – I wish you were dead.”
We should learn from that experience. If you support the goals of the movement, do so because you think it is the right thing. Do not do so because you expect a quid pro quo - that if you support them, they will support us. When Black Lives Matter formed in 2016, their platform listed support for BDS and referred to Israel as an Apartheid state. Although the current platform only addresses issues in America, it is naive to believe that they will not move on that front. We in the Jewish community must be ready to counter them.
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