Saturday, April 5, 2014

CHARLES SNOW RESPONSE TO HAROLD AND MAUDE COMMENTARY


Blog-mate Charles Snow posted the following response to my Harold and Maude commentary.  My  response follows his.

“Ron could be a professional film critic. His reviews not only capture the essence and quality of a film, but he is also able to validly place a film's message in its historical context.

Regarding his review of Harold and Maude, I would like to comment on his point about anti-war movement violence. He says that at the time (early 1970s), he became disillusioned with the anti-war movement's preoccupation with violence and death. I was in Berkeley during the late 1960s and early 1970s, and I witnessed first-hand many incidents of violence during political protests. There were violent incidents involving the bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam war, riots over People's Park near the Berkeley campus, and so on. Usually, protesters' violence was directed at inanimate objects not people (even the police).

My observation at the time was that change did not occur unless there were violent protests. Peaceful protest was not seriously listened to by the power structure, whether it be politicians, university administrators, or businesspeople. Protests were routinely and appropriately allowed, but meaningful change seldom resulted. Only when peaceful protests escalated into unruly crowd behavior and violence did the protests succeed in gaining the attention of the people in charge and perhaps in influencing them to pause and consider the arguments being made.

Thus, based on my personal experience, some of the things we value in America today would not exist without violent protests. America of the sixties was not ready for peaceful protests, and violence was the main weapon used to achieve desired change.”

Fox Response:  I don’t deny the utility—even imperative--of violence when it is used in a purposeful way.  Trouble is, as the social movements of the 1960's evolved, a growing number of activists began to deploy violence as an end in itself, which in my view harmed the cause.  Sadly, one of the blow backs from the violence and anti-American bashing during this period was an invigorated extreme right-wing movement, which rose from the ashes of the Goldwater defeat in 1964.  This culminated in a shift of white working class voters to the Republican Party, where they have largely resided ever since.  For an excellent treatment of this history, see Geoffrey Kabaservice’s book, Rule and Ruin: the Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican party, from Eisenhower to the Tea Party.

As the anti-war movement evolved, the love, compassion, humanity, idealism, and simple good cheer I found among its followers began to erode.  It was this erosion  I  believe Harold and Maude spoke to.

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