6
Jul
2005

The Summer of Love this Ain't: America in its Season of Amnesia

Published on Tuesday, July 5, 2005 by CommonDreams.org

by Steven Laffoley

What is it about summer in America that loves to forget? Is it the warm weather? The vacations away? Or maybe it's the barbecues and beer. Whatever the reason, summer in America is the season of amnesia: a default desire to forget war and third world hunger, to forget over-consumption and impending ecological disaster. Summer in America is a time to swim in the warm nostalgia of summer break from school. A time to bare annual witness to the rockets' red glare of the 4th of July fireworks, and a time to admire the waving majesty of the stars and stripes forever while the boys of summer play baseball at Fenway Park.

In America, during the season of amnesia, all is good.

Remember the summer of '67? Now that was a summer: the Summer of Love - the season of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, of the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper and the Doors' Light My Fire. It was the summer of Timothy Leary promoting psychedelic acid trips, and of free love and finding yourself. In the summer of '67 we travelled with the searching spirit of Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate, and travelled with the free spirits of Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in Bonnie and Clyde. And south of Boston, we placed our hopes in the swinging bat of Carl Yastrzemski and the Red Sox - all the way to the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Of course, it was also the season of amnesia. In 1967, America fought a far away war in Southeast Asia. In that year alone - by July of 1967 - 2,566 American soldiers had been killed in the jungles of Vietnam. How many Vietnamese died, killed by American bombs and bullets? Thousands? Tens-of Thousands? Who knows? It was the season of amnesia, after all.

And yet, strangely, it was during the season of amnesia when - for the first time during the war - a bare majority of Americans thought the Vietnam War was a mistake. Imagine that. And when the season of amnesia finally gave way to the cool weather of fall that year, the political tide in America turned against the Vietnam War - and against its chief agent, President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Now, it's the season of amnesia again - 2005.

But the Summer of Love this ain't. In 2005, America's drug of choice isn't acid - it's fear. But what a trip fear it is. Dig the psychedelic colours of our fear: Code Orange, Yellow, and Red - and even alerts in Amber. It's also the summer of Tom Cruise dissing Paxil and the psychiatric "lies" of bad body chemistry (but, man, just don't ask him about those lies on Oprah's couch.) This summer, we fear angry terrorists from other planets in Tom Cruise's War of the Worlds, and also witness our retaliatory ability on Internet real time: America's Fourth of July fireworks on an asteroid a million miles away. What a summer trip, man.

Of course, this is still the season of amnesia. Already this year, in 2005, 405 American soldiers have been killed on the sands of Iraq, and another 54 Americans have been killed in the mountains and plains of Afghanistan. How many Iraqis and Afghans have died, killed by American bombs and bullets? Thousands? Tens-of Thousands? Who knows? It's still the season of amnesia, after all.

But dig this: for the first time - during this war - a bare majority of Americans think the Iraq War is a mistake. Imagine that. And when the season of amnesia finally gives way to the cool weather of fall this year, will the political tide in America turn against this war - and against its chief agent, President George W. Bush?

Well, if summer in America is the Season of Amnesia, then maybe fall is the Season of Reason.

Let's hope so.

Steven Laffoley is an American writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.


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