Times change - but how they change is a mysterious process.
The Sixties were something we think we recognize, but the enormity of the changes that happened around 1964 and ’65 are hard to explain.
Now it’s the Twenty-Teens, and something is happening again, and we don’t know what it is.
Of course, wishful thinking can play a part in our perceptions. In 2008, as the economy was falling apart, a lot of people thought Barack Obama could become a new Franklin Roosevelt, ushering in a new era of progress. But wishing didn’t make it so. The times hadn’t changed enough to allow that to happen, and Obama faced huge obstacles in pushing for change.
But the times are changing again.
Just a year ago no one could have predicted that Republicans, such as Gov. Phil Scott, would endorse changes in the gun laws. But the same words that would have doomed new gun laws just a year ago, ring hollow now.
The massacre at Parkland is an easy explanation, but there have been massacres before. The students at Parkland have been brave and articulate, but so were the parents from Sandy Hook.
Another explanation may be that the unpopularity of President Trump has compromised a whole constellation of ideas and issues. And to parrot the line of the NRA is to be like Trump, when fewer and fewer people want to be like that.
There are still those who resist change, on guns and other issues. But changing times doesn’t mean everyone changes.
The German word “zeitgeist” means the spirit of the times, and it’s used in
English to describe a hard-to-define atmosphere that seems to determine what’s an acceptable idea - and what’s a ridiculous one.
Suddenly, it’s no longer ridiculous to propose reasonable gun legislation.
Thinking back to the Sixties, I remember in 1964 my friend Gary began to let his hair grow shaggy, and I thought that was weird. Who could have predicted the Beatles?
A couple years later much had changed. There are many theories about what started that seismic shift — the Kennedy assassination, Vietnam, post-war prosperity, combined with a new generation of restless kids. Nobody really knows for sure.
Today, once again “the order is rapidly fading” as Bob Dylan famously sang, and once again we must choose whether to stand in the doorway, or to lend a hand.