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Bloody 60s: the Decade that Aborted Leadership in America

The only way to understand the age of virtual insanity we live is to revisit the bloody decade that was the 1960s. We were not always led by a bipartisan coterie of demagogues and narcissists; a half-century ago, America was blessed with an abundance of moral giants and principled leaders. Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Fred Hampton, these were but a few names that are remembered to this day as legends and indispensable voices who stirred society into action and inspired hope in countless millions of people.

There is something else all the men mentioned above had in common beyond their integrity and greatness, they were all assassinated in cold blood. Losing one modern day prophet to a sniper’s bullet and a conspiracy of lies in one lifetime would have been shocking enough, the fact that so many iconic voices were silenced in the span of ten years is hard to fathom. It is too surreal to comprehend; prodigious intellectuals and champions of justice were buried one after the other before they could reach their 50s.

Once can be chalked up to bad luck, twice piques interest, when nearly a dozen leaders are taken out in one decade, it becomes evident that there was a wider conspiracy to eradicate dissent and cow others who dare to follow in their footsteps. There is a reason why we have not seen another MLK, Malcolm, Hampton, JFK or RFK since their lives were snuffed out, politicians and activists alike were put on notice that the only fate that awaited them was to be drummed out of power or greeted with a bullet if their influence grew too large and they tried to advocate on behalf of all marginalized people.

The 1960s started with a promise to address the root sources of injustice and inequality, it ended with a bang and the death of truth-telling.

Besides being murdered in cold blood, there is another thing that Malcolm, Martin, Hampton and the Kennedy brothers had in common. Flawed as they were and as much as they initially fed into America’s divides, they all eventually course corrected and decided to speak on behalf of inclusive justice. America’s caste system and the establishment who keep the identity and ideological divides alive embrace fire starters, what they do not abide are truth-tellers who dare to bring people together and demand universal justice.

I have no doubt in my mind that Martin Luther King would have lived into old age had he stuck to being a “black” leader instead of pivoting and sought to unify all people without bias to their identity. Malcolm X would have been left to his devices if only he kept calling “white” people devils instead of advocating for solidarity of all oppressed people upon returning from Mecca. Hampton would have survived the sixties if he did not make the foolish mistake of trying to bring together “white” and “black” people. RFK would have become president if he did not speak about the mindless menace of violence and campaigned on a promise to unify Americans. Do you notice the pattern yet? The status quo doesn’t fear preachers of violence, what it fears are agents of togetherness.

After aborting true voices of equality who demanded the fulfillment of America’s promises, the establishment pushed fraudulent actorvists and two-faced demagogues to the forefront. All you have to do is scan the media-politico complex landscape and it becomes evident that we are being inundated on all sides by duplicitous firebrands who love to incite emotions and rip apart America’s original scars in order to advance their own interests. We no longer have solution seekers and there are no healers among us when it comes to politicians, pundits and media personalities who are given national platforms, what we have are grievance peddlers who lead their followers into the ghettos of antagonism and retribution.

These resentment whisperers are hard to identify when they are channeling our side’s indignation but they are sure easy to spot when they are venting the frustrations of the “other side”. Trump and Obama are mirror images of each other, they both gained power by promising to deliver justice for their side and demonizing the opposition. Trump’s supporters were outraged when Obama was ruling through executive orders, now they clap as Trump continues his predecessor’s tactics. Obama loyalists are currently livid that Trump is mistreating immigrants and persecuting Muslims yet they sure were silent while Obama was kicking out Mexicans in record numbers and dropping bombs on one Muslim nation after another.

The invisible hands who impose their will on politicians and media personalities alike do so through a combination of carrots and sticks. If opinion leaders go along and speak half-truths to power, they are conferred status and rewarded with cash. If they speak out of turn and dare to actually expose the mendacity of the system, they are either silenced through scandals or snipers. By targeting men of such renown in the 1960’s, the wielders of power effectively created two generation of moral midgets.

Gone are visionaries who dared to think audaciously and speak against America’s injustices with clarity. Instead of Martin, Malcolm, Hampton and the Kennedys, we have Trump, Pelosi, AOC and a caravan of craven politicians who wake up each morning trying to figure out a more creative way to wedge people apart. Though we are continuously being conditioned to view justice through tribal blinders, the truth is that “black” and “white” people, liberals and conservatives and all sides of America’s social divides are all being pillaged by a system of greed that takes from many in order to enrich the plutocracy.

As much as rabble-rousers try to distract us with manufactured outrage and the latest salacious story, economic inequality is the root source of most of society’s ills. Racism, crime, the prevalence of drug use, homelessness, these issues and more can be greatly ameliorated if the economic pie for the bottom 90% of Americans grew instead of shrinking on a year to year basis. Instead of addressing the disease, the establishment would rather have us fighting over the symptoms and bashing each other in the process.

The bloody 60s didn’t just silence virtuous leaders who could have mended America’s brokenness and bent the arc of history towards justice, it disincentivized future champions of the people. Nefarious forces conspired to abort leaders and delivered juvenile agitators who are getting paid handsomely to divert our attention and prevent a national consensus. The horrific events of the 1960s were no accident, they were interconnected and meant to send a clear message—comply or perish. Opinion leader got the memo.

A movement that is broad-based and inclusive of all oppressed people without bias to our differences is the only way we can realize the change we have been waiting for. This is what MLK, Malcom, Hampton, JFK and RFK figured out, this is why they were all taken out and why the current crop of leaders refuse to pick up the mantle of inclusive justice. Beyond killing iconic voices who stood up on behalf of justice, the bloody 60s also robbed us of our generation’s heroes and left a caravan of fatuous politicians to lead US. #Bloody60s Click To Tweet

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” ~ John F. Kennedy

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Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
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Lij Teodrose Fikremariam

Lij Teodrose Fikremariam is the co-founder and former editor of the Ghion Journal. He is currently the chair of Ethiopians for Constitutional Monarchy. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice.

Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Lij Teodrose Fikremariam
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