My first involvement in grass-roots politics and door-to-door campaigning came in 1976. I was 17 years old, on summer break from high school and a rebel without a cause. Throw in a little teenage angst coupled with homicidal tendencies and voila! A living, breathing, ticking, in my case, nuclear time bomb. It was time to decide whether I would try to blow it up or save the world. Both sides of the equation had its good and bad points. In the end, I decided “save” was probably the better option. The Dodgers were looking competitive (they came in second), and there was surely going to be another Rolling Stones album. Unfortunately, Black and Blue, (the horrid “Fool to Cry” was the single. Never heard of it? Not surprising.) came out that year and so we all had to wait another two years until Some Girls was finally released. So, looking back…
For the record, being young really bites. Everything seems so unbelievably important, but in the final analysis, virtually none of it is. My personal saga/tragedy at the time included my second ever girl-friend (my first was when I was five, Maria, but not unlike West Side Story, it was doomed from the start) and prom date at the time leaving me just days before the gala event of our lives for another girl/woman. You know who you are. If that doesn’t leave scars on your average hormonal almost legal under the watchful eyes of the law young male psyche, I don’t know what will. But I’m over that, now. Maybe.
What I still can’t get over was that California was building nuclear power plants without an economically feasible way to dispose of spent fuel rods. I never said I was your average teen Breakfast Club (criminal, jock, Brainiac, basket-case and whatever Molly Ringwald was supposed to be) stereotype. I was obsessed with atoms, the stability of atoms, half-lives and R-A-D-I-O-A-C-T-I-V-I-T-Y! And, get this, there was a Kraftwerk album of the same name that just came out which did wonders to fuel my nascent and steadily growing, though not entirely unreasonable, paranoia.
Then came almost heavenly sent salvation in the form of a ballot initiative. California Proposition 15 (1976).
The words of the proposed legislation were like magic. A dream come true. No longer was I alone in this cold, dark and very scary world. Somebody else cared. The following excerpt was, in context, an acknowledgment, representation, and validation of no less than the sum-total of my life to said date.
“After five years, requires derating of existing plants 10% annually unless Legislature, by two-thirds vote, confirms effectiveness of safety and waste storage and disposal systems.” (emphasis added.)
After contacting the proper authorities, a fellow very much on the strange side classmate and myself took our pamphlets and literature to the streets. We would go door-to-door, bringing our message of safety and sanity to a waiting world ready to not only invest in the future but to have a future. We thought it would be a no-brainer. How could the adults not listen to us? Turns out, they didn’t. Door after door, mind after mind, opened and closed. Approximately eight hours later, the only thing we accomplished was at best a sort of obnoxious condescending attitude. Better than contempt, which also occurred, as in, “Do your parents know you are doing this?” (They didn’t), but barely.
As the sun started to set in the West and on our dreams of a better future, the sobering unbearable heaviness of being weighing on our shoulders, we quit for the day. It was Saturday. Sunday would be better. It wasn’t.
Why am I telling you this 44 years later? First, for Greta Thunberg and all who are like her. Not unlike toxic spent fuel rods, the dangers of climate change are real. Greta if you are out there, don’t give up. Never give up. It’s worth it.
Second, for all the “grown-ups” who don’t understand why young people are voting for Bernie. It’s because you have forgotten what you wanted. Change. As have the other Democratic presidential candidates who want to “fix” a clearly broken, in this case, a mature capitalist economic system that entered into its dying phase 35 years ago? Reagan’s voodoo economics, the myth of trickle-down wealth, the purposeful undermining and destruction of unions and middle-class. If you were born after 1980 this is all you know. That and suddenly rampant gun violence and racism. What is there to “fix” particularly when the opportunity for C-H-A-N-G-E presents itself?
And third, because I was right and “they” were wrong. The supposedly older, wiser generation (well, they were older) did not see the new reality. They did not understand the seriousness of the issues. They gave us nostalgia. They gave us guilt. They gave us grief. They gave us everything but what we needed. The truth.
How do I know I was right? Because the supposedly safe, economically feasible method of disposing of toxic radiation from spent fuel bars that won’t lose its deadly radioactivity for (10,000) years wasn’t just around the corner. They didn’t invent it when they needed it. Today, it still doesn’t exist. It doesn’t. Check it out. Look it up, do your research, take a stand, whatever your age. Vote for Bernie. He’s electable (don’t believe the cable news hype). Be the adult, even when they, the actual adults won’t. My advice? Listen to Greta. Climate change is man-made and the existential threat is real. Trust and believe in yourselves because for the most part, they, the adults who as I have shown from my own experience do not always know what is better for themselves, much less you, won’t. And that’s wrong. That’s why we had Three Mile Island. This is why the polar ice caps are melting. This is my past. It is also, your future.
Did you get your fill of Phil?