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Editor’s note: This commentary is by Bob Stannard, an author, musician and former lobbyist. This piece first appeared in the Bennington Banner.

The first major conflict of my lifetime began on Nov. 1, 1955, and ended on April 30, 1975. Initially, there was not a lot of involvement from the public. The conflict just sort of bubbled along and people just went along with their lives.

It was a pretty good time. World War II had ended a decade earlier. Returning soldiers found jobs that paid reasonably well and they raised families. Mom stayed home with the kids while dad went to work. Nobody

was getting rich, but they were OK. If you were conservative with your money, you could perhaps take a week or two vacation, own your own home, and maybe even buy a new car on one salary. Vietnam was on the other side of the world. Who cares?

As the ‘50s morphed into the ‘60s the “conflict” escalated. (It was never a declared war so our government could avoid asking Congress for an official declaration of war. Our cowardly Congress was all too happy to not have to make that decision.) The draft was reinstated and kids from all walks of life were being called to serve (unless, of course you had a rich daddy and/or fake bone spurs). 

When I graduated from high school in 1969 the war was raging. Kids were dying and those who weren’t were really, really angry. They started protesting … and didn’t stop.

Some of the best music in our history came out of these tumultuous times. Songs of peace and love became battle cries — not to feel good, but to end the war. The kids never let up. They couldn’t because they feared for their lives and the lives of their friends. Although the government tried to hide the dead from us, there were too many dead kids to hide. Yes, there were marches, but there were also riots. People were angry, because of the failure of government to adequately explain why we were at war and when it would end. And yes we were lied to.

Fast forward 50 years. I thought for sure that when we were lied to and led into the war in Iraq that resulted in permanent destabilization of the Mideast that the kids would wake up. They didn’t, primarily because there’s no draft. Same can be said for Afghanistan, a “conflict that has occupied our troops and treasure for 18 years now and no one seems to care. No protesting. No great music. Nothing.

Now along comes a sweet, innocent 16-year-old girl from Sweden. Greta Thunberg is a very smart and very courageous young lady who’s concerned about her future … and yours as well. A self-described environmental activist, she arrived on our shores to raise awareness about our overheating planet — a crisis we’ve opted to ignore and have been lied to about by the likes of Exxon saying climate change is a hoax. Not surprisingly scientists around the world disagree with Exxon.

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On Sept. 20, in what is being described as the largest worldwide protest in history, 4 million people demanded that their leaders start leading on the issue of climate change. It’s been my lifetime experience that leaders are perfectly content to NOT lead and will only do so when there is pressure to lead. Two things drive politicians — money and people — and as long as the people are quiet, politicians will listen to those who give them money rather than to voters. It’s been this way for the past 50 years. The people have been way too quiet for way too long and have allowed the monied folks to take over our country.

For the first time since I graduated from college in 1973 it appears as though our kids are finally waking up. This time it’s a different kind of war. It’s not a war with another country (well, not yet although it does appear as though the president is needing a war to distract the people, again). This is a war about saving the planet. As I have said before, we need not worry about the Earth. The Earth will be just fine. It will run a fever just like you do when you get the flu and it will burn the virus (you and me) to a crisp, just like your body does when it runs a fever. As your body slowly rids itself of whatever it is that is causing you to run a fever, so will the Earth rid itself of the virus, or invasive species, that is causing the Earth great angst. The Earth will be just fine. 

The people, on the other hand, not so fine.

The question that remains is just how mad are the kids? Was the Global Climate March a one-off event where we all feel good and go back home? Or is it the beginning of the end of the corruption that has led us to where we are today?

My time’s winding down. It’s their time now. Better make the most of it, because the stakes are way higher than when I was a kid. If you want things to change don’t let up.

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