“Takin’ it to the Streets,” by Alexander Bloom and Wini Breines

Takin' it to the Streets

“Takin’ it to the Streets” is a very good, extensive collection of primary documents from numerous sources, as well as succinct and helpful introductions by the editors that help to identify the selections and put them in context. It should be a valuable resource for scholars and non-scholars alike, though an index would have made it somewhat more user-friendly.

The book consists mostly of selections from the leftist and counter-culture movements of the ’60s, though there is a token pro-Establishment section with items from the likes of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.

Due to my own personal interests, I would have appreciated seeing more selections from the nonviolent elements of the ’60s movements—the pacifists, nonviolent anarchists, Gandhians, conscientious objectors, etc. Certainly the book does not neglect these elements entirely, but they are not as well represented as I might have liked.

Many things struck me in reading this book. I found the idealism—and what some would dismiss as naivete—of some of the early civil rights activists and of the Free Speech Movement leaders among others to be quite appealing. On the other hand, many of the selections serve as useful reminders that the factionalism, the bitter strident rhetoric, the simplistic ideologies, the in-fighting, the condemnation of anyone not accepted as a co-victim, etc. that I tend to think of as mostly insignificant excesses that arose late in the game after years of defeat and frustration were actually present all along.

What you won’t find much of is the cynicism, apathy, smugness, defeatism, etc. of more recent times. Whatever is objectionable about some of the people you’ll encounter in these selections, at least they had a sincerity about them, a desire to make their society and their world a better place, and a willingness to take action in accordance with their ideals. A few of them and their ideological descendants in the politically correct crowd have surely done more harm than good, but on the whole, they were on the right side of the vast majority of the issues they fought on, and even their quite limited successes have left us with slightly more freedom and justice, and slightly less war-tolerance than before they came along.

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