Teaching Their Parents Well


AS I WATCHED HUNDREDS-OF-THOUSANDS of young Americans marching for their lives on Saturday 24 March, these were the words in my head.

And you, of tender years,
Can’t know the fears that your elders grew by,
And so please help them with your youth,
They seek the truth before they can die.

Teach your parents well,
Their children’s hell will slowly go by,
And feed them on your dreams
The one they picks, the one you’ll know by.

Yes, I know, the song “Teach Your Children” is nearly 50 years old. Even so, there’s something so bitter-sweet about Graham Nash’s composition; something so touchingly intergenerational and solidaristic; that the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young hit simply took up residence in my skull and refused to leave.


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Released in 1970, on the CSNY album Deja Vu, the song climbed to No. 16 on Billboard’s Pop Singles Chart. Tellingly, the social and political context of “Teach Your Children” was every bit as polarised as that into which the March For Our Lives organisers decanted so many young Americans last weekend.

In the same month that the song was released, May 1970, Ohio National Guardsmen at Kent State University had opened fire on unarmed students protesting President Richard Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia, killing four and wounding nine. CSNY band-member, Neil Young, upon learning of the so-called “Kent State Massacre”, sat down and composed “Ohio” which was recorded and pressed with record speed to come out just days after the release of “Teach Your Children”.

From both an emotional and a political standpoint, the two compositions could hardly have been further apart. Nash’s “Teach Your Children” speaks tenderly to the shared hopes and fears of young and old alike, and to the need for honest communication between the generation of “parents”, who had grown up during the Great Depression and World War II, and their post-war baby-boom “children” (the oldest of whom were then in their early-20s). Young’s song, by contrast, is a raw and angry cry of protest, capturing perfectly the shock and horror of witnessing “Amerika” – “The Establishment” – literally turning its guns on its own children.

Tin Soldiers and Nixon coming,

We’re finally on our own.

This summer I hear the drumming,

Four dead in Ohio



The huge achievement of the young organisers behind March For Our Lives is to have recognised in the National Rifle Association (NRA) and its political enablers, the same malign constellation of social and economic forces responsible for visiting the Vietnam conflict upon American youth fifty years earlier.

The same glorification of physical force that gave rise to such obscene military expressions as “body count” and “search and destroy mission”, is today locked and loaded into the political Right’s fanatical reverence for the Second Amendment.

The same authoritarian, quasi-fascist, worship of toughness which mandated full-scale war in Indochina, manifests itself today in the compulsive need of all those Americans who cannot cope with difference to amass deadly “defensive” arsenals of semi-automatic weapons and handguns.

And just as the 1969 My Lai Massacre made clear what happens when young men are encouraged to believe that the hearts and minds of civilian populations are best won by pumping them full of lead; the deadly, twenty-year epidemic of US school shootings has demonstrated the horrific consequences of arming the narcissism and nihilism of alienated and aggrieved young men at home.

The assignment which today’s young anti-violence activists have taken on is, however, a much tougher one than the anti-war crusade of their parents’ generation. The decision to fight “international communism” in Vietnam was strategically and politically motivated. As such, it could be reversed and the war it propagated brought to an end. America’s gun culture is a considerably more intractable phenomenon. Born out of White America’s deeply-entrenched fear and hatred of “the other”, it can only be successfully overcome by completing the cultural revolution begun in the 1960s.

This is a very big ask for 15-20-year-olds. In a very real sense, the political history of the United States since the end of the 1970s has been the history of the American Right’s unceasing effort to halt and roll-back the kinder, gentler America that Graham Nash, and thousands like him, were attempting to sing into existence in the 60s and 70s.

But, if the mission confronting this new generation of activists is enormous, it is not impossible. Crucial to its success will be the extent to which today’s young activists are able to teach their parents well. And that can only mean persuading them to confront the truth about what’s wrong: about what’s always been wrong; with American society.

Forty years of right-wing counter-revolution has left its mark on the Baby-Boomers. For too many of them it proved a lot easier (and much more profitable) to give up the fight for a kinder, gentler America. For those “of tender years”, the trick will be to convince their parents and grandparents that the March For Our Lives is a march for their lives too.

Gotta get down to it

Soldiers are cutting us down

Should have been done long ago.

What if you knew her

And found her dead on the ground?

How can you run when you know?


  1. You want gone control in America? Encourage all African Americans to start buying guns on mass and at the same time ferment the type of fightback against corrupt authority that the second amendment explicitly requires. You will see gun control legislation faster than you can say “Black Lives matter”.

    • This approach has worked before:

      “In 1967, 30 members of the Black Panthers protested on the steps of the California statehouse armed with .357 Magnums, 12-gauge shotguns and .45-caliber pistols and announced, “The time has come for black people to arm themselves.”

      The display so frightened politicians—including California governor Ronald Reagan—that it helped to pass the Mulford Act, a state bill prohibiting the open carry of loaded firearms, along with an addendum prohibiting loaded firearms in the state Capitol. The 1967 bill took California down the path to having some of the strictest gun laws in America and helped jumpstart a surge of national gun control restrictions.”


    • A decent general would not expose his people to unnecessary harm. Plenty of black cops want there precinct staffed with 50% black cops. They want community lead policing. Not a militarised one.

  2. Sometimes I think humans live in the twilight zone where reality is sacrificed for some collective demented psychosis where the public are simply the puppets of the media. Here we are on the verge of World War 3 and global nuclear war and this is the best these kids (anybody) can do? They don’t care about the US drone war killing innocent people every day including schools and hospitals being bombed e.g. Yemen? The B52 carpet bombing campaign of villages in Afghanistan? Operation Phoenix from Vietnam resurrected in Afghanistan going door to door systematically killing enemies of the occupation? The lies damned lies about all the false flag chemical attacks in Syria when the liberation of Ghouta has uncovered chemical weapon factories with gear and material sourced from America which was to be used to blame the Syrian government? The rule of law discarded to whip the mobs into salivating hatred of Russia to avoid an actual proper and lawful investigation of the attack on the Skirpals?

    When insanity rules the mob will get what it is baying for – the final security of total annihilation. By the way Air Force One is now on constant stand by with engines running to get Trumps and his family out of DC in case the nuclear bombs start falling. If you manage to get a split second before being incinerated by a nuclear weapon try to remember everything you didnt do to stop this from happening as in the end only the cockroaches and rats will win this war.

    • Masked Moa: you have completely described what was running through my mind as I read Chris Trotters post. These people have no appreciation of the full madness that is the U.S. Empire and their jackboot kissing vassals that unfortunately includes N.Z. Never mind the U.S. gun laws. They are the very least of the predatory greatest threat to the existence of the planet that is the U.S.They revel in paraphanalia much like Nazi Germany .The U.S. has a slave prison complex with the greatest number of inmates in the world.It has extinguished its Democracy, and is ruled by an oligarchy and deep state . The military industrial complex guarantees and is set up for permanent war.Up to a quarter of those running for the U.S. Congress are ex National Security members. A large number of those in charge of Defence/ the State Department are Ex military. It looks like Adolf Hitlers War Cabinet.And so we get a little collateral damage in this psychotic fascist state. My heart bleeds. I feel their pain!!!

      • Evidently a number of US Industrialists were behind the Nazi Death Camps, makes you wonder some times ?

    • The Masked Moa:”Here we are on the verge of World War 3 and global nuclear war and this is the best these kids (anybody) can do?…..The rule of law discarded to whip the mobs into salivating hatred of Russia to avoid an actual proper and lawful investigation of the attack on the Skirpals?”

      Indeed: my sentiments as well. Just lately, I’ve read articles by too many US liberals, who collectively, it seems, have no idea at all of what is being done – and has been done over many years – to innocents the world over. And in their names. It isn’t just the moral and military disaster of Vietnam: would that it were! Violent intervention into other polities by the US was going on long before Vietnam, and has continued long after it. Why do they hate us indeed….

      “…the history of the American Right’s unceasing effort to halt and roll-back the kinder, gentler America…”

      Or maybe it was this to which they were reacting? I’ll take a bet that many NZers either don’t know about, or have completely forgotten, the events described here. But maybe the much-maligned US Right haven’t?


    • Heartening to see we are not expelling any Russian diplomats. Good on Jacinda. And Simon too.
      D J S

      • David Stone: “Heartening to see we are not expelling any Russian diplomats. Good on Jacinda. And Simon too.”

        Indeed. I never thought I’d hear myself saying this: thank heavens for Simon Bridges!

        But it comes as a surprise when I think about the fictional narrative regarding Russian perfidy, that I heard him come out with a couple of days ago on RNZ. Maybe an official set him right?

      • David Stone: “Heartening to see we are not expelling any Russian diplomats. Good on Jacinda. And Simon too.”

        Unfortunately, he was singing a different tune on tonight’s news.

        On the bright side, John Campbell at Checkpoint – apparently in the interests of piss-taking – asked for any Russian spies in NZ to get in touch by txt. By the time I’d stopped listening at 6pm, he’d had one response, I think.

  3. “Forty years of right-wing counter-revolution has left its mark on the Baby-Boomers. For too many of them it proved a lot easier (and much more profitable) to give up the fight for a kinder, gentler America.”

    The truth was that the vast majority of babyboomers weren’t part of the counter culture/hippy movement. Country Joe McDonald of Country Joe and the Fish, once said that you only had to drive a few miles in from the California coast and you were in redneck country.

  4. This is a protest about guns, the #metoo protests are about gender equality…these are important, no argument there, just like the protests over racism and the war back in the 60’s, or Anti Nuclear and homosexual law reform in the 80s in NZ…but they are not about the so called Democratic’ system or the Economic system…so they are allowed, that’s why there are so many neo liberal politicians and celebrities at these things recently, they are a great safety valve.

    The sort of thing that makes young people think there are big changes and progress, without anything really changing that effects the establishment and power structures.

    And like Feminism and Racial Equality these movements have a habit of delivering very mixed results once the certain groups co opt them.

  5. So you think of counter-culture songs?


    I think of the squabbling, screaming, murderous ape-ancestors in Kubrick’s ‘2001: a Space Odyssey’…

    Like everyone else in the jungle, the baby-boomers sold out.

    How long will it take these kids?

  6. Humanity might have always behaved like this. We might be just like an overpopulation of rats. Though amid plenty the social fabric brakes down when there are too many of us. Love and intimacy is abused and distorted, children are neglected and abused and murdered en mass like might have been what happened in the shopping mall fire in Russia with the fire alarm switched off and all the fire exits locked.
    Not only were the Ohio students young people though, so were the soldiers who shot them, and the actors of the My Lai massacre. It isn’t that young people want peace and old people want war. The antiwar activists and believers in peace in 1970 have only grown more strongly antiwar with ageing , not changed their minds. The problem is with the people who put themselves forward to lead . They are not representative of the nature of the masses. They want war for their own aggrandisement , and the stage is being set for another major round right now as the media is full of false accusations and condemnation of Russia. I agree entirely with Moa.
    D J S

  7. Should American public let the police decide who should or should not have/carry a weapon?
    Should the CIA decide based on their extensive data base?
    Should Americans hand over their guns to their government?
    Civil war is said to be coming to America along with the opening up of the FEMA camps.
    Perhaps it’s best that Americans keep control of their weapons until there is a clean up of the government, alphabet agencies, police and military. In a country where money is god I don’t see that happening.

  8. Utterly ridiculous. Once again these arrogant young idiots have been duped into pushing the deep state corporatocracy agenda. The 2nd amendment of the US constitution is their only protection from the tyrannical government that controls their nation. The same people who rightly accuse the police of corruption would have it that the only people armed are those same police officers. I’m 26 year old and left wing but can’t possibly agree with these kids destructive stance. Ultimately if the US government put more resources into mental health and fixing their woeful education system then the shootings would reduce without further government infringements on Americans civil liberties.

  9. “America’s cops are racist violent assholes who shoot first and ask questions later, and the American military are bloodthirsty, invasive warmongers with little regard for human life.”

    “The American state should have an exclusive monopoly on violence, and the American public should not be capable of engaging in armed self defence with military style weapons.”

    Pick one. Or continue to pretend you can credibly pick both, and I’ll file your opinions in the appropriate category.

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