SNCC holds a reunion, from young and black to old and gray. Ron Radosh writes:
These days, there is nothing old civil rights activists like to do better than hold reunions, where like World War II veterans, they trade war stories, recall the “good fight,” and praise themselves for leading the struggle which eventually led to the election of America’s first African-America President.
It should be no surprise then to find SNCC (the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) activists “now averaging 65 years of age” engaging at such nostalgia at their recent reunion in Raleigh, North Carolina.
There was some attempt to insist on the relevance of SNCC today. Eric Holder “told the SNCC veterans, ‘There is a straight line from those lunch counter sit-ins to the Oval Office today.’ The purpose of the event was not simply to reminisce, but to ‘rekindle the spirit of 1960 and build on SNCC’s achievements,’ Holder added. ‘There is still marching to be done.’”
But mostly it was reminiscence and self-congratulation, of a kind so old, and hackneyed, and past its sell-by date, that, reading about it, I began to remember—of all things—Allen Ginsberg’s 1958 poem “To Aunt Rose”:
In some ways, of course, it’s a straightforward example of the Ubi Sunt genre of poem: Where are the snows of yesteryear? And, in some ways, “To Aunt Rose” is part of the mockery, then emerging, of the old Stalinist left by what would come to be called the New Left. But it ends:
And whatever one thinks of Allen Ginsberg as a poet and a man—Norman Podhoretz wrote a personalized and fascinating and damning analysis back in 1997—that’s a pretty good line, which we ought to remember for a variety of occasions in which we find ourselves refusing to let go of the past lest we not matter in the present: the war in Spain has ended long ago, / Aunt Rose.