Looking out at the snowy plain where the massacre happened, I had trouble believing that less than a hundred years ago, this nation's sense of struggle was so profound that people set up strike camp sites and braved the harsh Rocky Mountain winters all to secure the basic right of union recognition. And when I got back into my car, I turned on the book-on-tape version of Taylor Branch's riveting "At Canaan's Edge: America In the King Years, 1965-68." That same feeling of disbelief came over me. Just four decades ago, America was so full of uprising spirit, that a man like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to lead a movement to fight off the ugliest form of bigotry. Just four decades ago, America was so full of uprising spirit, that a man like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was able to lead a movement to fight off the ugliest form of bigotry.
In traveling the country over the last year reporting for my upcoming book, "The Uprising" (due out this Spring), I really do believe that movement potential now exists in America once again - and that is saying a lot.
Since the 1960s, our country has been afflicted by a sense of hopelessness - a sense that movements are unable to be built in America, and therefore that seemingly insurmountable problems will never be able to be solved. But it must have been the same on the eve of the great successes of the labor and civil rights movements. In the early 20th century, workers were grasping for protections not yet created, and in the 1960s, African-Americans were reaching for rights never before granted them in our country's history. And they faced the same reactionary Establishment attack machine that we face today. As Branch's book notes, it was Robert Novak who back during a key moment of King's ascension, attacked the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee as "infiltrated by beatnik left-wing revolutionaries, and--worst of all--by Communists" - a slander that historian Garry Wills says Novak probably got "directly or indirectly from J. Edgar Hoover."