The two most bohemian towns in Michigan
are Ann Arbor and Royal Oak. In these vestiges of ’60s hippy
liberalism, it is still not out of the ordinary to see people with
multicolored hair and multiple piercings, carrying with them the
scents of various forms of plant life. How many other cities could
credibly host Hash Bash annually?

Shabina Khatri

But the times are finally beginning to catch up with Royal Oak
and Ann Arbor. The former is now host to one of Barnes and Noble’s
latest flagship stores as the city seeks to revitalize itself by
attracting other such chains. Ann Arbor’s unique atmosphere is
slowly being replaced by national chains as local establishments
such as Decker Drugs, Ethnic Creations, Shiva Moon, Lure and Boss
Guitar all exit the city’s commercial districts. I see this
destruction of localism not only as a manifestation of the triumph
of capitalism and the homogenization of culture that have been
taking place for years, but also as a symbol of what has happened
to the political movement associated with Ann Arbor.

When our parents attended this university during the
Vietnam-era, it was host to more protests than any other university
in the country, except the University of California at Berkeley. It
was an era befitting such a movement. The country’s three greatest
leaders (all of whom were young) were assassinated and then
replaced by older, out-of-touch leaders caught up in what turned
out to be an unnecessary, never-ending war.

Two thousand three could not be more different than that era.
Following a decade of great prosperity that made it difficult to
mobilize a truly progressive movement, the United States has just
entered an era in which it faces real security threats. The
bombings in Casablanca and Riyadh only reinforce this reality. It
seems impossible that any old-time progressive could ever get
elected president now. No member of the idealistic Left will be
able to defeat President Bush. Issues such as healthcare are
important, but the average American values his safety and security
over goals that liberals have been promising to achieve since Harry
Truman was president. So it seems that bohemia and the political
movement associated with it are dead.

But why is this? Why did so many children of the ’60s cut their
hair and don suits and ties instead of tie-dye. My guess is that
even the most idealistic person cannot continue living in a fantasy
world through three assassinations, the Nixon presidency, a lack of
any viable Democratic candidates for decades, the Reagan
administration and the tragedy that was the Clinton
administration.

I think, however, that there is something much more significant
involved in the dissipation of the U.S. progressive movement, and
that is self-destruction. Subscribers to this political persuasion
never learned to adapt to a changing world. They have been bent on
rejecting reality and living in the haze of an earlier era.

Instead of embracing the triumph of capitalism, much of the Left
turned against it, fighting to block free trade and slow
globalization even though trying to stop globalization is like
trying to keep the sun from coming up – it can’t be done and is
merely a waste of time that helps no one. A movement that is out of
touch with reality has no chance of finding political support and
winning elections. The Left can only survive by focusing on
achieving liberal goals through more realistic means. This means
envisioning a progressive worldview that does not disregard the
state of world affairs.

Unions, for example, are still operating on the same model as
when Henry Ford ran Ford Motor Company. And while many of the roles
that unions have played have not changed since then – collective
bargaining and workers’ rights remain hugely important – workers
can no longer count on supporting a family by doing the same task
on an assembly line for 30 years. Unions would better serve their
members by getting into the business of providing workers with
training and education – in short, helping them adapt to the
realities of a global economy – than by fighting the North American
Free Trade Agreement.

George W. Bush is the president, U.S. Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas)
is the most powerful man in Congress and William Renquist is the
chief justice of the Supreme Court. Liberals aren’t doing too well
in this country, which means it’s time for a new strategy. If they
don’t figure out a way for bohemia and the aforementioned national
chains to coexist, I have no doubt as to who will win that
fight.

Pesick can be reached at
“mailto:jzpesick@umich.edu”>jzpesick@umich.edu .

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