This was supposed to be about a fun night, last Friday night, and if I had written it immediately, the tone and texture would be very different. But I hesitated, internally citing the usual reasons: It was late. I had a cold. I wanted time to savor the experience so that magical words would flow and all would be right with the world.
The truth is that I sensed there was more to the story, a more profound significance that I could not yet fully realize. A bad moon rising. Events that have occurred during the last couple of days have proven that to be so.
It began on Facebook, itself a phenomenon that escapes the comprehension of someone like me, who used to hide from census takers, but who has now sacrificed every shred of my privacy so I can hang out in a virtual space with friends from elementary school. It seems an entire book could be written about that startling fact alone.
Last Friday was the 69th birthday of Roger Daltrey, lead singer for The Who, he of "Hope I Die Before I Get Old" fame. Feeling playful, I posted a Happy Birthday wish to Roger, and attached a youtube link of My Generation, the song which cites the aforementioned line. That didn’t seem sufficient, so I added a link of The Who singing My Generation at Woodstock in 1969. Which led to a Janis Joplin at Woodstock link. Following that was a link of Gracie Slick singing White Rabbit at Woodstock. Sly and the Family Stone. Arlo Guthrie. Carlos Santana. Crosby, Stills & Nash. Creedence Clearwater Revival. Country Joe and the Fish (“And it’s one-two-three-what-are-we-fighting-for?”). Jimi Hendrix' timeless rendition of the National Anthem, masterfully using his electric guitar to simulate the sound and fury of war. Richie Haven’s primal scream for Freedom! Joe Cocker covering the Beatles (“I get by with a little help from my friends”).
By now I had a following: a delightful mixture of friends with whom I grew up; friends with whom I went to college; friends from where I have been living for the past 17 years, one of whom had actually been at Woodstock and was losing her mind in reliving the memories; Facebook and Twitter friends I have never even met in person. In one hilarious exchange, even my beloved aunt weighed in -- one of those immeasurably priceless moments during which, as only family can, she anticipated and responded to a comment precisely as I was typing it. Those are the occurrences that make the thoroughly corrupted Facebook experience palatable:
Declaring myself a virtual spinner, I started taking requests. It lasted for hours, and in the end it was the music that connected us -- the passion and idealism and righteous indignation it expressed refreshed the passion and idealism and righteous indignation of our youth, now long gone. In surveying the line-up of talent at Woodstock 44 years ago, the racial and gender diversity was astonishingly natural. Today, every event is scripted carefully, the result of which is a strained appearance of diversity, and that backward trend could also be the subject of an entire book.
I am a lawyer. I am an activist. For nearly 17 months, I have been providing pro bono legal advice to passionate and idealistic collectives as disparate as Anonymous; the Occupy movement; members of the information systems security community. There are varying viewpoints. There are strategic differences. There are love affairs. There are betrayals. There are marriages and babies born -- some healthy, others with the same conditions that afflict the non-activist community. There are divorces and heartbreak and tears of frustration. There are brilliant young minds imprisoned because of a stupid mistake, or a stupid law. There have been deaths and there have been suicides. All of these real life experiences play out in the virtual world of the Internet, specifically on Twitter, amid the same righteous indignation about the state of the world that fueled the sixties and which I continue to experience. Looming over it all is the constant presence of the federal government: snooping, posing as agent provocateurs, pretending to be one’s best friend and fiercest warrior while data mining. The atmosphere is taut with anxiety, and it is not a place for the faint of heart. Usually I check in late at night (really, in the wee hours of the morning) just to get a pulse reading, and because during what I call “The Witching Hour” on Twitter, often some of the most entertaining and enlightening observations I have ever read are rendered. That night in my timeline was this tweet:
Of course, I laughed out loud. Yet at the same time it haunted me. Besides being funny of the gallows-humor sort, that short sentence was dazzlingly encompassing in acknowledging today’s reality: the possibility of a prison sentence for downloading music! This group of warriors knows what it’s up against, far more so than those who frolicked at Woodstock. One of my favorite Twitter activists mused during last night’s “Witching Hour” that the United States government has gone “bat shit crazy rogue,” and he is correct. Though I firmly believe that “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden,” as Joni Mitchell wrote after Woodstock, I see that possibility dwindling by the day.