His name may not be familiar to you, unless you're my age or older. He was a product of an earlier time in this country, a time when patriotism was something that was not only authentic, but a little dangerous. He and the generation of which he was part believed that the only thing better than the America of today was the America of tomorrow--but that, to get there, we needed to come face-to-face with our weaknesses as a country and address them head on. He was not afraid to do so, whether than meant working within the system or working outside of it.
He was not motivated by a love of power. He did not lose his soul in the rough-and-tumble of the times and the politics through which he lived. He was not afraid to be controversial. He was not afraid to take on the system, even at personal cost. And he did so much to make all of our lives better. And all of us, no matter where we are politically, are better off for it.
His name was Tom Hayden. You can, if you wish to either learn or reminisce, read here.
In reflecting on Hayden's life and death, I find myself wishing that my only concern was for his family and close friends, who will certainly miss him in a way that those of us who did not know him personally can never do. Instead, I find myself concerned with much more than that.
We live in phenomenally narcissistic times. We live primarily for ourselves. We talk far too much about the issues of the day, but do to little to make a difference with respect to any of them. Truthfully, many of us don't give enough of a damn, not at least in the way that Hayden did. You care about an issue? Fine. Are you willing to go on trial for it? He did. Still interested in making a difference? Well, guess what? Sometimes, to do that, going to jail is exactly what you need to do.
I wonder and worry whether we have enough of those people left. I wonder and worry whether we will have enough of them for the battles that lie ahead. I hope and pray that Tom Hayden's memory is enough to inspire all of us, or at least many of us, to rise to the challenge his life and memory give to the rest of us.