The Sixties: If You Remember Them, You Weren't There
In the Sixties Darkest Years
Before the counterculture and the hippie movement brightened hope for a renewed American Dream, Peter McCarthy struggled to find out where he belonged in the coming of age story from 1965.
Growing Up Hippie and Sticking with It
It's not the wins or losses but the decision to do, to screw and screw up, that makes a life worth remembering.
True Only If You Really Weren't There
The last time I heard the familiar nonsense about the 1960s, "If you remember the sixties you weren't there," it was repeated by my boss at a department meeting, immediately after which he turned to me for confirmation.
I wasn't about to waste my time defending the counterculture to a group whose minds had already been hardened by the drumbeat of the mass media.
And what was there to gain, anyway?
1960s If You Remember 1968 You Weren't There
If you are one of those old enough to reveled in the spirit of the Sixties, here is some of what you might have witnessed:
- Time magazine calls their designation Person of the Year these days, but in 1966, it was Man of the Year and that man, collectively, was my generation, The Baby Boomers, all of us then under twenty-five.
- The Beatles flipped pop music on its head and changed forever the way we listened to the radio. I Wanna Hold Your Hand was huge, but so was All You Need Is Love , a generation's anthem in response to worldwide oppression and war. John Lennon argued that Christianity would go away and that The Beatles were already more popular than Jesus, an obvious truth striking so close to home that mobs threatened the group and staged record burnings.
- John Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22nd, 1963, ending for many of us the fantasy of an idealized America, dedicated to peace, liberty and prosperity. His alleged killer, Lee Harvey Oswald, was murdered three days later by Jack Ruby, a strange local character whose ties to the mob were quickly scrubbed by the authorities. We have never been told the whole truth and critical evidence has been destroyed, those involved mostly silenced by death.
- In 1963, Martin Luther King led The March on Washington, where he delivered his I Have A Dream speech to a quarter of million people stretched out along The Mall. In 1964, he became the youngest person ever to win the Noble Peace Prize. On April 4th, 1968, Dr. King was also assassinated.
- Timothy Leary, along with Richard Alpert (now Ram Dass), Harvard Professors, experimented with mind altering substances, most famously LSD, and promoted the results as revolutionary. "Turn On. Tune In. Drop Out," became a slogan that got both of them fired from Harvard.
- Ominously, in 1967, President Lyndon Johnson succeeded my generation as Time's Man of the Year.
- In 1964, Congress passed and President Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, the most comprehensive legislation calling for fairness in society for all classes, races and genders since the Nineteenth Century.
- On July 6th, 1969, Apollo 11 landed the first men ever on the moon, fulfilling a pledge made by President Kennedy. It is still considered one of mankind's greatest achievements.
- Only a month after the Apollo 11 landing, Woodstock Nation gathered for three days of music, love and freedom on Max Yasgur's farm. It's unclear whether this or the political pressures brought on the established parties in 1968 represented the high point of the 1960s counterculture, but neither were matched in kind or anything close thereafter.
- On June 5th, 1968, Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles shortly after winning the California Democratic Primary. The country was told an unsustainable story about the killer being Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant claimed to have been driven to murder by American favoritism toward Israel.
Books of The Times
The 1960s - Were You There?
1960s If You Remember The Sixties You Weren't There
The Sixties weren't a sex and drug addled decade in which free love deprived young people of the ability to form memories or permanent relationships. In addition to these bullet points, there were moments of humanist cohesion and understanding.
Young people flocked to the Peace Corps, heeding President Kennedy's call to help a less privileged world. Northern liberals traveled south to help with voting rights drives intended to bring democracy to the mosquito republics for the first time.
While many answered the call of patriotism, many other young men went to jail or surrendered their citizenship rather than fight in an inhumane war against a small, impoverished Third World country.
Women gathered enough commitment and force to inaugurate their own liberation movement.
On a smaller scale, partners of every sexual inclination began learning, for the first time in history, what it was like to build personal relationships not bound by property contracts, otherwise known as marriage licenses, or the necessities of child rearing, to understand what it was like to discover each other freely.
Never mind the social forces urging us to forget that revolutionary decade, but observe the results of what began then.
Imagine what more might have happened, had our best leaders not been gunned down. Understand that, not only are women enjoying something closer to social equality than ever before, but that they are now the most powerful voting group in the country.
Without women voting, neither Bill Clinton nor Barrack Obama would have been elected and George W. Bush would have won in a landslide, as indicated by male voting patterns.
While it's true that America has become more militarized than ever, we have an African American president, a possibility unimaginable without the successes of the Sixties civil rights activists.
Conformity has continued to erode as we get farther beyond the rigid Fifties. Individuals are freer than ever to express themselves creatively, sexually, socially and vocationally.
Not on this hub, but maybe in the future, we'll explore why some groups in power are still trying to erase the Sixties. They have managed to peel back our resistance to war, and maybe we need to prepare for more.
Maybe, but let's just think about why and how and who stands to gain. Let's appreciate the victories, the memories and the long shadows cast by those momentous years. We were there, and we remember.
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- David Stone,Writer - Biography
© 2010 David Stone
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