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14-Love Letters from Vietnam - Hippies: What Generation Xers and Millennials Should Know

Updated on September 17, 2014

Please Note:

1. I've attached this Hub to the letters posted from Vietnam because I have been taken aback by the spin that recent references to Hippies seems to have taken on.

2. For followers of the episodes of "Tim and Kate Plus Fate - 60's Love Letters from Vietnam," I'm in the process of changing the title of these letters to the more search-able phrase: "Love Letters from Vietnam". The numbers of the posts all reflect the same order. I think this might make the index of letters easier to find and understand ! Cheers from Kate.

Cover of the Woodstock Album - And 40 Years Later

"What resonates most about the photo (above) is that it speaks to what many Woodstock veterans consider to be the true meaning of the festival -- not just music but a movement of peace, love and unity. In a recent interview with Spinner, Woodstock performer Richie Havens cited a Martin Luther King Jr. speech, saying 'It's not him or him or him, it's all of us or nothing. That was our thing, that's what we went against the war with.'"

(AOL feature Iconic Woodstock Couple Keeps Festival Spirit Alive)

"Let me 'splain it to you, Lucy"

Link to Complete Index of Letters

You learn a lot when you write a hub. You pay more attention to facts related to the particular essay that's cookin' in your brain. You keep opening the kitchen cupboards, so to speak, to see if there's something else you might add to the soup to enhance the flavor of the words coming off of your fingertips. And in the process you find things in the cupboard that you didn't even know were there.

History Channel Documentary - "Right On, Man"

(Update on History Channel Documentary (May 2014) The paragraph below is in reference to a video I found on youtube which has apparently since been removed. I've subsituted that video with one by Tano Vese, which is well done and provides some of the motivations for and noble purposes of the hippie movement. If you can find the History Channel video mentioned below, it will provide a great insight from those who actually participated in the movement as they look back years later).

I knew ever since I started posting my old letters from Tim during the Vietnam era, I wanted to write about the hippie movement. I wanted to explain why, if you were to call me an "old hippie," I would feel flattered, perhaps even honored. So I started to research the topic, and in the process came across an excellent documentary from the History Channel that I embedded in this Hub. The people interviewed are close to my age and their memories and experiences with the hippie movement match my own views and experiences closer than any of the other videos about this subject that I found posted on youtube. The narrations, especially by the two women teachers, Linda Scott and Jackie Owens, could not express my views more accurately.

Since I started archiving the letters I received during Vietnam under the episodic hubs, "Tim and Kate Plus Fate - a 60's Love Story in Letters," (now changed to: "Love Letters from Vietnam") I have felt an insistent need to try to explain what the hippie movement meant to Tim, myself, and our friends at the time. The need has sprung forth from a recent awareness of how hippies are spoken of by both the generation before me and the younger generations with whom I come in contact.

The Generation Just Before Us - Born in the 30's and early 40's (roughly those in their 70's)

Through years of listening to acquaintances, I have always understood that many, (but let me add, not all) of the people older than I am really never understood the whole hippie movement. They are in their 70's now and many relate the same view that seems to blame all ills of society on the free-thinking spirit that was going on at the time. In particular, I find that they tend to link what they see as permissiveness in child rearing to the hippie movement. I understand how that view stems from the generation behind me; what I don't understand is how Gen Xers (those born after the Baby Boom) seem to view the Hippie Movement.

The Generations After Us - Gen X-ers and Y-ers - Born in mid 60's through 90's

You know how you get a new red Toyota, for example, and suddenly notice how many other red Toyotas are on the road? Well, since I've started typing these letters and thinking about the Hippie Movement, I've noticed how often the term "hippie" is flung around in the media and in general conversation. I admit that I've been a bit shocked and saddened recently hearing comments by the generations after me - the 20 and 30, even 40 and 50 year-olds. (Oh my gosh, I just now realized that there are actually four, (count 'em, four) adult decades before me. Well, lucky for me that I'm still here. So, onward).

Just In the past month, I have noticed at least six or seven disparaging references to hippies - even in my own family. My daughter recently met her boyfriend's parents and seemed to try to explain them with the comment, "Well, they're just kind of the hippy sort." It was the "just" that got to me. There was nothing "just" about hippies. It was a time of bold and noble ideas. As Linda Owens in the video states, "We were doing what needed to be done. We were doing what we needed to do to get rid of the terrible war in Vietnam." Owens continues to say in this documentary that "...for a lot of us it was a protest…against what we saw as the injustices of the world."

"Hippies" In Stand-Up

During the past month, I've also gone to several comedy performances in LA. (My daughter is an actor, singer, and stand-up commedianne as well.) In the most recent performances that I saw, there were at least two references by male comics in their 20's and 30's to "dirty hippies". Again, I was shocked and with absolutely no awe involved! So let me try to supplement the video and explain my view of who we were.

Who We Really Were

It's amusing to hear people my age admit that if as many people who now claimed they were at Woodstock actually were, the state would have sunk into the ground! But it's true. Many of us who are my age weren't there but wish we had been because we understand that it was more than a concert - it was a pivotal, meaningful, transitional moment in history.

To us, Woodstock was inherently connected to the peace movement and every fight against any injustice we perceived. More importantly, those of us who never went, feel that we should have been there. Why weren't we? We were connected to "hippie thought" in an intimate way. We embraced it, admired those who embraced it, and unlike the generation before us and the generations after us, we still do.

For many of us, there is guilt for not being more of a hippie at the time. Why, for example, did I protest only once, alone, and only with plebbie petitions I asked people to sign? Why did I wait until Tim was in the Army to really understand what was going on in Vietnam? (see "Vietnam Love Letter" hubs)

The truth is that many of us were in college struggling to get through rigorous majors. My professor in Deaf Education, for example, was relentless in her quest for our excellence. There was no time for parties, no time for protests, no time to attend the lectures on campus related to Vietnam, no time to even smoke pot!

In addition, many of us were afraid of disappointing our parents by growing our hair long and expressing views we knew pained them. We were trying to tread lightly. But in our hearts we were aware of the injustices of racism and extreme contra-indications of the Vietnam War, and in our souls, we were hippies! We did what we could. We embraced the thinking of the time and read "The Prophet" by Gibran. We admired the girls in long skirts handing out flowers to the soldiers who guarded the campuses where they protested. We wished we were brave enough to do what they were doing. I remember trying to iron my hair straight once on the ironing board and then giving up on that. I remember talking with Matt and Anne about living together in a commune, and I remember giving that up. I remember meeting with a priest about Tim deserting from the Army and the two of us escaping to another country, and giving that up. I remember arguing with my father, the World War II veteran, about the immorality of the war in Vietnam, and I remember him softening. I didn't give up on that, and that is a battle I just might have won. 


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