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The Legacy of the 60's Generation Part Two
“Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.”
Most are gone now. The radicals, the movers and shakers, the spit in your eye outcasts and rejects who shouted from mountaintops and stood before rifles defying the Establishment….mostly all gone. Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Fred Hampton, gone. Bobby Seale and Angela Davis are still out there somewhere, much quieter now, not as easily recognized, their towering voices a mere whisper of what they once were.
The Youth International Party, the Black Panthers, the Weathermen, the Revolutionary Youth Movement and the Students for a Democratic Society….they are all gone.
JFK, RFK, Martin Luther King, Jr…..all gone.
The movement seemed to lose energy before our very eyes. The Vietnam War ended, social changes were accomplished and the lifeblood of so many drained off the public landscape and were paved over by a return to normalcy. By 1975 it was as though the firebrands had all gone mute, or simply grown tired of the struggle, and America fired up their Weber grills and took a deep breath and rested….and rested….and rested.
As a country we returned to those things that had always brought us comfort. We returned to work, and we watched our pro teams battle it out and we went about the business of doing business. We settled down and raised our families, and we bought the latest gadgets and parked our two cars in the garage.
It would be so simple to say that the fervor to change society had died, but that would be an injustice. It would be so simple to say that after 1975 the harsh voice of radicalism died, but in truth that voice gained maturity and developed a softer more melodic sound.
Progress does not happen overnight. It is a continual flow of efforts and ideas, and today we see the fruits of the labor that was begun fifty years ago.
The first part of this short series
- The Death of the 60's Generation Part One
Is it truly gone? Are the hopes and dreams of an entire generation just a part of history?
Today Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory
“Free at last, free at lastThank God almightyWe are free at last.”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Is there any doubt in anyone’s mind that the Civil Rights Movement has seen great successes? Prior to the 60’s black men and women were bent over under the weight of segregation, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that many had given up hope that they would ever experience the freedoms known by the whites.
Today, although blacks are still behind economically, there are signs of great strides being made for racial equality. The struggle is not over, but because of efforts made during the Sixties we are closer than ever to seeing freedom for all races. The radicals of that era are working within the system now, and even if they are gone from this earth, their legacy has inspired hundreds of thousands to continue working for their common goal.
In 1963 I wonder if anyone other than the greatest optimists could envision a black President?
The legacy continues
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Burn the Bra, Baby!
Stop for a moment and picture in your mind the quintessential woman of the 1950’s. Most would say that they picture a stay-at-home mom who does the cooking and cleaning and raises the kids, and on average that would be an accurate statement. Gender bias was accepted in the workplace, and although women did have equal rights under the Constitution there is little doubt that in society those rights had very little substance.
Then came the Feminist Movement of the 60’s, a tidal wave of mammoth proportions that simply could not be ignored, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Today, although wages still lag below those of men in comparable jobs, the gap is narrowing, and women can be found in the upper echelons of every major corporation and political structure.
Could we see the day when a woman becomes President? Quite possibly we will very soon, and it is my contention that the feminist movement of the 60’s has slowly worked within the system so that today anything is possible.
More Social Change
Although environmentalism did not start in the 60’s it certainly gained enough momentum to affect great change in our current thinking. Today the concept of recycling is as normal as breathing for Americans, but not so before the 60’s. Today we are concerned about global warming and the destruction of resources. Today we are concerned about finding alternative energy and saving the wilderness. Where do you think that social conscience came from?
And it continues! The words “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” have been with us since 1776, but today citizens are beginning to believe their true meaning can become a reality. Gay marriage, single-parent adoptions and a plethora of other social reforms are all a part of the fabric of this country, and we can see the influence of the Love Generation in their enactment.
And here we see perhaps the greatest result of the 1960’s. I asked in Part One of this article what had happened to the rabble-rousers of fifty years ago? The answer, in many cases, is that they changed their approach and decided to work within the system. The Establishment did not break them, but it was also obvious that they could not break the Establishment. Thus, if you can’t beat it, join it and make it work for you.
I do not believe for a second that the former hippies and activists lost touch with the movement. I believe we see them today in all walks of life, working for social change in their own quiet, unassuming way. We find them working at jobs that raise awareness. We find them working for non-profit organizations. We find them working in environmental jobs, in the social service sector and yes, in the political sector. We find them working in the Arts, sculpting, painting, creating music with instruments and with the pen.
Each, in their own way, is crafting a better world, and as a civilization we are all better for it.
The Dream Continues
“Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...
You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one”
The words of John Lennon live on today, and if Lennon were alive he would have to admit that progress has been made. The legacy of peace on earth has been passed down from the 60’s dreamers to their children, a small ripple in the sea of time, growing slowly as it moves through the years, until it becomes a quiet, unstoppable tidal wave of change.
No, change does not happen quickly, but it does happen. Viewed in increments of days it is hard to see, but viewed over the years we can definitely see that change has happened and it continues to happen.
We are a better world because of what happened during that tumultuous decade, and as a society we will continue to carry the legacy that was handed down by a determined group of dreamers. Perhaps the greatest gift that they gave us was a social conscience. They forced us to look at the way we live and the way we treat others. It was painful at times, but most lessons worth learning are painful.
All you need is love! All you need is a willingness to accept and respect others! All you need is a desire to make this world a better place!
Never underestimate the power of a small group of determined people.
2013 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)