Saturday, January 08, 2011

A Boomer reflects on the sixties

 by Rod Williams, 

"Those on the front line of the baby boom generation, once carefree souls who frolicked through the Summer of Love, are now coming to terms with an inexorable fact: The're turning 65 in 2011." (link)

I sick and tired of every news article or TV show that speaks of baby boomers, characterizing them as left wing, hippy, dope-smoking, college students. I was not a carefree soul frolicking through the summer of love in 1967, I was serving in the U. S. Air Force in the middle of Missouri. When Woodstock happened, I was in Viet Nam.

If I had not been in the service, The Summer of Love would still not have had any appeal to me except for the part about getting laid a lot. Woodstock was not my type of music and I would have had no desire to be at that orgy of excess, mud and madness. I am a boomer but don't assume I relate to Woodstock. I was more into Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, and Buck Owens.

Even marijuana use is exaggerated in its importance. Many of the kids who smoked a little dope, did not identify dope smoking as something that defined who they were. It was something they did.

Certainly there were societal changes in the sixties and changes in attitude, especially about sex and conformity. Much of the style however such as bell bottom pants and long hair, which may have started out as an anti conformity statements or rebellion, quickly became simply the new style. By the time the fashion of the sixties became popular, that fashion became the new conformity.

Sure there were a lot of weekend hippies and people who adopted a certain fashion in clothes, hair style, musical taste and politics in order to be "cool." But really, that did not amount to much either. By the mid-70's, the braless babes, grunge, beads, long hair and bare feet of the sixties were replaced by the glamor of the disco era.

The politics of not all boomers was radical either. The street theater and leftist activism may have created an impression that all youth were left-wing. That is a misconception. There was always a large conservative youth vote and by the time the bulk of the boomer generation were of voting age, most of them were voting Republican and the youth vote was owned by Ronald Reagan.

In the sixties there were many more hard-working young people who respected their parents and authority than there were hippies. There were more people married, and going to work every day and raising families than there were in college or living in communes. There were many more of us baby boomers who served in Vietnam with honor than there were those who protested the war. As a percentage of young people, an insignificant number were at Woodstock or Haight-Ashbury for the Summer of Love.

The media romanticizes the sixties and creates a stereotype of the youth of the era. We do all relate to the image portrayed by the media. Recently on TV, there was a week of nostalgia and celebration of the life and times of John Lennon commemorating his death. I could care less. John Lennon was not an important person in my life. Don't assume everyone in their 60's is a John Lennon fan. I still miss Johnny Cash.

When I think of the person that epitomizes the anti-establishment spirit of the sixties and who should be the sixties poster child, I think of Charles Manson. The sixties was an ugly period better forgotten.

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