Remembering the 60s

I was beginning to pay attention to the world outside my own life in the 60s, a time of gentle sprouting flowers inviting peace and simple happiness, even as Vietnam body-counts traumatized the country daily. There was the enthusiasm for new freedoms and the abuses of those freedoms; the flowers were tainted with drugs, and free love was both blessing and curse. Shifting gender roles confused and frustrated. Authority took on sinister shadows, and we learned to trust warily if at all, because that’s what happens when you discover someone you relied on has been lying to you all along… Values and rules, likewise.

Where our parents had respected government, had lived comfortably within the established social rules, and had focused on their personal fulfillment of the American Dream, we were digging down and exposing the corresponding American Nightmare that had always lurked below. Virtue was no longer all about financial stability and model families, but about a dire honesty with ourselves regarding the world we inhabited. 

The 60s were an era of challenging every status quo, of protesting what we saw as systemic injustice and toxic traditions. No one was allowed to be comfortable with how things had been. Integrity flipped from being properly socially conventional to being willing to confront every unfairness we detected, to put our energies into fixing all we saw was wrong. It was an exhausting time. It was terrifying, to those who had no wish to change their own habits of thinking and living. It overtook everyone like an inexorable tidal bore, bringing change to us all, ready or not.

Some of us retreated from the chaos, the confusion, the challenging of every one of the values we’d been raised with.  Some of us embraced it, got involved with trying to protect it, save it, change it.

Some of us turned our backs, went off the conventional social grid, and took refuge in living simpler pioneer lives, self-sufficient as we could be, and often stoned. Life was about confrontation with Nature which proved to be neither loving nor forgiving, but indifferent and relentless. There is a maturing effect in disillusionment: Many abandoned the felicitous dream and rejoined the conventionally turbulent society while the sweet naivete of the Flower Children did as gardens do, growing through their spring and summer, going to seed in the fall. 

The term “Hippy” devolved into a sneer among the next generations of kids who never knew when Hippies were the model of sincerity, honesty and self-reliance. They only ever saw the bedraggled winter garden. 

This is how I remember the 60s. As the narrator in the film, RADIO FLYER, says at the end, “This may not be how it was. But it is how I remember it.”

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