I’ve been mulling around what it would be like to return to the 1960s, though it was a tumultuous time in U.S. history. Being a child of the 1970s, here are some things I remember from the late 1960s. I don’t think I want to go back there, because it was a confusing time in which to grow up.
1. Flower power. I remember having a clipboard in 7th grade that I plastered with neon orange and pink flowers, and I drew peace symbols everywhere. I loved that clipboard and carried it with me everywhere. The idea of “flower children,” with simple values of peace, love, and rock-n-roll appealed to me. I didn’t really know about the Summer of Love or the sexual revolution, nor did I care about that as a young adolescent. It just seemed to me that the song “Are You Going to San Francisco?” was a great anthem exemplifying the flower children. “If you’re going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair” … “peace and love, brotherhood” — those sounded like wonderful ideas to me at the time.
2. Antidisestablishmentarianism. Wow, what a big word. I remember my parents discussing how young people were out of control in their rebellion against The Establishment (their motto: Never trust anyone over 30). Something inside me resonated with this restlessness against the powers that be, though I never would have had the courage to stand up to my parents and basically tell them that their middle-class values were sending them straight to hell. (Now, looking back as a parent myself, I know why as a young adolescent I was attracted to this idea. It wasn’t too much fun being on the flip side of adolescent rebellion.)
3. The Jesus movement. Again, as an onlooker observing this movement from afar, I thought it was a “groovy” thing. People returned to the way things were done in the early church, even going so far as to live on communes (yes, they copied the hippies) and sharing their possessions. A new spirit of excitement about Jesus and an emphasis on Jesus’ humanity appealed to me as a young adolescent. Suddenly it was cool to like Jesus and to try to be like him. And as we all know, when you’re an adolescent, everything is about fitting in with your peers. That the Jesus movement would lead to the “one way” mentality in many Christians didn’t strike me at the time. I saw Jesus as my friend and as an example to follow. I still do, though I would like to think I’ve matured in my faith, and I am more impressed with Jesus the Teacher and Jesus the Son of God, but mainly how Jesus treated others.
4. The sexual revolution. I remember hearing a lot of arguments about the Pill and how it led to a promiscuous culture. Nowadays I look back on people like Gloria Steinem and other feminists and admire them for the courage they had to take a stand, even if some of what they stood for was not ideas I particularly agree with. I do think it should be up to women to be responsible for their own bodies, and I dislike the government trying to interfere and dictate what they do with their bodies. If someone chooses to have sex, they should be able to have access to protection against the consequences of sex (pregnancy, STDs, etc.). It’s nobody’s damn business what a woman does with her body. I myself chose to practice abstinence, but again, it’s nobody’s business to try to dictate the very personal area of sexuality. I am uncomfortable when anyone tries to push sexuality into the open. I don’t care what other people do in bed, just so they’re not in my face with it.
5. The erosion of trust in political figures. This didn’t appeal to me, but it was a fact of American culture during the ’60s. I remember Richard Nixon standing in front of TV cameras, waving his hands in a victory sign and declaring, “I am not a crook!” as his jowls shook and his body language conveyed the exact opposite. I also got sick to death of hearing about Watergate, and it was disillusioning to realize that the party in power would break into the opposite political party’s headquarters just to win an election.
6. Long-haired, unkempt young people. I remember guys growing their hair long (and I adore the song that talks about someone going for a job interview with his hair in a hat, and after he gets the job, he takes his hat off and says, “Imagine that!”) and what a controversy that aroused in their parents. I have evolved in my thinking about men with long hair. I remember a beautiful young man who lived on our street in the 1980s and how pretty his hair was. I was envious of his lustrous, curly locks… and now I don’t give a second thought to guys with long hair. That’s their business. Tattoos don’t bother me; neither do nose, ear, chin, lip, and eyebrow piercings. I do have a little problem with people who put plugs in their tongues and their ear lobes, mainly because the former makes them talk funny, and the latter — well, let’s just say there will be a lot of old people running around with extremely long ear lobes someday. But it’s a form of self-expression, and who am I to judge them? I’ve found that when I take time to talk to people who are decked out like this, for the most part they’ve been very nice and polite to me.
I still don’t think this world is going to hell in a handbasket. Youth culture is always going to go against the culture of older generations. In time, it seems, everything becomes balanced (or at least maybe we adjust to the ideas that people are different from us and it’s okay). Then we’re on to the next trend.
My concern about this generation is its rebellion toward “organized religion” and its culture of atheism. I suspect that much of it is a reaction to disappointing encounters with judgmental Christians who preach a gospel of fear (you’re going to hell if you don’t change your ways) rather than love.
These are my rambling thoughts at 5:30-6:20 a.m. Disclaimer: I’ve had only one cup of coffee. You may not agree with anything I’ve said. That’s okay. I’m open to talking about any ideas with you. Perhaps if we can learn to listen to each other respectfully, we can have some interesting dialogue.
[Perhaps you wonder why I chose a photo of a whale to go with this post. I don’t know. I have a limited number of images in my media library, and sometimes I just like this image of the whale submerging.]