Monday, May 25, 2015

The Hippies Were Right

by F.T. Rea

In Libby Hill Park the convergence of Memorial Day weekend and a longtime friend’s 70th birthday party underlined an observation made in a conversation. A trio of grizzled baby boomers -- Chuck Wrenn, Mason Wyatt and me -- agreed that in hindsight the hippies were right about Vietnam, right about war, in general. The occasion was to wish Chuck a happy birthday.

A few minutes before that particular conversation I had been engaged in another one with different guys. It was noted how the same memories come to mind each time we're suddenly forced to pause and picture our friends who died in Vietnam. Such remembrances aside, the party itself was festive and the atmosphere was convivial.

So much so that when campaigner Joe Morrissey happened upon it, he wasted no time in inviting himself to the gathering. Morrissey had his new family with him -- the baby and its mother. The presence of the three added a touch of surrealism the event had probably been lacking.

It was also be noted here that most Americans now enjoying their geezerhood were not hippies. Most never went to a political demonstration or took LSD, either. No, most members of my generation basically followed in their parents' footsteps, which wasn't all that colorful, so the real story gets blurred sometimes. 

Although, at 57, he's a baby boomer, I have to doubt Morrissey was ever a hippie. One thing for sure: with his 19-year-old girlfriend by his side, wearing a dress that clung to her body like it has been painted on, he obviously still enjoys creating a spectacle. Then the news-makers said their goodbyes to the voters and strolled their way west on East Franklin Street. After all, it was a holiday weekend and there were surely other parties underway in the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, it was still a beautiful day for a outdoor celebration and the self-congratulatory discussion about what the hippies were right about touched on other topics. For instance, in spite of being mocked as tree-huggers, hippies were as right as rain about wanting to protect Mother Nature. They were right about various movements to make laws and customs more fair for all citizens.

Speaking of old times, compared to some other eras, a good many of the American movies produced in the hippies' decade-long heyday -- 1967-76 -- were rather interesting. But please don't blame the flamboyant hippies for all the popular culture fads of the '70s; disco music was not part of the hippie scene. Eventually, the culture shifted and punks replaced hippies, just as hippies had replaced the beatniks.

Then the politics of the '80s swung back to the right. The hippies' anti-greed, live-and-let-live style was rejected. Yuppies prevailed. Conspicuous consumption came back into style. The Cold War ended but the notion of perpetual war didn't die. A decade later the fog of 9/11's terrorist attacks made too many Americans willing to send another generation abroad to kill and be killed. In the doing America created new enemies by the million, torture was even justified. 

Now the fog has cleared. Duping the voting public into supporting another wave of rightwing politicians calling for launching another war in the Middle East isn't going to be easy. It looks to me like 2016 isn't going to be a good year for war mongers. Hopefully, the ghosts of those who died in Vietnam and Iraq will rest easier in Memorial Days to come.

Hey, the hippies were right about pot, too.