NOT MANY PEOPLE are noticing all the good that came out of the last ten years – the moratorium and the vast gathering of people in Woodstock – the biggest mass of people ever gathered together for anything other than war. The good thing that came out of the sixties was this vast, peaceful movement. The sixties were just waking up in the morning. We haven’t even got to dinnertime yet. And I can’t wait! I can’t wait. I’m so glad to be around.
– John Lennon
THE REVOLUTION, which is beginning, will call in question not only capitalist society but industrial society. The consumer’s society must perish of a violent death. The society of alienation must disappear from history. We are inventing a new and original world. Imagination is seizing power.
– Pinned to the main entrance of the Sorbonne, Paris, May 1968
THE DECADE was a unique one of transformation in personal relationships, in attitudes towards authority, in modes of self-presentation, in material standards, customs and behavior. It is right, of course, to give attention to artists and cultural leaders, to movements and sub-cultures, but the ultimate significance of the sixties lies in what happened to ordinary people.
– The Open University 60s Research Group
It had been a time for Baby Boomers when all the old rules went away for awhile—a short span when culture and society spun topsy-turvy. Traditional American values became unfashionable. Political idealism became tantamount to personal survival. Our relationship to received authority mutated into fierce indignation.
Demonstrators swelled campus thoroughfares. Defiant black fists of rage rose mightily above ghetto multitudes. Sweltering jungles and pastoral campuses became littered with the same young bodies. Resolute hitchhikers raced across the Canadian border to conscientious freedom.
Every aspect of expected behavior in human relationships became questioned, redefined, manipulated and explored. We heard and read daily about gay rights, Black Panthers, the Women’s Movement, free love, interracial marriage, the Woodstock Generation, altered consciousness, an Age of Aquarius, SDS, Yippies and open marriage.
We fought an unpopular war, popular prejudices, pollution of the environment, petty politicians and perpetrators of the status quo. But most of all, we fought each other: blacks against whites, young against old, gays against straights, feminists against chauvinists, veterans against pacifists, construction workers against students, liberals against conservatives, environmentalists against industrialists, Democrats against Republicans and Native Americans against centuries of exploitation by Caucasian culture.
The children of the post-World War II baby boom stormed through adolescence, 76 million strong. We were fortunate enough to be on the cutting edge of adulthood, to have lived passionately through that most recondite segment of history, and we found the changes mostly captivating and indelible. We grew up in syncopation with the coming of age of a nation. We were Baby Boomers — a collision of youth on the threshold of a dream, locked in a war between tradition and change, revolution and counterrevolution, myth and disillusionment, love and hatred.
Over four decades hence, the reverie seems far off, remote, that Boomers may awaken and it will have never been but in a few ersatz characterizations remaining in popular culture. Nevertheless, in my mind I will tread that timeworn path again and again, until it is hardened with my desire to communicate the passion of a time and place, to share deeper understanding.
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Setting the Record Straight about 1969
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