1968: Freedom Without License

It was a year to test limits, revolt against technocracy—and all social hell broke loose.

Credit: Paille/Flickr

Dividing U.S. politics and culture into old and new, 1968 remains a landmark year in the public mind. Amid failure in Vietnam, the much-detested President Lyndon Johnson announced he would not seek re-election in late March, and four days later, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. Cities across the country burned.

Berkeley, where I lived, was in turmoil. News magazines and television specials—obsessed with the California youth revolt, psychedelia, and free sex—depicted Berkeley as a red-hot center of radical politics and rapture. Street people and malcontents were pouring into town, looking for thrills and drugs. What had been an elegant academic bohemia steeped in arts-and-crafts simplicity and Robinson Jeffers-style nature worship was expiring from overexposure.

On June 5, California held its presidential primary election. I cast my first-ever vote for the charming gadfly and former Minnesota senator Eugene McCarthy, in whom I believed—really believed—with the kind of political enthusiasm that is—and should be—a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Then that night, horribly, Robert F. Kennedy was shot at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. I was minutes from Good Samaritan Hospital the next day seeing a draft lawyer when Kennedy died. My revolutionary act, such as it was—and it seemed so to my parents—had been to drop out of business school in order to pursue a graduate history degree, rendering me draft-eligible. Amid the fast-rising antiwar movement, even my Purple Heart father was turning on the war and the carnage.

During the ill-starred Democratic National Convention and Chicago riots from August 26 to 29, antiwar protesters shouted at police and news cameras, “The whole world is watching!” They knew which side most Berkeley, Wisconsin, and Harvard students would take. Working-class America, facing a harder nut, did not join the rage or rapture. Condemned as lowbrow and backward, the butt of educated contempt, they turned instead to Alabama’s former governor George Wallace for political relief. Resentment was profound, as indicated in the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections and the deep social fissures that still split the nation.

In his sympathetic appraisal The Making of a Counter Culture, Theodore Roszak argued that the youth revolt offered nothing less than salvation. Greedily pursuing progress and reason, the nation had engineered a malign, lethal society capable of nuclear annihilation. Youth culture posed a challenge to what he called technocracy—mechanistic, impersonal, planned, efficient “modern” society—and the soullessness that accompanied it.

College students obviously were not alone in contemplating the horrors of nuclear incineration, the tyranny of communism, the death of God, and the persistence of racial conflict. Many establishment guardians—themselves deeply uncertain about contemporary arrangements—unwisely turned to the youth for answers, mistaking innocence for insight.

Widely televised Berkeley protests before 1968 had stirred national attention but also some derision. “Only in California, with more beauty, wealth and freedom than mankind has ever known, tanned, well-fed, and healthy students are claiming to be slaves and prisoners,” economist Carlo Cipolla exclaimed at the time, having lived as a youth under the Italian fascists.

What had begun as lofty quest descended into bathos and kitsch. The moneyed revolt against Nietzsche’s Last Man, living in a tract house, humping for dollars, and driving a Buick, anticipated David Brooks’ middle-aged bobos in paradise. Acclaimed as saviors, rebellious youth, convinced of their genius and unique moral destiny, embraced political style as a system of belief.

The prevailing campus spirit at Berkeley in the mid-Sixties had been Camelot-style liberal, venerating the fallen hero JFK, Michael Row the Boat Ashore, fighting world communism and intending to put a man on the moon. Most students were content within the technocratic state and eager to join its ranks. Cal graduates enlisted in the Peace Corps, not Students for a Democratic Society.

Then, quite suddenly, cool moved from Kennedy-style white Oxford shirts and can-do pragmatism to longhaired forest creatures quoting Kahlil Gibran. Sorority girls wearing madras skirts donned Mexican peasant blouses one day and dangly silver earrings the next. Accessories included funky Volkswagen buses, Cost Plus exotica, and European grand tours on $5 or $10 dollars a day. Berkeley students often seemed to have quite a lot of disposable income, thanks to their uncertain, hopeful, dollar-humping parents.

Aesthetic adventure beckoned. The Sixties turned to religion and the humanities, responding to technocracy’s power. (In the same spirit, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat calls upon the humanities today to rescue time-honored wisdom and the sacred from technocratic monopoly.)

The Tao and I Ching, Carl Jung, Hermann Hesse, Alan Watts, Charles Baudelaire, and Aldous Huxley were all guides to higher consciousness. Marshall McLuhan observed an irresistible shift from printed page to electronic screen that would radically change perception and cognition. McLuhan insisted this shift was really, really big—truly revolutionary—and he was right.

By 1968, fueled by psychedelics—”Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”—a small, visible, largely coastal beau monde grew stylishly clubby. In Laurel Canyon, the Los Angeles music and drug scene was already getting very dark. Entrepreneurs like Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner and poet Rod McKuen—as well as account executives on Sunset Strip and Madison Avenue—realized there was big money to be made in the counterculture.

Before 1968, political radicals and Aquarians had been working two different idea systems. For the self-involved counterculture, politics were a “drag” or “too heavy.” While Timothy Leary’s bliss-seekers chanted tune in, turn on, and drop out in Wheeler Auditorium, Marxist visionaries plotted the end of police state Amerika. Uninterested in metaphysics, they sought to overthrow capitalism and alter its ruling class, not to make contact with the sublime or transcendent.

Had Roy Rogers and the Mouseketeers spun an impossibly sunny moral universe, leaving privileged adolescents unprepared for adulthood and human misery? From the early Peter, Paul, and Mary and Kingston Trio to Bob Dylan and Jefferson Airplane, social redemption and brotherhood had arrived on 33-rpm vinyl in pretty tunes and words.

By 1968, in music, books, and film, testing limits was swelling into sport and baiting virtue was turning into entertainment. “A citizen’s responsibility is to his government, his church, his school, his parents, his community, and his local police force,” the hideous Mr. Christian shrieked in the 1968 cult film Candy, adapted from Terry Southern’s gonzo take on Candide. My own rallying cry—and I believed it at the time—was “freedom without license.” I was young, as was the counterculture, and the prospect of total choice was intoxicating.

Freedom without license promised opportunity, novelty, and fun. But as easy sex, drugs, and rock and roll expanded their reach and went downmarket, thrills were the endgame. Social hell broke loose. Whatever turns you on took on a hollow, even sinister ring, avoiding judgment when censure was sorely needed. Roszak considered Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 movie Blow Up pornographic, unable to foresee the sexual shudders of the Seventies.

What was beginning to take shape during the August 1968 Chicago demonstrations was a McLuhanesque struggle for political mastery that has never ended. Fifty years later, California Senator Kamala Harris, born in 1964, tweets, “We won’t be silent about race. We won’t be silent about sexual orientation. We won’t be silent about immigrant’s rights. These are the very issues that define our identity as Americans.” The “whys” of a Purple Heart and American commonwealth do not cross her mind.

Harris’s stagey exclamations have a direct line to a liberation movement that is a half-century old, but with a difference. Politicos trying for selfish ends to strip “white culture” of whatever legitimacy it still possesses are saddled to technocracy. Twitter-based politics and Silicon Valley’s electronic netherworld perfecting mind control? No problem.

The heirs of Sixties rage want re-runs. They want the whole world to be watching—them. Power to the people and the Sixties dream—moving heaven and earth—are not their ambitions at all.

Gilbert T. Sewall is co-author of After Hiroshima: The United States Since 1945 and editor of The Eighties: A Reader.

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48 Responses to 1968: Freedom Without License

  1. Jen says:

    I had no idea Cost Plus has been around that long. (Founded in 1958, apparently.). It always seemed like a 90s concept to me.

  2. charles cosimano says:

    None of that matters. It was a wonderful, fun time to be young.

  3. connecticut farmer says:

    An excellent article. In looking back to that era (I was in college and had just turned 21 in early ’68), I have often wondered how many of those counterculture types and self-styled “revolutionaries” eventually settled into the very middle class bonhomie which they claimed to have eschewed.

  4. mrscracker says:

    “Only in California, with more beauty, wealth and freedom than mankind has ever known, tanned, well-fed, and healthy students are claiming to be slaves and prisoners,”
    **************
    I’m not sure things have changed much. I attended a labor union protest in MS out of curiosity. My son wanted to hear Bernie Sanders speak there.
    People wore t-shirts with slogans like “Students Against Sweatshops.” Mr. Sanders gave a passionate speech against the exploitation of workers, etc.
    Protestors were bussed in from all over the area.
    It turned out the hourly pay on the assembly line there was $24. to $30., more than I’ve ever earned in my entire life. You can live extremely well in rural Mississippi on those wages. So much for sweat shops.
    These folks need to visit India for a reality check.

  5. Hunter C says:

    Certainly, the counterculture seems to have created an atmosphere of license for writing rambling, directionless essays mistaking nostalgia for profundity, if today’s Boomers are any indication.

  6. Jon says:

    A good and concise synopsis of that awful period. Many of our generation still live in the past reminiscing about the glory days when they hung loose involving themselves in street theater, rock bands and the taking of drugs. Although most of that was a superficial gloss on life when many indulged in their own self-induced delusions, they actually believed their narrative — one of constructing a utopia in the vapors of marijuana entwined with incense.

    But the streets were also on fire when a pent up rage was released from the legacy of what was left for a people after the Civil War. And there were those who copied their lead running amok in the streets over a cause. This is how the quietism of the Mattachine Society was transmogrified into confrontational politics through the Stonewall riots.

    It was a time of reversed bigotry where the barbs and insults hurled onto minorities were sent back to the predominant population. It was no time for dialog, no time for understanding or the tolerance essential for open-ended conversations about issues which at that time divided us.

    It was a time for name calling, sloganeering, and the vitriolic exchange of polemics. In toto, it was a dark age where all of this rhetoric about expanding consciousness was nothing more than a deception.

    I learned from this epoch about the frailties of humanity and thus the limits of good governance. I learnt that the politics of the streets, the antic of crowds fearsome in appearance and destructive in its venom was democracy in its pure and direct form. I discovered through the foibles of human beings especially when consumed with rage the blindness to what was truly before them and the deafness to the cries of those truly residing in society’s margins. Ultimately, I had become acquainted with the inherent hypocrisy in publicized exhibitions of solidarity. And since that time have slowly realized the futility of it all.

    The only real protest is one of silence, a silence of words through speech and in essay form. It is a silence that while ineffectual remains an obligation. It is a silence that speaks volumes upon the stage and in galleries: wordless and incomprehensible as it demands upon its audience to abandon the familiar and abjure from the overwhelming temptation to make sense of it. Fore nothing remains as each and every narrative has fractured. The pieces remains scattered on the ground since that time. And the silence of these words resounds in my ears.

    There is an echo of voices inchoate and inaudible and yet deafening. I cover my ears to their high decibels. These murmurings are the agglomeration of voices from past to present. What remains is nothing but this sonorous chorus of dissonant voices each with its agenda screaming at each other.

  7. Jon says:

    And I answer these murmurings with silence.

  8. M. Orban says:

    What do you mean by “Freedom without license?”
    If you have to pre-approve your actions and the permission can be arbitrarily denied then what is the meaning of freedom?

    It is all right to rail against the excesses of the of the sixties and it is indeed a common trope among baby boomers who first enjoyed their unlicensed freedoms, but now, growing old found God, Ayn Rand – or both. Anything in excess is bad for you and likely to harm others. Anything, no exceptions.
    But “Freedom without license” is still goobledigook.

  9. Johann says:

    Progressive think all the debauchery is something new. Course, they don’t call it that. But its ancient, old, and, recent history.

    Its the same old story. An empire rises, life gets easy comparatively speaking, the population gets morally depraved, and the empire eventually falls. Mesopotamia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, are but some examples. The old testament records some others, and makes the case that when life is easy the Hebrews turn to debauchery and idol worship, and when life is hard, they return to God. Western civilization has been on the cusp for 50 years, and is now on its downward spiral.

    Nothing is new under the sun when it comes to human behavior.

  10. EliteCommInc. says:

    “The heirs of Sixties rage want re-runs. They want the whole world to be watching—them. Power to the people and the Sixties dream—moving heaven and earth—are not their ambitions at all.”

    What they want is regime change by force.

    What they did in the sixties was “spoiled brat” behavior.

    And just a note: As with nearly so much of the supposed counter culture — they got Vietnam wrong as does this aricle by suggesting in the tag, that they revolted against technocracy — quite the opposite

    TV, Reel to reel audo cassette, eight tracks . . . and a host of other technologies to ease the comatose life they sought and embraced to feed their every fetish.

  11. Thrice A Viking says:

    It’s unclear to me how 1960s youth were fighting technocracy. Nowadays, with the sway of Silicon Valley and similar largely high-tech-based economies elsewhere, I can understand the dangers of such social power. But what was the ’60s equivalent?

  12. Kurt Gayle says:

    The black and white photo Paille photo of the happy young people is not from the year 1968, but is from the year 1969 (taken at Woodstock, August 15, 1969).

    While it was certainly true that in the summer of 1968 “news magazines and television specials [were] obsessed with the California youth revolt, psychedelia, and free sex,” for most of us who were young then (I was 24) the magazine and TV stories were just that – stories. They were not a part of our reality. Sure, we might have an additional friend or two who smoked pot in 1968 who hadn’t smoke it in 1967, but for many of us that was the extent of the so-called “counter-culture.”

    What WAS part of our reality in 1968 was the Vietnam War and the 16,899 Americans who died in Vietnam that year. What was also part of our reality was that for the first time — in the Gallup poll of Aug 7-12, 1968 — a majority of Americans (53%) said that the Vietnam War was “a mistake.”

    The question Gallup asked was: “In view of the developments since we entered the fighting in Vietnam, do you think the U.S. made a mistake sending troops to fight in Vietnam?”

    Yes – 53%
    No — 35%
    No opinion – 12%

    https://news.gallup.com/vault/191828/gallup-vault-hawks-doves-vietnam.aspx

    Gilbert T. Sewell cuts to the heart of what was happening in 1968:

    “During the ill-starred Democratic National Convention and Chicago riots from August 26 to 29, antiwar protesters shouted at police and news cameras, ‘The whole world is watching!’ They knew which side most Berkeley, Wisconsin, and Harvard students would take. Working-class America, facing a harder nut, did not join the rage or rapture. Condemned as lowbrow and backward, the butt of educated contempt, they turned instead to Alabama’s former governor George Wallace for political relief. Resentment was profound, as indicated in the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections and the deep social fissures that still split the nation.”

    “…The deep social fissures that still split the nation.”

  13. Dan Green says:

    Quite a generation . Massive numbers who are now just getting out of the way from the corruption and political system they ruined. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump go figure.

  14. Dan Green says:

    Bye bye Boomers you left one H**l of a mess for those coming up.

  15. E#liteCommInc. says:

    “Bye bye Boomers you left one H**l of a mess for those coming up.”

    I am not sure if I am a boomer, but this complaint rings a little fallow.

    First, nothing has been cleaned up, it’s been swept aside, not an atypical majority response

    Second, every generation gets the good and the bad of what’s left after . . .

    What is a problem is the moral amoral quagmire, the social upheaval built not on emotions as opposed top reality and the youth response to Vietnam and the draft is a perfect symbol. A simple effort to defend a democratic government, got lied, twisted and cast as an american invasion of Vietnam with the US as the aggressors — when in fact, nothing was further from truth.

    You wonder how we got Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Ukraine — the products of the generation that lied about Vietnam and cried their way out of any responsibility for the nation as a whole —

    They didn’t give a lick about the poor in the southern US, the Appalachian mountains, the Midwest — the inner cities, but they could have temper tantrum and temper tantrum about Vietnam. Moved soley by the whim of how they felt.

    Sec and Pres Clinton supposedly made their bones on the Vietnam issue.

    One signed on to rendition for torture and the other well she signed on to everything else —- for making war and mayhem.

  16. E#liteCommInc. says:

    L’est I forget —

    “love is love” and love is all you need —–

    good grief pablum fit for the children they were and remain hence same relational marriage because love is all that matters —

    no borders cause it’s about love and we are all the same — sigh . . .

    and the US invaded Vietnam give peace a chance — which should have been directed at North Vietnam, North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union — they were the aggressors. every single time ion every second of the day

    All they saying is “we are afraid to serve.”

    Give peace a chance – liars, ignorant and cowards to boot

    Ahh yes, I can hear women roaring to sign up for military service —

    Love is all you need

    utter nonsense.

  17. FL Transplant says:

    If the 60s were so bad, and the changes it wrought in our society so tragic, why is it that there’s no movement to throw them out and go back to the way things were prior?

    You’re welcome to try to convince people to return to the way things were. I think you’ll find that there won’t be much of a crowd following you.

  18. Clyde Schechter says:

    Much as I am chagrined to find myself in agreement with Charles Cosimano, it was, indeed, a fine, fun time to be young.

    What I think the article misses is that it was a time of great optimism. Not only were we agitating to end the Vietnam War, we believed that as the richest, most powerful nation in history, we had the capability to end all war forever, to end poverty forever, to end racism forever. We believed that the only obstacle to that was that our leaders stood in the way, clinging to wrong-headed ideas and ideals. All it would take is getting the right people into power and utopia would be at hand.

    Well, we all know how that played out. Even by 1970, it was already clear that the counterculture was being derailed, by nihilists on the one hand, and by commercial exploitation on the other. By 1980 it was all over, its hedonism having brought us the AIDS epidemic, and its political activism a conservative backlash.

    Still, I feel blessed to have lived my youth in the 1960’s and I hope that at some point in their lives my children will somehow come to know the exhilarating optimism that my generation once felt.

  19. Dave deBronkart says:

    Wow. I’m a liberal fan of TAC, and graduated high school in 1968, so I well recognize all of that.

    But WTF are you talking about at the end – “The heirs of Sixties rage want re-runs. They want the whole world to be watching—them. Power to the people and the Sixties dream—moving heaven and earth—are not their ambitions at all.” You must not be talking about me, and my peers from that generation, because we absolutely want power to the people.

    And it’s not just for selfishness – look at all the many forms of harm that have fallen on this country and its people since January 2017 …

    So, what’s up – who are these “heirs” who actually don’t want power to the people, only want attention? Honest question – not snark.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    FL Transplant–I find it ironic that it was those kids who grew up in the supposedly utopian 1950s who turned into the protesters of the 1960s.

    If your economic and cultural Utopia can’t even stand up to getting passed down ONE GENERATION it’s not an actual reality. It’s a TV-engendered Potemkin facade.

  21. Tim Weston says:

    You kids with your hair and your drugs and your music; get off my lawn !

  22. Kurt Gayle says:

    charles cosimano said: “It was a wonderful, fun time to be young.”

    That was not my experience.

  23. Conewago says:

    The CIA and military-industrial complex, in Laurel Canyon, created the drugs, sex, and rock and roll pop culture as a means of discrediting and co-opting any coherent and well-groomed anti-war movement. And there once was one. The Establishment was deeply successful in this effort. At the same time, the Catholic Church abandoned any attempt at maintaining its traditional spirituality, so that the generation’s craving for a spiritual life could not be met as it had been met in Europe in past centuries.

  24. Conewago says:

    Mr. Sewall writes a good piece here. I’m an Old Right conservative with some sympathy for “hippies,” because Gram Parsons is a favorite singer of mine.

    With that said, Mr. Sewall’s piece mentions Laurel Canyon without mentioning the very strange connections between musicians/entertainers there and the American “elite” – the elite that created our “imperial state” under FDR and expanded it subsequently.

    Again, the military-industrial complex and the corporations Mr. Sewall mentions both had a stake in the Laurel Canyon area – the epicenter of creating the decadent and distracting “hippie” movement.

    Jim Morrison, of all people, was the son of the admiral who commanded American forces at the Gulf of Tonkin! The same Jim Morrison who was a clean-cut college student with no musical experience, before coming to Laurel Canyon. Come on, folks. Open your eyes. The CIA is not your friend.

  25. b. says:

    ‘What do you mean by “Freedom without license?”’

    Beautiful.

    “they revolted against technocracy”

    That they did. It is quite depressing to see that the McNamara Fallacy is no longer recognized as such. There’s a line from the original Operations Research through the Best&Brightest to the sleight of hand of public-private “partnerships” and governance by markets, and of course the campaigns of signature cleansing that Obama manufactured from the Bush drone campaigns. Neoliberals turn tricks on Wall Street, selling technocracy on behalf of the highest bidder, and the people that believe themselves to be conservatives are busy denouncing yesterday’s hippies.

    The kids are alright. It’s that way in every generation. But those that will be dead soon cannot stand the thought that spring will be eternal. All advances depend on the unreasonable young, and I hope the accumulated weight of corruption will never stop that. We certainly made enough mistakes to not have a claim to deny them their own.

  26. Whine Merchant says:

    The hippy era, when we thought that we were discovering something the world had never seen, especially the 1968 “summer of love”, was incredible…what I can vaguely remember of it, that is –

  27. TR says:

    Mrs. Cracker: Are you saying there are no sweatshops in Mississippi?

    The average wage at the Masonite factory in Laurel MS for an assembler is 24k per annum. Not sweat shop, but not enough to “live well” even in rural Mississippi.

  28. Jeeves says:

    Like the author, I lived in Berkeley in the 60s (and beyond) and think he manages to hit all the high (sorry!) notes. I think we’re still feeling the aftershocks–the “long march through the institutions” for example–and if Kamala Harris is some degraded, mutant version of the 60s idealist, we probably deserve her.

    On a personal level, I look back on the 60s (and 50s too) as a great time to be young. It was a coming-out party politically (I joined of the Socialist Party in the midst of its ideological fracturing), and socially I’d give it five stars (if your don’t count a trip to the Free Clinic for antibiotics).

  29. EliteCommInc. says:

    “You’re welcome to try to convince people to return to the way things were. I think you’ll find that there won’t be much of a crowd following you.”

    Public opinion is important to know but your suggestion that one determine value, veracity, integrity, or reality based on public opinion alone

    I think the answer rests with the polity of many of the 60’s crowd in leadership. They are till attempting to make up for the mistakes of Vietnam without acknowledging that that the protests were all wet.

    We continue as society to brush aside error as though it never happened and plow ahead with our fingers crossed. I have no idea what it would take for the majority to face the mirror of error on social polity and policy. I have no problem telling women, especially white women that their entire gambit regarding affirmative action has utterly undermined the issues it was intended to redress.

    They repeatedly laugh or display that smug “who cares” look of the privileged. As for the refrain that life ain’t fair I send it along the bin of the refrain about “chips on ones shoulder” as if that actually addresses the issues.

    Having a following . . . devil has a a world full of followers

    Good greif . . .

  30. Mark Krvavica says:

    The only good thing about 1968 was the U.S. Presidential candidacy of former Alabama Governor George Wallace (I), he sent those “protesters” a message. I was 16 in 1976, but that didn’t stop me from supporting Wallace in that year’s California Democratic Primary for U.S. President.

  31. Lee Green says:

    Do you really remember so much and understand so little? The licentious ’60s were the entirely predictable and understandable over-reaction to the soul-killing conformism and smothering hypocritical “morality” of the ’50s. Every excess breeds its opposite in turn. Until we learn that, we will be doomed to repeat it.

  32. david says:

    Here’s what we ignore in all this. The parents of the baby boomers. They had been through so much as kids themselves, the Great Depression where so many of them had nothing, their families had nothing. Then came WWII and while the vast majority of the men in uniform never see combat end up doing support work for those that are still that was a huge part of “growing up” too.

    So now you have what so many people call “the greatest generation” (they weren’t the Founders were) and they were determined that their kids the baby boomers were not going to “suffer” like they did and by and large they made sure they had everything.

    What they didn’t do is put a philosophical frame work to go with it spoiling the kids without teaching values and principles.

    And they failed to realized that all the hardships they went through as kids the Depression the war enabled them to come home and build the greatest country on earth after the war. Just giving things to kids doesn’t make them better. That’s where they failed the baby boomers. And to some extent we still see that same sense of entitlement among the baby boomers today.

  33. JonF says:

    Mrs Cracker,
    In Baltimore “and probably elsewhere) labor unions hire unemployed people to do their picketing. There is something so ancien regime about that, like the hired mourners the Tudor era nobles once engaged at funerals so they wouldn’t have to muss up their pretty mourning outfits bewailing their dead.

  34. Ken T says:

    Jon:
    Many of our generation still live in the past reminiscing about the glory days when they hung loose involving themselves in street theater, rock bands and the taking of drugs.

    Well, I can’t speak for who you hang out with, but I can honestly say that I do not know one single person who would fit that description.

    Or, to respond to @Connecticut farmer’s question,
    how many of those counterculture types and self-styled “revolutionaries” eventually settled into the very middle class bonhomie which they claimed to have eschewed.
    The answer would be “most of us”.

    Which is not to say that we stopped caring about things; only that as we got older we learned that in a pluralistic society built on compromise, it is necessary to choose your battles more carefully.

  35. EliteCommInc. says:

    If one wants to question the legacy of boombers they only need look at the arguments made to advance murdering children in the womb.

  36. elizabeth says:

    What is a license for freedom, and where/how does one apply for one? What a silly headline.

    So many generalizations and stereotypes. The youth culture of the late 1960s was not a universal baby boomer experience. I turned 14 in 1968, while the “caboose” boomers turned 4. Seventy-five million persons born across 18 years hardly all shared identical experiences. The hippie look was already commercialized in kiosks at the mall by the time I was in ninth grade. Most long-hairs were trying to annoy their parents, not express any deep political or other kind of philosophy.

    My liberal Unitarian parents and Church were very moralistic – about Civil Rights and equal opportunity for all.

    It was the government and the military that lied about Vietnam, not the protestors. The South Vietnamese government was comprised mostly of Roman Catholics, who had converted during the French Colonial period, who were deeply discriminatory against the Buddhist majority. That was hardly a functioning democracy.

    As for blaming boomers for abortion, please remember it was our mother’s and grandmother’s generations who went to legislatures in the mid-60s to educate legislators about it. The old jerks in office thought the women were coming on to them when they talked about women’s cycles. So my mom and great-aunt told me.

  37. Kurt Gayle says:

    Clyde Schechter (Aug 16, 4:18 pm) says: “…It was a time of great optimism. Not only were we agitating to end the Vietnam War, we believed that as the richest, most powerful nation in history, we had the capability to end all war forever, to end poverty forever, to end racism forever. We believed that the only obstacle to that was that our leaders stood in the way, clinging to wrong-headed ideas and ideals. All it would take is getting the right people into power and utopia would be at hand.”

    I mean no disrespect, Mr. Schechter, but you’re kidding, right?

    “We had the capability to end all war forever.” I saw the slogans, too, but I never met anyone who actually believed that. There was no optimism. None.

    “End poverty forever…end racism forever.” Look at the “The Moynihan Report” (1965):

    https://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/history/webid-meynihan.htm

  38. Kurt Gayle says:

    Mark Krvavica (August 16, 9:11 pm) said: “The only good thing about 1968 was the U.S. Presidential candidacy of former Alabama Governor George Wallace …”

    In 1968, when he ran for president for the American Independent Party, Wallace pledged that if the Vietnam War were not winnable within 90 days of his taking office, he would order an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. Establishment politicians were shocked, but the American people rallied to the Wallace pledge. He described foreign aid as money ‘poured down a rat hole’ and demanded that European and Asian allies pay more for their defense. Wallace’s platform included significant increases in Social Security and Medicare benefits. Regarding the counter-culture groups featured endlessly in the US media Wallace said that the only four letter words that Hippies didn’t know were ‘w-o-r-k’ and ‘s-o-a-p’.” In the Nov 1968 presidential election Wallace stunned the pundits with nearly 10 million votes and 46 electoral votes.

    But it was in 1972, running for the Democratic nomination, that Wallace’s presidential campaign truly took off. He continued to champion the American working class, but he stepped away from his previous segregationist positions and declared himself a racial “moderate.” In the March 14th Florida primary Wallace finished first carrying every county in the state. On April 4th he finished 2nd in Wisconsin, 2nd in Pennsylvania (April 25th), and 2nd in Indiana (May 2nd). Then two days later on May 4th Wallace swept Tennessee with a stunning 68% of the vote! The following day, while campaigning in Laurel, Maryland, Wallace was shot five times in the torso and abdomen and it took five hours of surgery to save his life. But one of the bullets had lodged near his spine and for the rest of his life he would be in constant pain and confined to a wheel chair. Thus,the surging Wallace campaign for President was effectively ended. To be sure, the next day (May 6th) he won North Carolina handily and on the 16th his enormous popular momentum carried him to wins in both Maryland and in Michigan (where his 51% crushed both McGovern, 27%, and Humphrey, 16%). But unable to campaign following the surgery, the Wallace campaign for president had ended in a May 5th hail of bullets in a Laurel, Maryland parking lot.

    The American working class had lost a champion, but the establishment elites of both parties breathed sighs of relief.

  39. Mel Profit says:

    Graduated high school in 1968, college in Boston through 1972, so knew this world inside out and lived it to a degree through 1975. Then, I read Robert Stone’s Dog Soldiers and recognized a delusional catastrophe in the making.

    The Boomers didn’t start the death march; you can take your pick as to who or what did. World War I? Darwin? The Industrial Revolution? The French Revolution? The Reformation? But once it did, the rout was on. The Jazz Age, the Beats, the Hippies, hegemonic black trash culture, pony-tailed geriatrics at Trade Joe’s, a socio-political sophistication that would be feeble coming from a 10-year old–it’s all one seam and Talleyrand called it even before Nietzsche did.

    But we’re bored and we have to keep rehashing these discussions about the 60s because, well, it is just too depressing to concede the obvious. What is left to discuss, amigos?

  40. Clyde Schechter says:

    @Kurt Gayle

    No, I’m not kidding. That was my experience, and it was the experience of most of my acquaintances of that era.

    Evidently, different people experienced that era differently. And I suppose you and I traveled in different circles. But in mine, there really was enormous idealism and optimism. All dashed in the end, of course. But it was a beautiful illusion while it lasted.

  41. Kurt Gayle says:

    EliteCommInc. (Aug18, 8:50 am) says: “If one wants to question the legacy of boomers they only need look at the arguments made to advance murdering children in the womb.”

    “Boomers”? All but one of the seven Supreme Court Justices involved in the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision were born before the beginning of World War I. They certainly weren’t “boomers.”

    And before these seven unelected Supreme Court justices – living in their elitist bubbles – invented whole-cloth, out of thin air a constitutional “right to privacy,” Americans had been dealing with abortion constitutionally, on a state-by-state basis, just fine.

    To be sure, as of 1973 early boomers may voted in a few rounds of state elections, but remember that in 30 states abortion was outlawed and in most of the remaining states there were tight restrictions on abortion with only four states allowing abortion on demand.

    No, don’t try to hang around the necks of boomers the fact that the US Supreme Court went rogue in 1973 and amended the US Constitution without the involvement of both houses of Congress and state legislatures as specified in Article V.

  42. mrscracker says:

    TR says:

    ” Are you saying there are no sweatshops in Mississippi?

    The average wage at the Masonite factory in Laurel MS for an assembler is 24k per annum. Not sweat shop, but not enough to “live well” even in rural Mississippi.”
    *************

    I can’t answer whether there are “sweatshops” in MS, but 24K is only slightly below the median income(25K-26K) for that part of the state. It’s right in the middle class zone.

    The union protest/Bernie Sanders speech I attended in MS targeted an auto assembly plant where the hourly wage was $24. to $30. an hour. Which makes the annual income for those workers at least double the median income for the region. You can live quite well on that in MS, & extremely well if you have 2 income earners in a household.
    That’s why I found the protest & sweatshop references silly. And I lost a bit of respect for Bernie Sanders that day.

    I’m sure there are operations in America where workers are being exploited. We had one busted in our area recently. Illegal Hispanic immigrants were found working in a seafood plant under all sorts of gross violations but they were afraid to speak out because of their immigration status.
    From what I understand that’s hardly a unique situation.
    But American citizens in MS, working 40 hrs a week @ $24-$30. an hour with benefits equals a sweatshop?

    I think Bernie could do real good seeking out places where exploitation actually happens. And gain some of my respect back.

  43. mrscracker says:

    JonF says:

    “In Baltimore “and probably elsewhere) labor unions hire unemployed people to do their picketing…”
    *************
    Hello! Hope this finds you well.
    Thank you for that info. I wasn’t aware of that.

    I suppose one way to look at it is at least they’re providing income for those unemployed folks. Maybe that’s what was going on in MS at the union protest. They brought in whole busloads of people.

    I think there’s a time & place for unions, though perhaps they may have had greater relevance in a previous era.
    I’m grateful a union donated the land for my daughter’s college. And one year my mother scored a Thanksgiving turkey by way of a union. We were grateful for that, too.

    You have a blessed day & take care!
    🙂

  44. mrscracker says:

    Kurt Gayle,
    My parents had supported George Wallace back in the day, maybe not for all the right reasons. But yes, I think he changed with the times for the better -as we all did. And certainly he connected with working class folk.
    It’s not so much what you start out as, but who you become that counts.

  45. EliteCommInc. says:

    “No, don’t try to hang around the necks of boomers the fact that the US Supreme Court went rogue in 1973 and amended the US Constitution without the involvement of both houses of Congress and state legislatures as specified in Article V.”

    Excuse me, bit if you actually note what my comments said, then talking about the justices is would be incorrect. None of the justices would be considered “boomers”

    The arguments were made by the litigants, not the justices. And those arguments include the shift among the academics and intellectuals who helped shaped the course.

    Nothing in my comments has much to do with the Supreme Court Justices aside from how the arguments and shifting environment impacted their thinking.

    I think my comments stated, to look at the arguments regarding Rove Wade, not merely the end result. The entire manner of argument shifted. For this generation, the United states invaded Vietnam, was responsible for Vietnam, when all the data contradicts those assertions.

    One of the key components in the litigation came not from the US but Australia. Delighted to have them along side in Vietnam — but for what constitutes a human being — not on a bet.

    The arguments and polity — not the justices.

    This is the period when the US as a whole gets exposed en mass in large doses to post modern thought on states of reality, truth and non-objectivity of existence.

  46. EliteCommInc. says:

    note: Drs McLuhan, Kinsey or Leary were baby boomers, but the work they produced was adopted by the boomers to new ideas about the nature if human ontology to profound effect.

  47. Kurt Gayle says:

    Ah! I get it, EliteCommInc! You mean that it was those arguing the case for abortion before the Court, not “the justices” themselves, who bore responsibility for the Roe v. Wade decision.

    You mean that lovely young (boomer) pro-choice attorney Sarah Weddington wove a spell on those poor old US Supreme Court justices.

    You mean that Sarah “impacted their thinking” to the point that they lost complete control of their legal minds, set aside the US Constitution, and did what the lovely Sarah wanted them to do.

  48. EliteCommInc. says:

    “You mean that Sarah “impacted their thinking” to the point that they lost complete control of their legal minds, set aside the US Constitution, and did what the lovely Sarah wanted them to do.”

    Well, that’s a start . . .

    But correct about what I mean. The entire body of rhetoric wove something. That’s for sure.

    All that love, peace joy hare krishna — to eschew responsibility.

    “That’s not a human being , that’s not a child, that’s not a baby — it’s skin tissue.

    Those Aussie’s medical geniuses.

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