It seems such a quiet windup to the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love. I was just 1.5 years old when the news swept over the nation that there was this “Love in” in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. There is one main entrance and exit along the park here, Fell in, Oak out. Ashbury crosses Oak and at its intersection with Haight it marks the center of the Haight District. It was natural that the hippies should come and go from the park here and then incubate in the Haight. It became known as Haight-Ashbury.
As a kid growing up in the ’70s in Gilroy, a small town south of the Bay Area, I lived and grew up in the wake of the Summer of Love and the cultural and attitude changes of the counterculture. I was, however, born to a mother a bit late in life. She had been 42 when she had me, so I never heard any sympathy for the movement from my parents. Like most Midwesterners who had entered the Service in WWII and who were then discharged in California she had remained in the State. I was the typical California kid of the ’70s– one parent from the Midwest, at least one set of grandparents from Europe.
After the war my mother had lived on Ashbury Street; so that when any hippie news hit the airwaves we invariably heard how nice the Haight had been and how the hippies subsequently had “shot it to hell.” From this classy “farmer’s daughter,” this was a shocking word for us to hear.
My Prussian Oma was sure the world was going to hell. My Swiss Opa, like all Swiss, didn’t give a damn about world events.
Nevertheless, the Summer of Love was both a media blitz and a pivotal moment in the counterculture and Flower Power movement.
The 30th Anniversary in 1997 was a rather big deal out here in Calif. I even thought of asking Mom if she wanted to go. The answer I’m sure would have been “no.” I regret not going as a 30-something to check out the “old” hippies. Many came from all over the nation again. A Detroit real estate agent, now quite established, spoke on radio about his experience and about his conservative Jewish father coming to visit him and seeing him with Indian jewelry, long hair, scruffy, and shacked up in a “love in.” It was a humorous recollection.
Then he said something I still remember. He said that his generation truly thought they were doing something positive to counter the Cold War. I thought that was curious. Moving to San Fran, growing your hair long, living in a drugged stupor, tie dye bandanas, smoking hashish pipes– how was this going to do anything for Russian (Soviet then) war production? Frankly, how was this going to do anything for US war production?
The counterculture and especially the events in “Bloomtown”– the Haight-Ashbury– were quite phenomenal. They are a continuing reminder that a whole generation can get itself into a movement. It really didn’t last. The attitude manifested itself in a way that couldn’t last.
But you would think with all the “anti-establishment” rhetoric of today there would be much more planned for the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love. We have been on the cusp of another anti-establishment movement. It has been seen coming for a while, but how it would manifest itself has proved ponderous to consider. It certainly won’t be Flower Children in the Haight-Ashbury. But perhaps the media would be wise to start dissecting and presenting the crystalized form of the current anti-establishment movement . . .beyond the phenomenon of so many Bernie or Trump voters anyway.
So much out there feels like the late ’60s and early ’70s again– race tensions, feelings of doomsday, echoes now of the cold war, paranoia. The Great Generation still helmed the ’70s, and we continued on. Is the current generation, the aged Baby Boomers, and my generation, the Twiksterish Generation X, able to lead us through this new upcoming antiestablishment movement? The Great Generation certainly had seen more unnerving things than my generation and they still held up. The saw the Depression, WWII, Holocaust, the Cold War, atomic bombs, Korea, Vietnam, and then the loose morals of their children.
Apocalypse was an attitude prevalent in the 1970s. But society still handled the unnerving reports of riots and of crime sprees as exotic as chic urban guerillas like the Symbionese Liberation Army, or the almost Thugee-like murders in San Francisco of the Zebra Killings. What have we truly seen to make us so paranoid?
Perhaps we don’t recognize the current anti-establishment movement because it is not distinguished by such stark differences in clothing and it really has no symbols. Perhaps also it has no navel in which it incubated, like Haight-Ashbury. Perhaps also because it is not inspired by global events.
But we should realize the seed had long been sewn for such a movement, and the youngest generation out there has more reasons (nationally) to be involved in an anti-establishment movement than the Baby Boomers ever had. They have seen the generation before them incapable of dealing with debt. Bankers couldn’t balance their bottom line. Politicians instituted inept housing laws. Parents didn’t even know how to take out a housing loan properly. Kids 8 and 10 years old saw their homes lost and now they are soon to be voting age. The Great Recession deeply affected a generation coming of age. Society has seemed stupid. Their parents have seemed stupid, and the nation seems on a stupid course.
They aren’t a counterculture. They aren’t into funky symbolism and hybrid mysticism. But they are more deeply suspicious of the “establishment” than any Baby Boomer had been, and they have far more rough economic circumstances to motivate them to stay focused and not indulge in the luxury (or whimsy) of making up their own religion.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester or Q Man. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.