Someone recently posted the following image on Facebook, and even though I know they were simply trying to be amusing, I found it highly offensive... (for reasons which I will explain in a moment).
Unfortunately, posting an image such as this reveals how little someone actually knows about how much damage "Flower Power" and the so-called "Love Movement" did to America. While hippies may have been right about some things, (like environmental responsibility and ecological activism), they were dead wrong about most others. Here is a brief summary of a few of the lasting effects that the single generation of 1960s-era youth had on society: an out-of-control drug culture, the unchecked rise in numerous sexually-transmitted diseases, hundreds of thousands of PTSD cases of veterans traumatized by counter-culture attacks, and the embarrassment of our nation in the eyes of the rest of the world.
When you follow the emergence of the hippie movement, it is one that outwardly preached living in harmony with all of society, and yet inwardly its actualization was one of extreme selfishness and unbridled, destructive power. Timothy Leary's invitation to "Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out" encouraged a generation of youth to abstain from any semblance of civil and moral responsibility in favor of seeking personal, self-centered desires. In the span of a few short years, the hippies managed to negate nearly all of the hard-won victories of our country's "Greatest Generation," (those who banded together to survive the Great Depression and win the Second World War). Our country descended from an industrious world leader populated by hard-working, family-oriented citizens to a vicious brood of misguided, distrustful, lazy, addicted, self-worshippers.
Like much of the hippie movement, the so-called "Summer of Love" is something of an oxymoron, because it achieved the opposite of its intended goals. When thousands of lost youths descended on the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, they did so with bold proclamations of free love, uninhibited creativity, and peace-for-all. Yet the size of this group collapsed the infrastructure of the local area, which was unprepared to deal with the sudden arrival of thousands of drugged-out, socially irresponsible vagrants. This should have been one of society's first warnings about the pure selfishness of the hippy mindset, but this event was largely ignored by anyone except other teenagers and twenty-somethings who were tired of listening to their parents telling them to grow up, get a job, and contribute something to society other than folk songs and clouds of pot smoke.
One of the rallying cries for the hippie movement was a general objection to the Vietnam War, and while I agree that anyone in their right mind should oppose war as best as possible, the hippies reacted in the worst possible way. Instead of gathering peacefully across the country, hippies engaged in numerous cases of what would now be referred to as "Domestic Terrorism." In their naïveté, thousands of youths openly proclaimed their support for Marxism/Leninism/Communism to overthrow the government of the United States, even though none of these impressionable youths had ever lived under such oppressive regimes, and many of these same degenerates would not have lasted a year if they had emigrated to the USSR.
Please do not misunderstand me - I fully support the right to peaceful assembly and vociferously objecting to war, both then and now, but there are proper ways to do so - and conversely, there are improper ways to be avoided. For example: hippies used to call my mom in the late 1960s while my dad was stationed in Vietnam, and they would pretend to be the Department of the Air Force calling to inform my mom that my dad had been killed in combat. This happened many, many times - and she would hug my brothers and me as she wept inconsolably for hours; my mom's life was probably shortened by several years due to insufferable grief caused by the heinously evil and unnecessary actions of these particular vermin who called themselves hippies.
There are two things that can be learned from the hippies' response to the Vietnam War:
- War is a terrible thing which motivates some people to do terrible things.
- The way some people choose to protest war is far worse.
Tragically, my experiences were not isolated incidents; the history of the Vietnam War on the home front is rife with examples of the complete failure on the part of the hippy movement to make their protests known while still treating veterans returning from battle like fellow human beings. (Many of these veterans were draftees instead of volunteers, and therefore they had no say in their years of military service.)
Some of the most-damaging aspects of hippie culture were the concepts of "Open Marriages," "Free Love," etc. In their efforts to rid themselves of any vestige of what they believed were their parents' outdated sensibilities, hippies managed to convince themselves that committed, monogamous relationships were a thing of the past, and they substituted "Do What Feels Good For You" casual relationships in their place. There is an age-old axiom which states, "Why buy the cow when the milk is free," and in keeping with that notion, the men of the hippy generation managed to convince the women of that era to abandon their morality in what was probably the most-condescending deception of women in the history of the United States. To quote Steve Martin, "Free Love ... was the single greatest concept a young man has ever heard. This was a time when intercourse, or some version of it, was a way of saying hello. About three years later, women got wise and my frustration returned to normal levels (Martin 2007, 100)." Despite the ill-guided assertions that the hippy movement gave birth to the Women's Liberation movement of the following decade, male hippies treated their female counterparts little better than objects for their own, self-desires. As a direct result, a conflagration of sexually-transmitted diseases spread across the country like a raging inferno, divorce rates skyrocketed, and millions of children were forced to grow up in single-parent homes due to the hippy-based philosophy that marriages need not be permanent.
Ultimately the hippy movement was a complete failure of society on both sides of equation: the hippies failed to behave in any fashion which reflects the better ideals of humanity, and the United States' government failed to effectively respond to the subculture which infested much of the Baby Boomer generation. Our nation still bears numerous scars from societal wounds inflicted by the selfish and amoral youth of the 1960s, and history will eventually reveal that their actions irrevocably damaged the fabric of our culture and hastened the demise of our once-great country.
On a personal note - forty-five years have passed since the time when my family was individually targeted and tormented by faceless cowards who publicly preached love for their fellow man while privately living for their own selfish gains. I have neither forgiven nor forgotten the traumatic pain that these so-called "Peace Loving Hippies" caused my family and our nation to suffer.
Martin, Steve. Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life. New York, NY: Simon & Shuster, Inc., 2007.