Following on yesterday’s post, my own teen years were the flower power, flower children, make love not war, hippy, long-haired, draft-dodging, protest-marching, drug-induced 1960s. Fashions were bizarrely similar to today. Today’s flared pants “sitting just below the waist” were my bell bottomed hip huggers; today’s “Capri” pants were the pedal pushers of my youth; and my daughter’s jacket is my “pea” jacket of 40 years ago. I watched TV programs like the Ed Sullivan Show, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which was filled with the thought-of-but-not-yet-possible sci-fi gadgets of today. My music was the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones, The Who, The Animals, and Bob Dylan droning endlessly on. We challenged everything proffered by the “establishment”. We raised our hemlines until they were up to our thighs, and when that no longer had shock value, we lowered them down to our calves. We marched and protested and found we had the power to stop a war. The first Super Bowl, the first heart transplant, the first man on the moon, the first broadcast of Sesame Street; and I stood proudly on Parliament Hill as my country raised a brand new flag.
The Berlin Wall went up, trapping people and splitting families—“checkpoint Charlie” became a symbol of the Cold War; the fight for civil rights raged south of the border and people “of colour” were not yet legislated as my equal. The pill was introduced, testing my morality, while women having children outside of marriage were blighted with the label “unwed mother”. My decade, perhaps more so than some, was one of youth pushing for change but caught betwixt and between an Establishment trying to hold the line.
Nightly news bulletins brought the Vietnam War into our living rooms—names like Da Nang and Haiphong, Saigon and Hanoi became familiar to us; there we saw the destruction wrought by napalm, and the faces of American youth who were too young to vote but not too young to die. It seemed endless. The world was stretching, reshaping, and redefining and, in the process, becoming smaller.
The American Civil Rights Movement, protest marches and the sexual revolution, civil unrest and discontentment—all were personified in the hippie culture and their fashion and music. These events and times in which I grew up naturally had a hand in shaping my opinions and my values; they helped define my dreams, and my nightmares.
Significant events swirled around me—some made me gape in awe, as I watched when man landed on the moon; some made me cringe in fear, as the Cold War raged and the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics hurtled threats and counter threats at each other across the globe and air raid sirens were erected in my playgrounds and bomb shelters became the latest home addition; some I tried to fathom, but couldn’t as I witnessed whites’ inhumanity towards blacks; some made me cry with despair, as when I heard the news of a President being shot and killed … and a presidential candidate … and a world leader for civil rights. Scandal rocked our neighbour to the south as revelations of the Washington Post and “Deep Throat” brought down a presidency.
I shrank all these events down and added them to the mix with all my own youthful emotions, awkwardness, social ineptitude, and fragile self esteem. They percolated for a while, and eventually it all distilled into the me that is me. Maybe not a generation so different … I guess youth will always push the limits, test the waters, rage against established controls … and then settle back to a norm … a norm that is, perhaps, a little less… or a little more limited, a little less … or a little more controlled.
When my grandchildren look back I wonder what they will find?