Thursday, September 24, 2015

Surviving the Sixties ...

As I read the biographies of several creative people over the last couple of years, what struck me was that even though they were wildly talented and successful, it wasn't enough to keep them from self-destructing. In fact, there were so many talented and successful stars that flamed out when they were 27 that they are in what we came to call the 27 Club. It made me so sad that all that ended far too soon.

But recently I read Mick, about Mick Jagger, and now I'm halfway through Dylan and it's a whole different story. Both Mick Jagger and Bob Dylan are survivors of their halcyon days, not because they didn't do things that were equally self-destructive, like drugs and other forms of hard living, but because for some reason, they lived long enough to slow it down and survive. They are mega-stars, legends really, and still going strong.

And I realized that all of us who went through the sixties and seventies and made it to our sixties and seventies are survivors of the battles, experimentation and risk-taking we lived in those years. We're still enjoying our rock 'n' rollers from forty and fifty years ago, and we're still fighting for what we think is right. We've lost a lot of people and times have changed a good deal but, as the song goes, we're still here.

We wanted to change the world and in many ways, we did. Some think it was for the worse. I don't. I have a friend who always says we changed the dress code, and maybe that's a good metaphor for what we changed. Everyone can pretty much dress the way they want to now, and they can pretty much be who they want to, without having to adhere to the rigid codes we grew up with in the fifties.

We brought about many other changes as well: pot is on the way to being legal, same-sex marriage is the law of the land, women have more equality now, the black middle class has grown, civil rights legislation is the law of the land, abortion is legal, the draft is no more, people can live together and have children without being ashamed that they aren't married, there is more legal recourse for discrimination and abuse.

It's not all roses. The environment is under siege, so is abortion. Women and minorities are still unequal in so many ways. There are far too many people in jail, especially minorities, and they are too often in fear of the law. Same-sex marriage is having a rocky start. There are far too many rapes in the military, the greedy corporations and the rich are taking way too much for themselves. And public education is fighting to survive.

Although we've all come a very, very long way since our hippy days of civil rights and anti-war protests, be-ins, communes, sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, peace, love, good vibes and the whole counterculture world, many of us who survived the sixties are still fighting for the ideals that drove us then. And millions more now share the sixties ideals and are just as willing to fight for them. In fact, there were enough of us in 2008 to elect the first African American president.

We didn't realize back then that change would take so long, but I take courage from knowing times have changed, which means they can keep changing, for the better. 

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