(Musings to my grandchildren)
I’m a new grandparent, so all I could wonder about before, during, and now after the election, is what my grandchildren’s future will look like. The nurturing part of me wants to protect them from all evil, wrongdoing, and unsavory individuals. I want them to grow up in a peaceful world where all men and women are created equal, where music brings us together, and where everyone has a chance to self-actualize. This may be idealistic, but that’s the way I feel. My dreams for my grandkids are as lofty as they were for the three beautiful children I brought into the world.
I was born in the 1950s and raised in New York in the midst of the hippie generation. I hung out in head shops in the suburbs of New York City, wore beaded necklaces, walked barefoot in the park, burned incense, and listened to music under black lights. Because I had asthma, I never got into smoking marijuana, but I did protest the war and say good-bye to friends who went to fight in Vietnam. I fought for numerous causes and wore cut-off jeans that swept the dirty streets. And, I illegally wore the American flag slung like a scarf around my shoulders. As a writer, I filled my journal with musings about the Utopian world of my dreams.
The hippie generation was, in essence, an emotional rebellion against the mindless direction in which our world was headed. The ’60s counterculture asked questions and begged for answers and/or peace. There have been predictions that this intellectual rebellion will soon return because of political and racial oppression, and my sense is that it might emerge sooner than we think. In fact, the riots that broke out in major cities earlier this week following the election might signal the beginning of a badly needed revolution. Maybe we also need a resurfacing of counterculture music, sex, and verbiage.
Today, while speaking on the phone to a friend who shared the spirit of my upbringing in the 1960s, I felt the same stirrings in my blood—the same desire to join together and instill change, the pull to help bring a sense of peace to unsettling times. I felt the same compulsion to engage in some type of activism that I felt back then. What I see and feel now are all reminders of the many similarities our current situation has to the hippie generation, which was a time of excess—racial violence, war, corporate greed, and a buildup of intolerance and dissatisfaction. Drugs were widely used then, of course, so the recent legalization of marijuana in many states is indicative of another parallel with the hippie generation. And, social media has encouraged people to speak up and voice their concerns—political and personal—which can easily lead to a revolution.
While I, and many others with a spiritual orientation, advocate self-care through meditation, yoga, and writing for healing, there are many who are self-destructing. Among teens, the suicide rate is higher than ever, and more veterans are dying from suicide than in combat. Racism and bigotry are becoming more widespread.
I want to be the messenger to my kids and grandchildren and inspire them to keep the faith, be compassionate, and promote the power of interconnectedness. As we used to say in the 1960s, “Make love not war.” This is not just a slogan; it’s vital to our collective well-being. The resurgence of the hippie revolution merely means that we need to reevaluate old thoughts and bring in fresh and poignant new ideas. It might be a good time to revisit books such as The Hippie Dictionary by John Bassett McClearly (2002), which is really a history book that casts a beautiful picture of those times. The author highlights some words in the book’s introduction, which I think still apply today, such as: Hang in there, and keep on trucking. Most important, let’s keep in mind some of the words in that dictionary and the core of what this country was built upon: “A democracy is a society or form of government in which the population is given the opportunity to contribute to the decisions that govern them” (p. 126).
We are still that . . . and hopefully always will be.
Like me, McCleary also believes in making one’s opinions known through writing. On the last page of his book, he wrote these words at the top of the page followed by some blank lines:
“This is a space where all you concerned citizens can write down all the things that you think our government and business leaders are doing wrong and what should be done about it. You can also E-mail all of this to me and, above all, to your elected officials.”.
As the wonderful singer/songwriter Pete Seeger said, “We shall overcome.” I am hopeful that will do just that . . . for our children, our grandchildren, and ourselves.