The Way We Were

I am writing another blog about nostalgia, which according to my Google sources is defined as: “A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.” I chose in my last blog to delve deeply into the music scene in San Francisco during the famous, or notorious, depending on your viewpoint, “Summer of Love” in 1967….But there was a lot more going on in the summer of 1967 than just the musical explosion….

The music scene in San Francisco at that time was indeed rich and varied, textured and layered, infused with raw energy and good vibes and any of my fellow baby boomers who were privileged enough to have lived here in San Francisco or shared many of the same experiences wherever they lived, east coast or west coast, or anywhere in between at that pivotal point in time, can all pool and share their memories with mine, and we can all consider ourselves as fortunate to have participated in it and survived those turbulent times, just like I do…

It was, quite simply, The Way We Were, like the famous movie of the same name, starring Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand with her haunting, chilling nostalgic musical rendering of the theme song of the movie, “Memories…Misty Water Colored Memories…Of The Way We Were”…..

But like anybody living through a period of great social changes, we were “caught in the middle again” often unaware of the ramifications, implications, spin offs and ultimate results of the things we all did in our daily lives back then, the choices we made, and how they have changed the world we live in today…It is always that way, and we can always see things in better perspective through the lenses of the here and now, looking back…..Everybody has 20/20 hindsight….

But describing the music scene in San Francisco during the Summer of Love led me down all sorts of pathways and deep into the labyrinth of my mind, my memories of what it was really like back then, so different from today, yet the social dynamics and the societal changes that were inspired by the music and the times themselves have engendered and developed and mutated into today’s modern world almost seamlessly….

The world was a far different place in 1967….There was the Cold War with Russia going on in the background, seemingly forever, but meantime there was the very hot and lively Vietnam War going on as a sort of proxy war between the superpowers of the United States and the communist state of China….

China was allied with Russia then in a communist monolith vs democracy for world dominion, as we had so patiently and repeatedly explained to us ad nauseaum by our own United States government…The entire hippie movement was in large part spawned by the rejection of the validity of the Vietnam War by the youthful generation of the up and coming baby boomers….

For the first time, we were learning to think for ourselves, to make our own decisions, to decide if our government was telling the truth or lying, and to our shock and surprise, in the end, we found out we were right all along!

The war WAS largely a lie, as confessed to by luminaries of the time like Robert McNamara, former Secretary of State, who came clean many years later with his famous mea culpa , again culled from Google sources: “We were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.” — McNamara, writing in his 1995 memoir, “In Retrospect,” on the management of the Vietnam War…

The politics of the war produced a split in the burgeoning youth movement of baby boomers between the hippies and the social activists, with the hippies opting to “Make Love, Not War” and listening to the siren song of Timothy Leary, “Tune In, Turn on, Drop Out,” as opposed to succumbing to the blandishments of the more strident left wing political activists from the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) like Tom Hayden, Abbey Hoffman and Mark Rudd….

Most of the SDS self destructed as they became more and more like the autocratic government they wanted to overthrow, and the peaceful hippies were not interested in rallies, marches and demonstrations…They certainly wanted to avoid the war, but not to the point of active,violent rebellion, and for the most part they were able to ride out the storm in a drug fueled, musically inspired sanctuary of their own making until the war collapsed of it’s own volition….

But this split in philosophies was to become an ongoing thing, with more and more people challenging authority in every way….As a result, today the government is more transparent than ever before, and they are forced to explain themselves more than they ever had to back in the simplistic days of “My Country, Right or Wrong” or “America, Love It or Leave It”…

We will never again be a nation of sheep obediently and willingly herded to the point of virtual destruction just because our so called leaders think it best for all of us….Our political leaders, after all, are just people, with their own personal agendas to push…

This questioning of authority has now become a way of life, and never again will we Americans blindly follow our leaders, and this has all become possible because of the individual courage, no matter their ultimate convictions, of the first generation of American youth, the baby boomers, as we came of age….There was never a generation like us, and there will likely never be another one….

There is so much more to explore, contrasting the world back then and the world as it exists today, but it all had to start somewhere, and it all started with the youth of the 1960’s, questioning the established order of the government, or as the Who so elegantly phrased it way back when, way back then, when they sang “Talking About…My Generation!”