It's a riot, it's a romp, it's a ride. It's a roller coaster of a revolution that jangles to this day. Actually, it's 1967, and the place is Haight-Ashbury, a district of a few square blocks just outside downtown San Francisco. The occasion? A spontaneous gathering of revelers, all set to erupt into lawlessness, licentiousness, and madness--that roller coaster's mind-blowing feature plunge. And it's the intent of this document to accurately describe not only the event but the times--to, in so doing, fairly portray a philosophical dichotomy that pitted American against American with a bitterness not seen since the War Between the States. The work does not mean to defend one side against the other; it strives to be an account, rather than an argument. The following introduction attempts a brief history of the political climate and social turmoil leading to that emotional maelstrom known as The Summer of Love.
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The Itch Of Being
In the beginning there was a burst of energy.
To the disillusioned it was the sweet flowering of the human spirit, the blossoming of man.
We were shell-shocked—a charismatic young president was in the ground. Smog was in our lungs, mercury in our fish, acid in our rain. And every night the tube laid it out straight for us: the sky was falling, ghettos were ablaze, drought-stricken countries were somehow producing starving children even faster than their desperately concerned parents could frantic-ally copulate. Amazing. And, still playing King of the Mountain, the goliaths were scrapping over some festering wound in Southeast Asia. But that was all just news and nonsense—more emphatically than all these crises combined, the Bomb made it plain. We were doomed.
The blossom emerged Underground, with roots in British rock, Mexican hemp, Indian mysticism, American pharmaceuticals. Suddenly there was a beat in the air. We became light-headed and gender-fuzzy, politically hip and vagabond-chic. Rather than bear arms, we bore daisies. Instead of seeking enlistment, we sought to bedevil our senses. It was our world now, and we were going to fix it; with smiles, with slogans, with symbols and songs. At the very brink of perdition we stood, synchronizing our auras to chant the Devil down.
It would take time. But we were young and strong and many. We had all this energy.
Enough to galvanize even the witless and despondent. Enough to give the staunchest of doomsayers pause. Enough to, for a stutter in time, make a difference.
And that burgeoning energy was Love, flinging its seeds and budding anew, fitting piece by piece each anomalous member of the stubborn human puzzle.
To our fathers, however, the choreographer’s hand was unmistakable. All this business about peace and love could only be the usual commie line, designed to seduce and regiment the usual parade of whining followers. And the parade grated. After Normandy, after Inch’on, after all the lost lives and limbs—that we hairy young hedonists should spew a single syllable concerning policy riled even the most moderate of conservatives. We’d turned their Beaver Cleaver streets into psychedelic play-grounds, muddied the mat of every Judeo-Christian ethic—but pacifism under fire was the final straw. They raged and appealed, threatened and condemned, hurled accusations of everything from homosexuality to treason. Almost overnight “peace” became a dirty word, and any mention of spiritual flowering made palms itch for the rough kiss of a trusty scythe.
Eventually the blossom shriveled. We grew bored with it all, became pragmatic, and, to our everlasting and unforgivable shame, adopted typically pedestrian lives of dollar-based drudgery, bald-faced brown-nosing, and soulless confrontation.
Now the Revolution is little more than a doddering irrelevancy. Yet there are those who still believe the corpse can be resuscitated, the rush reproduced. They’ll bend your ear if you let them. They’ll hound you with tales of an age gone by, when freedom grew wild in the Pollyanna Spring. Be gentle with them, and never broach that lesson every generation learns way too late: that all that energy—all that optimism, enthusiasm, and potential—was vested in, of course, the impetuous hands of youth.