Generational Dynamics: Forecasting America's Destiny Generational
 Forecasting America's Destiny ... and the World's


Generational Dynamics Web Log for 12-Jun-07
Boomers commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

Web Log - June, 2007

Boomers commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

In many ways, 1967 was the cultural peak of America's Awakening era.

January 14, 1967 - Tens of thousands of young people filled Golden Gate Park for a "Human Be-In." <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: PBS)</font>
January 14, 1967 - Tens of thousands of young people filled Golden Gate Park for a "Human Be-In." (Source: PBS)

Tens of thousands of young people, including many young teenagers, made their way to San Francisco to fulfill their dreams of freedom. The guys could wear long hair, the girls could wear short dresses; both could wear flowers in their hair. They could listen to rock 'n' roll. They could smoke pot and take LSD. They could be part of the antiwar movement, the civil rights movement, the women's lib movement, the environmental movement. They could become one with nature.

They were the beat generation. They could all be hippies, or beatniks, or anything else they wanted to be.

The antiwar protests had begun in 1965, when 25,000 students marched on Washington. By 1967, more than 400,000 troops had been sent to Vietnam. The kids would change that.

After the Summer of Love, "Flower Power" would rule. They would create a freer nation, socialist instead of capitalist, peaceloving instead of warmongering, where everyone would be equal, and there would be no more war or poverty. They would change the world.

It wasn't just the summer. Kids started pouring into the city in January 1967 for a "Human Be-In." Tens of thousands of them filled the Polo Fields at Golden Gate Park on January 14. a day of rock music, poetry, Buddhist chants.

Former Harvard Professor Timothy Leary asked students to "turn on, tune in and drop out." <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: PBS)</font>
Former Harvard Professor Timothy Leary asked students to "turn on, tune in and drop out." (Source: PBS)

The intellectual guru and hero was Timothy F. Leary, a former psychology professor at Harvard who had experimented with psychedelic drugs, especially LSD. He administered LSD on an experimental basis, and claimed that people taking it were benefitted, with mystical and spiritual experiences. He was fired from Harvard in 1963, for being absent from classes. In San Francisco, he told the kids to "turn on, tune in and drop out." By this he meant: Use LSD, listen to him, and drop out of school.

The "Human Be-In" got sensational worldwide press coverage. The optimism and idealism brought more tens of thousands of young people to San Francisco for a summer of concerts.

1967 was a breakout year for many, many great bands and albums. The Beatles came out with Sgt. Pepper, although when they admitted to having used LSD, they received mixed reviews for their behavior, if not for their music. Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin all made a mark. The theme song was "San Francisco," written by John Phillips of the Mamas & the Papas, and sung by Scott McKenzie:

"If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there
In the streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair

All across the nation such a strange vibration
People in motion
There's a whole generation with a new explanation
People in motion people in motion

For those who come to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there

If you come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there."

The song was a worldwide hit, and indeed, flowers were in style around the world as well.

Bored kids in the "Beat Generation" often turned to drugs. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: PBS)</font>
Bored kids in the "Beat Generation" often turned to drugs. (Source: PBS)

But the idealism began to wear off. San Francisco really couldn't handle so many young people for so long, and there were "incidents" that got people arrested.

Even worse, many kids without much to do ended up just sitting around smoking pot. Distraught parents, worried about their runaway children, sent photos to San Francisco officials, who posted them around the city. When a runaway teen was identified, the parents were notified to come and get him or her.

By the end of the summer, the Summer of Love was over in more ways than one. San Francisco really wasn't that much fun anymore and, more important, the optimism and idealism had turned for many to desperation, bitterness and disappointment.

Bulletin boards were filled with snapshots of runaway teens sent in by distraught parents. <font face=Arial size=-2>(Source: PBS)</font>
Bulletin boards were filled with snapshots of runaway teens sent in by distraught parents. (Source: PBS)

Within a few years, Timothy Leary had spent time in jail, and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin had died of drug overdoses. The Summer of Love turned into several long, hot summers of violence, as antiwar and other protesters took to the streets.

Still, Boomers today idealize and venerate the Summer of Love as a time when young people came together to make the world a better place.

If you're too young to remember anything about the Summer of Love, you should take a little time to learn more about what happened.

Most of the photos from this article were taken from the the PBS series on the Summer of Love, and you can see the entire series on the PBS web site.

The San Francisco Chronicle has published a five-part series on the Summer of Love, with the title, "1967: The stuff that myths are made of."

And New York City's Whitney Museum is exhibiting music, movies, paintings and sculptures from the era.

I've been saying for five years now that there is no antiwar movement in America today, and that there can't be any antiwar movement in America today, and that college-aged students would never participate in anything resembling a 1960s-style antiwar movement today. As I explained in last year's article, "Why aren't college students protesting against the Iraq war?", college-aged kids aren't protesting against the war because there's no "generation gap" today as there was in the 1960s.

Can you imagine today thousands of teenagers running away from home and heading for a "Summer of Love" somewhere? It's unthinkable today, because teenagers aren't estranged from their parents the way they were in the 1960s.

And remember who those runaway teens were -- none other than the Baby Boomer generation, the generation that now runs the country, including the clown circus Congress.

Those runaway children are now running Congress, still acting like they're on LSD and pot, still hoping that Flower Power will change the world. (12-Jun-07) Permanent Link
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