I’m offended when comedians and rock stars say “If you remember the sixties, you really weren’t there” as if drugs defined the Vietnam generation. It’s personal for me and more. In 1960 I volunteered in JFK’s presidential campaign and spent the mid-sixties in a Catholic seminary helping in Baltimore’s inner city. In the late-sixties I went to war in Vietnam and ended the decade trying to stop that war. I wanted to save our country’s soul, American and Vietnamese lives.
This story is not unique. My first post-war girlfriend had been a Peace Corps volunteer in Columbia, served with the Red Cross in Vietnam and was working for Girl Scouts in Appalachia when we met in 1969 at a Washington peace demonstration.
Martin Luther King taught America what active nonviolence could accomplish. Southern Blacks risked their lives to fight segregation and inspired inter-racial Freedom Riders to risk theirs. Saul Alinsky taught community organizing. Thousands became neighborhood advocates. Young women taught us how damaging sexism is to women, men and families.
Sixties music shaped and was transformed by our values and advocacy. The Beatles went from “I want to hold your hand” to John Lennon’s “Imagine”. Black and Brown singers and musicians found a wider audience.
The human potential movement enabled us to process the rapid changes, conflicts with our families and conservative communities. Eastern spirituality helped us find deeper meaning in our lives. We sorted out how we wanted to live our lives. We became more accepting of alternative personal relationships and clarified how we wanted live and raise our kids.
History happens and is then explained by how we record and discuss it. This is my perspective. How do you understand the 1960s?
Thanks to Vincent Ciulla for the graphics I share. If you want a copy of his sixties collage email him at: Vciulla@me.com