Making Sense of the Sixties

Many social changes that were addressed in the 1960s are
still the issues being confronted today. The '60s was a
decade of social and political upheaval. In spite of all the
turmoil, there were some positive results: the civil rights
revolution, John F. Kennedy's bold vision of a new frontier,
and the breathtaking advances in space, helped bring about
progress and prosperity. However, much was negative:
student and anti-war protest movements, political
assassinations, and ghetto riots excited American people
and resulted in lack of respect for authority and the law.
The decade began under the shadow of the cold war with
the Soviet Union, which was aggravated by the U-2
incident, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban missile crisis, along
with the space race with the USSR. The decade ended
under the shadow of the Vietnam war, which deeply
divided Americans and their allies and damaged the
country's self-confidence and sense of purpose. Even if you
weren't alive during the '60s, you know what they meant
when they said, "tune in, turn on, drop out." you know why
the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. All
of the social issues are reflected in today's society: the civil
rights movement, the student movement, the sexual
revolution, the environment, and most controversial of all,
Hippies. The sixties is also known for it's rapid birth rate.
Nearly 76 million children were born to this generation, and
for that they are called the " Baby Boomers." Surprisingly,
even though so many children were being born, not many
parents knew how to raise them. The parents of the 50's
and 60's were so concerned with the world around them
that going to work was the only image children had of their
fathers. Kids didn't understand why they worked so much
just to gain more material possessions. Children of this
generation grew up learning just about how to be free and
happy. Most of the time, when thinking back to the sixties,
people remember hearing about things such as sex, drugs,
and racism. However, what they often tend to overlook is
the large emphasis "freedoms" had on the era. This does
not just refer to the freedoms already possessed by every
American of the time. This focuses on the youth's fight to
gain freedom or break away from the values and ideas left
behind by the older generation. These fights were used to
help push for freedoms from areas such as society's rules
and values, competition, living for others first, and the older
generation's beliefs as a whole including the freedom to use
drugs. The younger generation just wanted a chance to
express their own views rather than having to constantly
succumb to the values and rules left behind by the older
generation. In order to find these unique and different
qualities in each other and themselves, the younger
generation often turned to drugs. This was another freedom
which they were required to fight for since the older
generation did not support drug use as a source of pleasure
or creativity. This could basically be considered an outright
rejection of the older society's values. Drugs were also
seen as a freedom from reality. They enabled the youths to
escape to a different kind of world. Because of the youths'
great desire to achieve a universal sense of peace and
harmony, drugs were sometimes a very important part of
one's life. Sometimes, they would plan a day or evening
around the use of a major drug so that they could enjoy it
to the fullest extent. This could almost be considered ironic
in the sense that while trying to gain one freedom, the ability
to use drugs, the youths appeared to have lost another
freedom, the ability to live their own lives. It seems more as
if their live! s were controlled by the drugs and the drugs'
effects than by the people themselves. The combination of
defiance, revolution, and drugs created a major Hippie era.
Thousands of hippies would flock to the party capitals of
the world for the high of a life time. Haight Ashberry, San
Francisco, was once considered hippie central for the
world. Here people would just line the streets with drug
use, sex, and wild music. In 1967, came the "Summer of
Love." This period was not unlike the previous acts of the
hippies, just more intense. And to top off the hippie era,
one of the largest concerts in the world took place in
Woodstock, New York. During the several days of music,
sex and drugs were abused heavily, almost to a point of
complete stupor. But even though it may have seemed like
under mayhem, it was one of the greatest moments of