Last week I was driving my 12 year old son to his music lesson, listening to NPR. It was a beautiful day and all was right with the world, and then he said something, out of the clear blue sky that chilled me to the bone. “I hate hippies”! “Why”, I said ?. “They’re losers! They messed up my future with their hippie revolution – sitting around half-naked on blankets flashing that stupid peace sign. We should have dropped the bomb! Then there wouldn’t be any wars and I wouldn’t have to go to Iraq or some other crazy country when I get older”, he said. I told him, “Your solution is simplistic, but accurate – probably not, and though I’ve personally experienced violence I’m not an advocate of war. I’m still a Hippie! I took part in sit-ins, be-ins, demonstrations, marched with Martin Luther King, and heard Malcom X speak. I saw Hendrix, Otis Redding, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison – live! Once a hippie always a hippie!” “Wrong”, he said, “You’re not a Hippie anymore, you’ve been de-hippiefied. You wear ties to work, have short hair and drive a Volvo station wagon.” I tried to explain to my son that being a Hippie was not about how you looked but what you do. “Hippies have values: like peace, love, and brotherhood. Growing up in a gang-infested neighborhood in West Philadelphia it was the Hippie movement that made us lay down the gun and pick up the peace pipe.” “No matter what you say you can’t change my mind”, he said. “A closed my mind is almost worthless”, I responded, getting irritated. “You sound like a Republican!” I wondered where I went wrong.
To me the Beatles were the catalyst for the Hippie movement. Middle class white kids who decided to grow their hair long, and emulate the Beatles, were ostracized by their parents – thrown out, cut out of the will, just because they wanted long hair. Sure there were the beatniks and the bohemians, but they represented a small segment. But when mainstream America battled their kids over the length of their hair – the fight was on! Young people rebelled, left home, and realized that their parents were wrong about a whole lot of other stuff too – like racism, sexism, and classism. The grip that parents held over their children, honor thy mother and father no matter what, was broken, and millions of kids never returned home. You can be sure if your parents threw you out because of what you looked like, bringing someone home of a different culture or color may not get you invited to Christmas dinner either. When my brothers and I brought white kids home to our all black neighborhood it truly tested the strength of our family and neighborhood bonds too! But ultimately we won – an integrated our world. There can be no progress without tension!
One thing my son said that stood out was his reference to the Hippies as a revolution. We did change the world, but we stopped short. We joined the Democrats, organized religion, got paid off and ripped off, and became a part of the status quo – a by-line in history. We should have held out, changed the agenda and started our own party – The Hippie Party! Our platform could’ve reflected two things – (1) Values: free speech, non-violence, ecology, love thy neighbor and equal rights. (2) Hedonism: free love (multiple partners), music, dance, nudity (no shame of your body), self-medication and enlightenment (drugs and alcohol, but only in moderation).
Think of the endless possibilities! Politicians like Bill Clinton and George W. Bush should join (Bill said he never inhaled while Hippies never exhaled; George liked his coke too). Jimmie Swaggert and Jim Baker who loved multiple partners could join. Who obviously was more against war or joining the Armed Forces than Rumsfield and Dick Cheney, both never served in the military. The NBA, NFL, and Major League Baseball players, all proponents of the hedonistic lifestyle, would join. Everyone in Hollywood, and the music industry would be welcome. Advocates of healthy eating and of the environment like Martha Stewart, Ophray Winfrey and Alice Waters are potential members. Who wouldn’t join our movement? The only two people who come to mind are Jerry Falwell and my son, but he’s only 12!
Let’s bring the peace sign back! Flash it, defeat the gang signs. We can win this time! San Francisco has long ago passed away as the center of the Hippie nation. Today our challenge is to bring together the urban Hippie, like in Berkeley, and the rural Hippie outside of Santa Cruz. People around the country need to come out of the closet too. We’re fighting each other over dumb stuff ! In spite of the Blue State, Red State rhetoric there are plenty of Hippies and potential Hippies all across the nation. Who can unite us? Who is qualified to re-invigorate our Hippie revolution? I’d volunteer myself, but I’ve got a mortgage to pay and music lessons for my kids on the weekend.
So the next time you see me, if you’re on board, flash the peace sign. “A journey of a 1,000 miles begins with a single step.” Our kids need us! Peace! Love! Power to the people!