[sixties-l] Why do Republicans Trash the 1960's?

From: radtimes (resist@best.com)
Date: Thu Aug 02 2001 - 15:35:09 EDT

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                            Why do Republicans Trash the 1960's?

                            July 30, 2001
                            by Michael S. Reilly

                            As an amateur historian I've
    always been intrigued by the 1960's and the people who
                            represented this decade. I
    wasn't alive back then but have a well-established appreciation
                            for the intellectual works,
    causes, music, figures and ideas of the era. While romanticized
                            by some, this period has also
    been slandered by others; namely, the Republican Party.
                            Given that the most
    well-renowned themes of the 1960's were peace and love; "live and
                            let live;" smiling on one's
    brother and so forth, one might find it difficult to understand how
                            such ideals could come under
    fire. But the Republicans are admittedly quite adept at
                            finding ways to condemn
    concepts such as compassion, tolerance and understanding
                            under the guise of promoting
    morals and decency.

                            It goes without saying that the
    GOP has no shortage of targets to rail against and assign
                            blame to for all of society's
    ills, but members of the leftist movements of the 1960's are
                            particularly despised. The lack
    of "personal responsibility" that allegedly trademarked the
                            era is a common complaint from
    conservatives. According to Republican dogma, great
                            damage to our society was
    caused by "if it feels good, do it" dirty hippie lowlives with no
                            work ethic, whose insidious
    influence perpetuated a decline in marriage and a rise in
                            promiscuity/unwanted pregnancy,
    drug use, and anti-American sentiment that undermined
                            our values and caused us to
    lose the war in Vietnam. Various icons of the era such as
                            Charles Manson and Ira Einhorn
    who "went bad" are held up by the right wing as
                            examples of the supposed
    poisonous nature of this movement. In short, Republicans have
                            attempted for decades to
    convince people that the gentle "free love" mindset of the 1960's
                            was a failed, immoral disaster.

                            As far as causing damage to our
    society goes, I think the disgusting abuses of power and
                            public disillusionment that
    occurred during the Nixon years as well as the massive
                            unemployment, homelessness and
    deficits spawned by the Reagan administration caused
                            much more harm to America than
    kids toking up in a VW bus, chanting mantras and
                            "doing their own thing." Though
    they'll never admit it, I'm sure that Republicans secretly
                            agree, which explains their
    constant need to point fingers in all other directions to turn the
                            spotlight away from their sins.
    Make no mistake, the lectures of Republican arbiters of
                            morality who rail against
    hippies are based purely on a self-serving agenda, and not due to
                            any integrity or ethical
    standards. Let's tackle the issues to examine the actual reasons for
                            the never-ending quest by the
    right wing to discredit and condemn the hippies of the

                            1. "Personal Responsibility."

                            This is a favorite catch phrase
    of the Republicans and like any mindless advertising slogan
                            it means absolutely nothing.
    This is a party that cannot boast of a single member - up to
                            and including their figurehead
    president - who has ever taken personal responsibility for
                            anything in their lives.
    Republicans who commit adultery or father children out of wedlock
                            are routinely ignored by their
    own party amidst their fervor to point fingers at Democrats
                            for the same thing. Republicans
    who commit crimes are continually excused or protected
                            amidst a smear campaign against
    those who exposed them (the phrase "youthful
                            indiscretion" is a favorite so
    long as it applies to wealthy white conservatives) as meanwhile
                            they attempt to dredge up
    whatever dirt they can on Democrats.

                            Even mistakes made in the
    course of Republican leadership, such as bad policy decisions
                            or economic plans, are
    inevitably laid at the doorstep of any Democrats they can find like
                            an unwanted baby dumped on a
    church stoop. This last effort has resulted in the infamous
                            Republican claim that the
    deficits of the 1980's were all the fault of the
                            Democratic-controlled Congress
    but the economic boom of the 1990's was thanks to
                            President Reagan's magical
    influence. If you believe that then you must be sitting on a
                            pocket full of wooden nickels.

                            "Personal Responsibility" is
    merely a concept that nonconservatives must adhere to;
                            conservatives themselves appear
    to be universally exempt from such an inconvenient
                            requirement. Therefore, this
    hypocritical party has no business even mentioning the phrase
                            "personal responsibility" (nor
    any other that involves morality), for it will earn the ridicule it

                            2. "Dirty lazy potsmoking hippies having sex"

                            According to the Republicans,
    the love generation of the 1960's were smelly slobs who
                            engaged in non-stop "free love"
    orgies in between massive bong hits and acid trips.
                            Laziness, drug use and
    promiscuity are some common criticisms from the conservatives (I
                            won't even dignify the
    stereotype of "dirty" by addressing it). Accusing past hippies of
                            having no work ethic (tell that
    to the ones who worked on communal farms from sunrise to
                            sunset!) doesn't exactly
    transform clean-cut conservatives into icons of industrious
                            dedication. George W. Bush, for
    instance, is not only famous for but proud of his brief
                            workday and afternoon naps (not
    to mention his paucity of scholastic achievement) and
                            yet he has somehow escaped
    criticism from members of his party. Furthermore, when I
                            think of hard workers I
    envision the people who scrub floors, flip burgers, and ring up
                            groceries for minimum wage,
    working double shifts to put food on the table for their kids.
                            Yet strangely enough
    Republicans never seem interested in rewarding their work ethic with
                            an increase in the minimum
    wage, choosing instead to issue tearful (yet thoroughly-refuted)
                            hand-wringing predictions that
    any such increases will harm the economy.

                            As far as drug use goes,
    certainly the use of marijuana, LSD, and similar substances is
                            illegal, and while I don't
    condone breaking the law I also think people will make up their
                            own minds regarding what to do
    with their bodies. Republicans cannot take the high road
                            here because their attitude, as
    evinced by their fawning protection of Jenna Bush during
                            her underage drinking debacle
    earlier this year, is that "stupid laws can and should be
                            broken" - even laws fomented by
    members of their own political party, apparently. We
                            must thank the Republicans for
    leading by example here because based on their own
                            philosophy they cannot condemn
    anyone for illegal drug use. Certainly those who perform
                            it disagree with the laws
    involved and the conservatives have indicated that this all that is
                            required to get the go-ahead to
    break the law. As for morality, there is no morality
                            involved with imbibing or
    inhaling substances; it is a biological activity performed for
                            purposes of intoxication,
    nothing more. Whether you drink coffee, smoke cigarettes, gulp
                            tequila or shoot heroin, you're
    a drug user any way you slice it and it's all the same as far
                            as the chemical aspects of
    these biological processes work.

                            So we're down to promiscuity,
    which is not restricted by legislation (as long as money is
                            not exchanged). It's a subject
    one can only interpret and decide upon for themselves. I
                            choose not to engage in
    promiscuous behavior because that is what's right for me, and the
                            realm of my decision-making
    capabilities extends solely to myself. I believe other people
                            can make up their own minds
    without needing me to instruct them. I do hope those who
                            decide to be promiscuous
    protect themselves and their partners and have as much
                            education as possible
    concerning these matters. That is as far as my involvement in the
                            matter should go. That's what
    constitutes freedom; the ability to determine the course of
                            your own life so long as you do
    not harm or infringe upon the rights of other people. What
                            you do with your body or
    another consenting adult is your business. Now, Republicans
                            are fond of freedom when it
    comes to owning guns, being able to discriminate or pollute,
                            not having to pay taxes and
    pushing their religion into political affairs. But when it comes to
                            people making personal
    decisions that conservatives disapprove of, suddenly they want to
                            mind everyone else's business.
    Their derision against tree huggers, vegetarians,
                            nonconformists, and other
    groups they find objectionable shows that a "live and let live"
                            philosophy is anathemic to
    conservatism - and so is actual freedom. For all their talk about
                            "individualism" they certainly
    are against those individuals who don't resemble them or
                            share their values.

                            The fact remains that hippies
    made their own choices concerning their lifestyles, based on
                            the freedom asserted in the
    Declaration of Independence - "life, liberty, and the pursuit of
                            happiness." Granted,
    consequences of one's behavior can and should be expected no
                            matter what the scenario,
    whether lost brain cells, unwanted pregnancies or venereal
                            disease. That is why truthful
    education concerning drugs and sexuality as well as proper
                            use of birth control and other
    safeguards are important. The Republican strategy of
                            propaganda and scare tactics
    has proven unsuccessful and most people understand that
                            marijuana is less harmful than
    alcohol or tobacco, and having premarital sex (or
                            cohabitating, another favorite
    target of the GOP) does not lead to prostitution or welfare

                            As for the Republican gripes
    about the so-called deterioration of the institution of marriage
                            thanks to the liberals of the
    1960's, this is baseless nonsense. According to the
                            Department of Health and Human
    Services the rate of marriages was actually higher
                            between 1960 and 1970 than it
    was between 1980 and 1990 during "Reagan's America."

                            3. Charles Manson/Ira Einhorn

                            Republicans point to these
    individuals as proof that hippies were all murderous thugs with
                            no regard for life. In
    actuality, most hippies preached nonviolence and tolerance while a
                            few bad apples got all the
    publicity. Furthermore, whereas Ira Einhorn was admittedly a
                            part of leftist infrastructure
    who failed to live up to his self-promoted ideals, Charles
                            Manson was no hippie; rather he
    was an amoral opportunist who took advantage of the
                            culture of the times to
    brainwash followers into accepting his intolerant philosophy of
                            anarchistic mayhem. To decry an
    entire movement based on the actions of one negative
                            individual would be sophistic
    and Republicans certainly object when Timothy McVeigh or
                            John Salvi is described as their posterboy.

                            4. The Vietnam War

                            At last we have come to the Big
    Kahuna; one of the primary reasons the hippies of the
                            1960's have had such scorn
    heaped upon them by conservatives. Vietnam has always
                            been a cherished cause for the
    right-wing and even 30 years after the end of the war they
                            cannot bring themselves to
    admit what the rest of society knows: it was a colossal,
                            wasteful mistake. Despite the
    fact that former U.S. Secretary of State Robert
                            MacNamara, who was partially
    responsible for the escalation and promotion of this war,
                            publicly recanted his beliefs a
    few years ago the Republicans still insist on clinging to this
                            rather grimy teddy bear. Part
    of the reason is due to their continued use of the communist
                            specter in promoting an "us
    versus them" mentality to feed off of. The remainder of their
                            motivation is based on an
    inherently immature inability to admit wrongdoing or mistake. In
                            the conservative view this
    military endeavor was a just war to fight the evil communists,
                            and those who used their First
    Amendment right of free speech to object to it were
                            somehow traitors. This tenet
    requires conservatives to discredit the other side by any
                            means necessary, so they can
    continue to fantasize and rewrite history to justify U.S.
                            presence in Vietnam. Like
    Fonzie's hilarious inability to utter the word "liver," the
                            expression "I was wrong" is
    quite difficult to extract from the mouth of a conservative.

                            This is predictable yet
    somewhat perplexing given the fact hippies of that era and
                            conservatives of our day have
    one thing in common: both criticized the government as
                            untrustworthy and corrupt and
    sought to educate people that our leaders are not always
                            beyond reproach. One might
    think modern day right-wingers would appreciate this shared
                            sentiment at the very least,
    but the difference is the government in question back then was
                            Republican-controlled and it
    was doing something the Republicans approved of. Certainly
                            the hippies were proven correct
    by the Watergate scandal, which conservatives are still
                            fuming over since it brought
    down a Republican President, and that was part of the
                            rationale for their
    never-ending attempts to smear President Clinton. As always, their
                            beliefs and ethics are entirely
    conditional, depending on the political affiliation of those
                            involved. This is exemplified
    by the miraculous transformation of conservatives into
                            flower-waving peaceniks when
    Clinton sent troops into Bosnia - an act that resulted in not
                            a single U.S. casualty, I might add.

                            When discussing Vietnam it's
    important to take a look at those who continue to rabidly
                            promote the war, for you will
    almost inevitably find a man (or woman) who did not serve
                            in it. From Rush Limbaugh to
    Pat Buchanan to Dan Quayle to Tom Delay to George W.
                            Bush, the chickenhawks all
    scavenged various excuses to stay home because they just
                            couldn't find the time to
    commit to this cause (other than empty-headed rhetoric years
                            later), although sending others
    to fight was perfectly acceptable. Now take a look at those
                            who actually served, such as Al
    Gore and John Kerry and chances are you will see a
                            person who has doubts about the
    justification for this conflict, who lost friends over there,
                            and who is opposed to such
    terrible fiascos occurring again in the future. In short, the right
                            wing dismisses the views of the
    veterans of this war in favor of their own feverish

                            5. The changing of the status quo

                            We may conclude with the final
    - and perhaps most significant - reason right-wingers are
                            still so upset about the
    1960's. They have freely admitted that life under Ike during the
                            1950's is their ideal vision
    for America, and it's not hard to see why. Women wore
                            starched dresses, baked
    cookies, kept quiet when their husbands were speaking and
                            accepted beatings when
    delivered. Blacks carried baggage, did lawn work, and kept to
                            their own kind. Gays stayed way
    in the back of the closet; those who wandered out were
                            castigated and vilified without
    fear of reprisal. Similarly, most people went to church and
                            faithfully accepted what they
    were told. The free thinking that characterized the 1960's,
                            which led minorities to clamor
    for equality, kids to reject conformity, and people to
                            question authority, was nowhere
    in sight. The social consciousness that characterized this
                            era (and which contributed
    vastly to the modern-day Democratic Party) that promoted
                            respect for the environment,
    aid to oppressed people at home and abroad, and activism
                            against big business hasn't
    gone over well with the Republican Party. They have fought a
                            losing battle for almost forty
    years to keep the women in the kitchen and the blacks at the
                            back of the bus. That's the
    scope of what they know, for conservative views have been so
                            firmly entrenched for the past
    several decades that they just can't seem to accept that other
                            perspectives have moved
    forward. More significantly, they have fought tooth and nail to
                            pretend that opponents of
    Republican-promoted ideals have not been vindicated over the

                            In order to hide the fact they
    have no meaningful answers to issues both past and present,
                            conservatives rely on smearing
    the opposition in order to pretend their views continue to
                            offer validity. They complain
    quite often that liberals want to limit freedom, tell people how
                            to think (this last is a
    frequent gripe when conservatives are told they cannot target some
                            group they loathe), or tear
    apart the fabric of society. Yet it is the right-wing that has
                            performed all three based on
    the core of their belief structure. There must always be an
                            enemy in the right-wing mindset
    (as evinced by their rather sloppy love affair with
                            firearms), whether it be
    communists, hippies, liberals, or some other group; it does not
                            matter if "they" are foreigners
    5000 miles away or fellow Americans living next door.

                            Try as they might,
    conservatives will never be able to rewrite or eradicate the lessons of
                            the 1960's. As Plato's Cave
    demonstrated, knowledge and understanding moves us in a
                            progressive direction, rather
    than regressive. What is collectively understood cannot be
                            unlearned; society continues to
    move forward regardless of the evolutionary recidivism on
                            the part of a vociferous, embittered few.

                            And now if you'll excuse me, I
    have to put on my sandals, find my tie-dyed shirt, grab my
                            Dead tapes, and hop on the next
    flight to San Francisco for a free concert in Golden Gate

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