Right on, brother


The hippie generation Another Baby Boomer phenomena. I've often wondered what a hippie was, and I'm pretty sure I was one. Wikipedia defines a hippie as "a member of a specific subculture that began in the United States in the 1960's. Hippies, along with The New Left, and the American Civil Rights Movement, were considered the three dissenting groups of the American 1960's counterculture." For me, on a more personal level, it was dissent against the traditional values coming out of the WWII generation; the opposition to nuclear weapons; opposition to the Vietnam War; protesting a lying, and increasingly distant President; embracing all religions, not just Judeo-Christian beliefs; and championing the cause of love, peace, personal freedom, and rock & roll, pretty much in that order.

Being a hippie in the Midwest was considerably different than being a hippie in, say, San Francisco. The scene was not nearly as widespread, or as exciting. The following is an attempt to summarize my years as a hippie:

1. My politics became radical. I was schooled by a Marxist sociologist as an undergraduate. He was my mentor and advisor. I have always combined socialist ideas with democratic ones. I don't think a lot about this, it's just the way I think.

2. I actively protested the Vietnam War. I was in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention in 1968. We took over the office of the President of SIU the day after the Kent State killings. I remember sitting at his desk, thinking we had really done something big. Time seems to have trivialized it. I campaigned for Robert Kennedy in Illinois and Nebraska. I was involved in numerous protests in Chicago while in seminary in 1971-72. I did some work for Clergy and Laymen Concerned About the War. I've never equated my anti-war stance with not being patriotic or loyal to my country. That makes absolutely no sense to me.

3. Drugs were a minor issue with me. While I would not want to say that I never inhaled, I was never much into the drug scene. I was never very good at it.

4. I became a pacifist and advocate of non-violent social change. This was primarily due to attending a Church of the Brethren Seminary in Oak Brook, Illinois in 1971-72. One of the world's leading authorities on pacifism and non-violence was a professor there. Dr. Brown profoundly influenced my life. For the first time I came to understand that killing someone or acting in a violent manner towards them is categorically against Christ's teachings. I proceeded to become a pacifist and applied for conscientious objector status. After three attempts, the local draft board granted me CO status. The draft ended before I started my two years alternate service.

That gives you a short synopsis of my hippie life. I left out a few details, but it's probably best that way. Not a lot of frills, but a time I wouldn't trade. We felt like we were doing something. Like we were making a difference. In hind-sight, some of the things we did were foolish. Others innocent, youthful idealism. But we did what we thought was right, and in the end, not a lot of it proved to be too far off base, particularly about the war, Nixon, and where American corporations and politics were headed.