a younger friend asked me to tell what it was like growing up in the
time period of the late 60s/early 70s, I thought I should write it in a
blog. There are probably a lot of people who see the footage of
Woodstock and think the period was about nothing but sex, drugs, and
rock and roll. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I was in 6th grade in 1968. I had just gone through a major kidney surgery, so I wasn't as exposed to many of the things the other students were. I spent long hours watching television, watching the news, the protests, and all the other events that were going on.
The Viet Nam police action (it wasn't declared a war until relatively recently) was televised and you could see people being shot and killed every night on the news. Young men were groomed back then to believe that the only right thing to do is to die for your country, so most of us watched these things carefully. Many started to question WHY we were in the war and what purpose it served. They started protesting "The Establishment." Those who did were scorned and called un-American for having the audacity to question authority. Still, many young people got together, dug through the facts, and decided that the war was wrong and only served the arms dealers. Protests were breaking out in colleges across the country. At Kent State, some of the college students were killed for protesting.
The protests and killings brought recognition to the peace protesters. The drug use was overstated in many cases to discredit them.
One group of people came up with the idea to have a concert for three days of peace and love. That was Woodstock.
The idea was to have every person who was against the war to gather in one place to show the leaders that the war was not supported by the majority of those who were being sent to die. Yes, there were drugs. There was sex. There was certainly rock and roll. They were young people. They knew that if something wasn't done, they'd be sent off to die in a foreign country soon for the glory of Capitalism. Young people everywhere were shouting things like, "Sex, drugs, and rock and roll," "Peace... love... tranquility..." (many of the ones talking about peace, love, and tranquility were tripping out on LSD while they were saying it as the TV cameras were rolling). Hollywood had a field day with the hippy movement. So did the media. There were many phrases, but the underlying cause of the whole movement WAS peace and love. Of course, being young, most took it as sex rather than love for your fellow man as it should have been. Me? I was a Jesus freak.
I missed out on all the drugs. I was doing my best to live as Christ taught us and had to secretly support the "hippy" movement in my heart because to my grandparents and mother with whom I lived thought all the hippies should be shot. Openly, I had to agree with my gracious grandparents who had saved us from the horrors of living with my ex-Marine dad, but I secretly longed to take a puff from one of those funny cigarettes many of my friends would puff on behind the band hall.
To me, the words of Christ and supporting the war were in direct conflict. As the years came closer to my having to go into the service, I had decided to enter as a conscientious objector. I had decided that it was the only way I could be true to Christ. I was lucky, though. Nixon had ended the draft, and though I still had to go in for my physical, I didn't have to go into the service. Most of my friends, being full of youthful desire to go kill someone, enlisted into the service even though they didn't have to. Those who came back spoke out loudly against it. Some of them got together with me and we'd go to the beaches and sing peace songs and war protest songs. We didn't want the government changing its mind about the draft and sending more people to die needless deaths in wars where we weren't truly defending our country, but profiteers.
I was the only Christian in my group of friends. The others were either Wiccan, atheist, or agnostic. We had many conversations about religion, beliefs, personal liberty, defending our country, peace, and love. I didn't smoke a joint with them until after I was 21 and married. I did, though, hold my best friend's head many a night while he barfed up the alcohol he drank to try to kill the memory of something that happened in Viet Nam. When I finally DID smoke with them, the conversations became deeper and more interesting. They were never afraid that I would "narc" on them. They just didn't think I'd understand.
As the years passed, I watched my best friend crawl deeper and deeper into the bottle. He couldn't hold a steady job after he came back from the Navy where he had worked on nuclear weapons as an electronics tech. Since I had a good job, I would take him and his girlfriend, a full blooded Cherokee, to concerts. I knew he couldn't afford it. Eventually, he was down to working here and there at electrical supply companies for a couple months at a time. Toward the end, he couldn't work at all. He died in 2001. I visit his grave every Memorial Day if I can possibly get there.
Copyright © 2010 Cal Jennings