Friday, March 2, 2012

Summer of Love

I’ve seen something quite strange in the last few days.  I’m afraid to look directly at it and, if memory serves, I’m well advised not to.  It’s fulgent and striking—piercing—and gives off a most delicious warmth.  Could it be—yes, I think it is—it’s the sun!

I know many of you live places in which mention of the imminent spring makes you scoff, but I tell you it’s not mere legend.  It’s running at us, and on its heels is summer.  Oh, I long for summer.  Perhaps I can evoke the delights of it for all of us in still chilly climes with a remembrance of a summer long ago—45 years ago, to be exact. 

Hush, kids!  I know that seems like ancient history or perhaps nothing but myth, but I tell you it really happened.  Listen and learn of… 

The Summer of Love, 1967, in San Francisco, California.  Nearly 100,000 people massed in and around a neighborhood known as Haight-Ashbury, an impetus for a startling shift in social and political culture.  Call it a social experiment marking the culmination of a counterculture movement that gained momentum all through the 60s.

Jefferson Airplane's Paul Kantner once remarked, "If you can remember anything about the 60s, then you weren't really there."  For those of you who were there, I’ll try to fill in those huge lapses in memory. 

It was a decade explosive with social unrest, upheaval, dissent and rebellion as we fought to free ourselves—to challenge and transform the status quo.  Not to lay a bummer on you, man, but for all the talk of peace, love and understanding, it was one of the most violent, chaotic periods in America’s history.  Nevertheless, as tumultuous as the times were, so were they joyous and free.  Amidst all the turmoil, free love flowed and the non-violent message of “flower power” flourished.

Things were, as we used to say, “Heavy, man!”  Mass street protests and “sit-ins” against countless political and social conventions were commonplace.  Generations of young and old stood divided.  Bloody riots flared in major American cities, and halfway around the world in Vietnam our government waged a war that snuffed the bright flame of nearly sixty thousand of America’s youth, left hundreds of thousands forever scarred, and ravished the psyche of the entire nation.
Chemically-induced “mind expansion” ran rampant.  Low-tech became high, and so did we.   As we began to travel into outer space, so we traversed the inner space of our minds.
Rock ‘n’ Roll ruled and served as soundtrack to our lives and the counterculture’s movement.  The music echoed the radical changes afoot and became our anthem.  Two years after the Summer of Love, another summer saw a musical celebration previously unprecedented in history.  More than the convergence of half-a-million people on Max Yasgur’s New York farm, Woodstock was the weaving of a generation’s youthful energy, angst, fears, hopes, ideals and music into the tapestry of a vision of justice, peace and love for our world—an endless summer of love.