Near 500 words: The Sixties

The Sixties are a long time gone but lately I have been remembering. During the 1960s, it seemed like everywhere you turned, there were larger-than-life personalities. Not celebrities but people who moved mountains. Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, Muhammad Ali and Joe Namath.

Every night we turned on the TV and there was Uncle Walter and Johnny Carson to guide us. Carol Burnett made us laugh our booties off. Alan Shepard and John Glenn flew into the outer reaches of space. John Kennedy inspired us to do better for our country and the First Lady showed us style. Popes John XXIII and Paul VI, Billy Graham and the Maharishi quenched our spiritual thirst. Even in the Soviet Union, there was Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

No matter what your political persuasion, there was someone for everyone. Gene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy for the liberals, Barry Goldwater and William F. Buckley for the conservatives. And Che Guevara for the radicals.

Ralph Nader, Betty Friedan and Rachel Carson, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Cesar Chavez dreamed big dreams and shared them with the world. The times were changing. Utopia was just around the corner.

We landed a man on the moon and celebrated our freedom at Woodstock. Then the party came tumbling down with a thud at Altamonte.

By the end of the decade, our innocence was buried in the harsh reality that utopias always end in dystopia. Captain America was shot off his mototcycle. The Beatles broke up and Sgt Peppers disbanded his band. That day in April,1970, was more than the day the music died. It was the day our hearts were broken. It was the day the earth opened up and swallowed our hope.

All we were left with was Richard Nixon and Vietnam, and Superman was only a comic book and Batman a TV show. All we were left with was Kent State, OPEC, Watergate, stagflation and the Brady Bunch. The Seventies brought us plop back down to earth. It was like we had been dropped on our heads and we had a hangover like all get-out.

Then came Camp David and “the City Upon a Hill” of Ronald Reagan. The Berlin Wall came crashing down. For one brief moment, there was a Middle East Peace Accord. Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin shook hands. For one brief, shining moment, Camelot was shining again. Only to be brought back to our senses by Y2K and 9/11.

But we can never forget those bonfires of hope shining from the Decade That Was: the Peace Corps and Earth Day, Woodstock and Neil Armstrong walking on the moon. And we still dream of a better world. It’s just going to be a long time coming. As Jessie Jackson says, “Keep hope alive.”

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