Bringing the Peace (Sign)
Imagine it is 1967, “the Summer of Love”, and you walk past the intersection of Haight and Ashbury to get to the Avalon to see a local band, the Grateful Dead. Everyone is on the same wave of peace, love, and positivity. This summer in San Francisco was a landmark for the hippies, it was a time when this community affirmed their beliefs in a communal lifestyle, psychedelics, and a desire to change the world. This set the framework to what the hippies would become and how they would come to affect the world. Not only did this event attract, according to reports, 75,000 teenagers and college students to the city, it spread news of the new mind set to American youth all over the country who would come to change music, ideology, and culture of this era that would continue to spill up to the present (Bounds).
The hippies were a counterculture movement of the 1960’s, inspired by other countercultures, such as the beat generation and the Yippies, but with the attitude of Timothy Leary’s quote “turn on, tune in, and drop out” (Giltin) that was clearly shown by the gathering in the summer of love. They were characterized (and even now people who dress/act in a similar style are called hippies) as a young, mainly white, middle class, group known for their loose tie dye clothing, long hair, and a general lack of care for keeping up with the typical appearance/hygiene of someone from the time. They originated, much like the groups they are based off of, in response to not wanting to comply with the normal mindset of people in the era. Rather preferring a free mind set that’s not so focused on consumerism, and more focused on the premise of non-violence and rock and roll. Although they did share some similar views with the New Left, in support for the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, and feminism, not everyone in this subculture sought to seek to change society through organized political action. were more focused on living the lifestyle as a whole.
In order to further understand this movement it’s important to know the the state of America at the time of its beginning. The nature of politics and government began to change in 1963 with the assassination of John. F Kennedy. Kennedy was a major support for minority groups and had big plans for America, so with his murder, the subsequent controversy, and the Warren Commission, the youth of America was rattled. Never before had such a poltical strategy occurred that so heavily impacted the nation’s sense of idealism. Many felt as the presidents died their hopes died too. This lack of trust continued into now president Lyndon B. Johnson’s and Richard Nixon’s terms, as the Vietnam war, other counterculture movements, and scandals within the government caused more and more dislike for the US government.
After the JFK assassination, the civil rights movement came into full fruition during Johnson’s administration with the civil rights act being passed, the Selma to montgomery march, and the Voting Rights Act approved. This spur of wanting change for many white people was also sparked by the Vietnam war. The controversy around American involvement in the war and the way the war was being fought disgusted young adults. Many rebelled against the traditional American lifestyle, as they craved peace and happiness, and wanted their voice to matter. This was especially so since it was their age range that was being drafted into the war, so they were directly affected. With this change spurred, so did the nature around relationship. Oral forms of birth control for women, also known as “the pill”, let the emerging counterculture embrace their philosophy of free love. Women now had more of a say and more control when in came to their bodies, and as the additude around sex shifted, the pill allotted for this change.
As a counter culture, the hippies of the sixties make major changes in their lifestyle compared to others of the time. These changes became a fundamental part of the culture that would come to leave a mark on the nation. One aspect of their life style was the use and normalization of drugs such as psychedelics and marijuana. Drug use was mainly considered to be used by criminals and looked poorly on by everyone, and therefore were not common place in many places.
These flower children flippen this idea on its head, as weed and LSD became ways for them to expand their consciousness and make deeper connections to the people around them. Although their used of the drug did not give it the best image to some, it still widened it usage tremendously. This widespread usage in the sixties paved the way for more research being done on weed, and the usage of its use for medicine. For better or for worse (depending on one’s outlook on the plant), weed is now legal recreationally and medically all across the United States and psychedelics like the psilocybin mushroom are being further looked into for their medical treatment of depression and other mental illnesses. In 2019, a natural lifestyle is pretty commonplace. A natural life style simply mean, being more cautious of the environment, what we put into our bodies, and where what we buy comes from. This wasn’t always common suit though, the hippies were the ones who make real changes in their lifestyle in order to be more “granola”. They took many steps to live more naturally as they “developed the first solar panels to make electricity to run stereos off the grid. Another innovation was natural food. Communes produced pesticide-free fruits and vegetables, and urban co-op groceries, another hippie innovation, often stocked only natural foods” (Rorabaugh).
These changes have made a lasting impact on society as many people are conscious of the environment and make an effort to live ‘naturally’. Another natural thing this movement normalized is sex and sexuality. In the fifties and previously, sex with a very taboo subject. The hippies embraced their sexuality and sensuality by being open with relationships and the amount of intercoruse they were engaing in. This change was huge for women who were scrutinized for being promiscuous or more vial words for being who they were when it came to this. Birth control changed this, as illustrated by this article that stated “Free love would not have happened without the birth control pill. First sold in 1960, it took several years before single young women gained access. Once the risk of an unwanted pregnancy plummeted, the double standard ended. Hippie men declared that everyone should have sex with whomever they wanted whenever they wanted.”(Rorabaugh).
Women in the twenty first century are now able to take more control of their bodys and sex lives, as the discussion around sex is changing from abstinence only to a more education standpoint. Most people are comfortable talking about their relationship with less fear or scrutiny. This is exspecialy true for the LGBTQ community. Although many hippies did identify as heterosexual things were changing, “the attitude that sex was “no big deal” allowed homosexual hippies to indulge in gay sex without coming out of the closet. In that way, the counterculture liberated gay men and lesbians” (Rorabaugh). Today LGBTQ are almost toattly accpeted in America, with gay marriage being completely legalized in 2015. The hippies paved the way for many ways of life we have today, but their influence spills into another important aspect of life, music.