Most social historians agree the 1960s were a defining [more like a re-defining] time in American history. Our views and values changed sharply. But here’s the problem. There are two competing claims for ownership to the fabled 60s. The cool, buttoned-down Playboy cult personified by the eternally cool bunny-hopper himself: Hugh Hefner. Then there’s the hot, free-spirited Woodstock cult personified by the eternally angry protester: Abbie Hoffman.
Hef gave us Bunnies; Hoff gave us Yippies. Leaving the rest of us to decide who did his country the greatest service? Or perhaps better said, dis-service?
Maybe we can look at today’s television for an answer. TV viewing has reached an all-time high, with the average person staring 158 hours and 47 minutes every month. Nielsen sums up our addiction at more than 5 hours a day from which we’re getting a mixed message about those celebrated 60s.
On one hand, there’s the hot series “Mad Men” featuring the cool, martini-guzzling advertising barracudas of Madison Avenue who happily frequent the world-according-to-Hefner. On the other, the recurring documentary odes to the-whole-world-is-watching marchers in 1968 Chicago. How is anyone who wasn’t there to decide whose 60s it really was…?
I remember being there for both. For the Playboy cult, I was never cool enough to get a key; but I was gratified enough to get to roast the guy in 1978. As to the Yippies cult, I was never angry enough to get into the marches; but close enough to watch their furies that summer-hot night in 1968.
If it sounds like our nation had a split-personality back then, tell me what nation doesn’t. What person doesn’t. What community doesn’t. Labeling any of these one way may be tidy, but truth is rarely tidy.
But then that brings up another question — what’s truth? A man named Pilate once asked that. As best as I remember, the answer he got wasn’t exactly tidy either. Truth takes time sorting out.
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