Because I’m old enough to remember when the Beatles came to the U.S. on the Mayflower, I’m also able to remember that 1969 was a pretty big year. So many really BIG things in the news! As with any other year, some of the news was pretty horrible. I’d rather not mention those stories if you don’t mind; these days I really need to maintain a positive attitude. Instead, some of the more positive stories were things like the Apollo 11 moon landing, and the New York Mets winning the World Series. Oh and yeah, and there was a pretty big music festival called Woodstock.
During that summer I was 15, and of course I was paying close attention to the counterculture and the world of popular music. My interest in all such happenings actually sprouted several years earlier, when my grandparents gave me an 8 transistor radio for my 8th birthday (1962). Radio provided a gateway to the world at large; and I kept that thing on with great regularity. God bless our mother, she always made sure I had a working 9 volt battery.
We were definitely a media driven family. By that I mean that the TV was always on; and when it wasn’t, there was the radio. We also had subscriptions to Time and Life magazines; so we had plenty of opportunities to keep up with current events. The 60s saw our country in some upheaval due to numerous protests. Large crowds were marching for causes like peace, civil rights, gender equality, and environmental concerns. Music of the day was evolving from doo wop to rock ‘n roll to psychedelic sounds. My mind was being strongly influenced by all of it.
And I was by no means alone.
From where I and many of my peers stood, a lot of what the crap that was going on in the world made absolutely no sense. Pollution was destroying our air, water and soils. Also, strong dependence on the use of poisonous chemicals for pest and weed control was harming Mother Nature. War was killing children and other living things. And to be “successful,” you needed to be a Caucasian male. So protests and marches were staged as efforts to raise consciousness and hopefully change things for the better.
Some progress was made; but unfortunately greed, ignorance, and intolerance seem to have gained some ground over the last few years. Mother Nature is still being treated very badly; and those interested in maintaining the status quo are sparing no effort to prevent meaningful action that could save our planet. Racial intolerance and gender inequality still rob our souls of the peace and love our Creators intended for us.
So today’s headlines are abuzz with reminders that fifty years ago today, some 400,000 people were gathered for “3 Days Of Peace, Love, and Music.” The promoters were in no way prepared for the number of people who would arrive at what quickly became a free event for those who didn’t have tickets. Sanitation issues, scarce availability of food and water, and many other difficulties plagued the event; yet no violence erupted, and only 2 people died (one of an overdose, one killed accidentally by a tractor). Nearly a half million people gathered and showed the world that peace and love, in spite of adverse conditions, were indeed possible. There are still many children of the 60’s who cling to the belief that living in peace and love is more than just a dream. It’s a necessity.
As Joni Mitchell’s famous song proclaims, “we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”