After the revolution: there’s still hope
As my high school class prepares for its 50th reunion, I wonder why my generation -- the pre-baby boom generation -- did not experience the counter-culture upheaval that came with the baby boomers?
Of course, we weren’t angels. But the only behavior problems I recall came from seven or so fellows who, apparently, weren’t there to learn and hoped no one else would either. Yes, there was some underage smoking and drinking. But, by and large, our classmates lived the lives depicted by TV’s “Leave it to Beaver.”
So, why did the generation coming after ours fall into drugs and alcohol abuse, bizarre sexual behaviors and then attempt to counter in every way possible the Traditional American Values Culture built, fostered and protected by earlier generations?
The answer, for this observer anyway, lies in what I call “The Ten P’s”: Population, the Pill, Penicillin, Playboy, Poisons, Political Folly, Propaganda, Populism, Pop Culture and liberal Professors
Population. The baby boom (births between 1946 and 1966) created the largest bubble of late teens and early 20s in American history. If people are going to break the law or become revolutionaries that happens, most often, between ages 17 and 23.
Prior to the advent of The Pill and Penicillin, young people feared unwanted pregnancy and/or catching some sexually transmitted disease. The advent of the Pill and Penicillin formed the physical basis of what became the Sexual Revolution.
Hugh Hefner and his Playboy Philosophy provided the Pop Culture Propaganda designed to promote The Sexual Revolution. The so-called intelligentsia took a similar message from the existentialist teachings of Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre. Back then, the only news outlets were the in-liberal-lock-step ABC, CBS and NBC which gave rosy coverage to the opinions of Hefner, Camus, Sartre, and even to the prison population-based and factually-flawed findings of the Kinsey Report.
Professor Timothy Leary, and other academics who thought America could be liberated from conservatism by taking LSD and other mind-altering drugs, provided increased acceptability to hard drug use in general, thus helping to create the drug demand that put much of Central and South America and Mexico into the drug supply business.
With these P’s in place, we entered into a period of Political Folly that became the catalyst (the excuse) for the advent of the counter-culture movement of 1960s.
The 1961 election of John F. Kennedy gave us a President who was good on tax policy but was virtually clueless on military matters. The humiliation he suffered at the hands of Krushchev in Vienna, and by letting the Russians get away with the Berlin Wall, prompted Kennedy to seek redemption in Southeast Asia.
Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 led to the even more militarily inept President Lyndon Johnson who committed the folly of not heeding Generals MacArthur and Ridgeway and former President Eisenhower who advised against a long drawn-out land war in Asia. Instead of taking the war to North Vietnam and winning quickly, Johnson allowed the war to drag on and on.
Draft age college boys, who were happy lounging about in their “Animal House” dorms and frat houses taking drugs, enjoying the Sexual Revolution and terrorizing college officials, used the Political Folly of Kennedy and Johnson as a reason to dodge the draft. Eventually, they forced Johnson into politcal oblivion, setting off a counter-culture revolution that shook our society to its very roots.
The bitter fruits of the counter-culture revolution are: pervasive use of illegal drugs, record numbers of unwed mothers, rampant pornography, child molestation, failing public schools, an epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases and a crude Popular Culture that enrages Muslim fundamentalists around the world and people of conscience everywhere.
But, there’s hope. Recent surveys of those born between 1982 and 2002 -- the Millennial Generation -- reveal a strong interest in community and national service, in higher academic standards and in a return to the traditional American values that built the greatest nation on earth.
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy – novels about terrorist attacks on Colorado’s water supply and on the Panama Canal, respectively.
©2003. William Hamilton.