The generation that has been squatting atop American society for the past half-century will soon enough be gone, thank God. The Love Generation is dying off every day, but for the good of the world and especially America it can’t happen fast enough.
The Baby Boomers think of themselves as creators of a wonderful world, a far better place than the one they inherited from their mean old uptight parents and all the rest of The Establishment they hated.
Baby Boomers (born between 1941 and ’55 or so) believe their generation is the one that stopped the war in Vietnam, ended racism and sexism in America, and gave the world the best, grooviest, most amazing and thought-provoking music ever. None of this is even close to being true.
There are many reasons to despise the Love Generation. I loathe all those arrogant hippies for their towering greed and their willingness to bankrupt future generations so they are able to live in luxury via grand pensions and budget-busting Social Security payouts. That’s only the first on my list of grievances, and my list is a long one.
Boomers inherited a country with excellent public schools, fine public transportation, a healthy and robust middle class, rapidly improving racial relations, a healthy, poised military and, not least, a promising and optimistic outlook for the future.
All gone today. Behold a country plundered by a single generation of greedy, lazy, stupid citizens.
Let’s focus on a cornerstone that has propped up shifting cultural attitudes and assumptions since about 1965. I was 17 years old in ’65 and even then, and even in the midwest, the push was on to glorify and consume illicit drugs. The push succeeded.
Look anywhere, and I suppose Ukiah is as good a place to look as any, and see the devastation wrought by our greedy, lazy, stupid fellow citizens. Ask Ukiah old-timers about changes they’ve noticed over the past half-century and often you’ll get trembling, stuttering semi-coherent responses that go something like this: “It just wasn’t like this! This was a safe town, a nice town, not much crime, people got along with each other.” Those who’ve lived here the longest are the ones most disgusted and disappointed at what Ukiah has become.
And it all began with marijuana. The hippie argument, not unreasonable, was that pot was a mild intoxicant and no worse than a Martini; the ongoing debate comparing and contrasting weed-whacked loadies to gin-soaked cocktailers remains unsettled.
Acceptance of marijuana was the first domino to fall. The official slogan among hippies became “Sex, Drugs and Rock ’n’ Roll!” and what seemed at the time like merely a defiant and rebellious t-shirt emblem in retrospect illuminated the shallow, short-sighted, self-absorbed core at the center of boomer values. Pot was the only thing my generation was willing to fight for. Who was supposed to fight back?
Cultural attitudes sagged and then collapsed under relentless pressure from the Love Generation, proving that from now on the nation’s children were in charge. The music, the movies, TV and all the media glommed onto a groovy new audience eager to tune in, turn on, and get incapacitated by drugs.
Cocaine became fashionable. Everyone from Jack Nicholson to Eric Clapton to McKenzie Phillips were open advocates of coke, and soon living rooms all across the country were infiltrated by mirrors, straws, coke spoons, deviated septums and ambulance crews. Heroin then made its appearance, and our social infrastructure began to wobble.
Crime got on a roll in big cities and small towns, even as legalization advocates continued to insist drug use was a “victimless crime.” Law enforcement cracked down, and the judicial system doubled down.
Now we stare out at the American landscape and watch an opioid wave roll across the land leaving nothing behind but casualties. The opioid crisis succeeded the heroin crisis, the crack cocaine crisis, the methamphetamine, ice, bath salts, fentanyl crisis and half a dozen other drug crises jumpstarted by the generation that launched the whole sorry mess 50 years ago.
How many homicides, suicides, robberies, overdoses, and destroyed lives can be fairly blamed on drugs? Thousands of men have spent vast portions of their lives in prison. Mothers have abandoned their children to foster care so they could do more meth, and now those kids are mucking up their own lives with our old friend marijuana.
How many of our inner cities and small towns have been destroyed? How many kids have dropped out of high school to join gangs? Those kids are fighting and killing each other in turf wars in order to sell drugs to your grandchildren so they can die too. There’s been no end to the criminality, the thieving, rehab, heartbreak, despair, depression, jail and broken dreams caused by drugs, and that’s just the family next door.
But at least there haven’t been any victims.
(Tom Hine, a former hippie and an early whiner for drug legalization, acknowledges his enthusiasm may have been misplaced, as it was for other causes. TWK, his imaginary friend, believes we should take a more holistic view and appreciate the cool druggie stuff like Peter Max posters, love beads, ugly tattoos and the songs of Donovan.)