Making Sense of the Sixties


Many social changes that were addressed in the 1960s are still the issues being confronted today. The \'60s was a decade of social and political upheaval. In spite of all the turmoil, there were some positive results: the civil rights revolution, John F. Kennedy\'s bold vision of a new frontier, and the breathtaking advances in space, helped bring about progress and prosperity. However, much was negative: student and anti-war protest movements, political assassinations, and ghetto riots excited American people and resulted in lack of respect for authority and the law.

The decade began under the shadow of the cold war with the Soviet Union, which was aggravated by the U-2 incident, the Berlin Wall, and the Cuban missile crisis, along with the space race with the USSR. The decade ended under the shadow of the Vietnam war, which deeply divided Americans and their allies and damaged the country\'s self-confidence and sense of purpose. Even if you weren\'t alive during the \'60s, you know what they meant when they said, "tune in, turn on, drop out." you know why the nation celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.\'s birthday. All of the social issues are reflected in today\'s society: the civil rights movement, the student movement, the sexual revolution, the environment, and most controversial of all, Hippies. The sixties is also known for it\'s rapid birth rate. Nearly 76 million children were born to this generation, and for that they are called the " Baby Boomers." Surprisingly, even though so many children were being born, not many parents knew how to raise them. The parents of the 50\'s and 60\'s were so concerned with the world around them that going to work was the only image children had of their fathers. Kids didn\'t understand why they worked so much just to gain more material possessions. Children of this generation grew up learning just about how to be free and happy.

Most of the time, when thinking back to the sixties, people remember hearing about things such as sex, drugs, and racism. However, what they often tend to overlook is the large emphasis "freedoms" had on the era. This does not just refer to the freedoms already possessed by every American of the time. This focuses on the youth\'s fight to gain freedom or break away from the values and ideas left behind by the older generation. These fights were used to help push for freedoms from areas such as society\'s rules and values, competition, living for others first, and the older generation\'s beliefs as a whole including the freedom to use drugs. The younger generation just wanted a chance to express their own views rather than having to constantly succumb to the values and rules left behind by the older generation.

In order to find these unique and different qualities in each other and themselves, the younger generation often turned to drugs. This was another freedom which they were required to fight for since the older generation did not support drug use as a source of pleasure or creativity. This could basically be considered an outright rejection of the older society\'s values. Drugs were also seen as a freedom from reality. They enabled the youths to escape to a different kind of world. Because of the youths\' great desire to achieve a universal sense of peace and harmony, drugs were sometimes a very important part of one\'s life. Sometimes, they would plan a day or evening around the use of a major drug so that they could enjoy it to the fullest extent. This could almost be considered ironic in the sense that while trying to gain one freedom, the ability to use drugs, the youths appeared to have lost another freedom, the ability to live their own lives. It seems more as if their live! s were controlled by the drugs and the drugs\' effects than by the people themselves.

The combination of defiance, revolution, and drugs created a major Hippie era. Thousands of hippies would flock to the party capitals of the world for the high of a life time. Haight Ashberry, San Francisco, was once considered hippie central for the world. Here people would just line the streets with drug use, sex, and wild music.

In 1967, came the