Hi Everybody! I haven’t posted in a long time because I’ve been busy writing a novel and getting it published. The book, called Berkeley Girl, is about a girl who transfers to U.C. Berkeley for her junior year, in 1967, the same year as The Summer of Love. But all was not lovely in those years in Berkeley. There was marching and tear-gassing, bad street drugs, and the death of our heroes. People were lost and confused. MaryBeth, my main character, was one of them, a young girl searching for meaning in those crazy times.
The Summer of Love
The Summer of Love is everywhere now — in museums, exhibits, rock concerts, lectures, posters, and, yes, tie-dye clothing is re-appearing! That’s because this year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of that seminal event. Those of us who were there then can’t believe that 50 years have passed since those wonderful and turbulent times, but we see the influence of The Summer of Love all around us today in the flowering of Eastern religions, the practice of yoga, the results of the women’s movement, the end of the Draft, the importance of the environmental movement, and the rise of entrepreneurialism which growing exponentially today. Of course, the use of experimental drugs was also a prominent part of the 60’s, drugs which today are being re-examined to treat conditions such as PTSD and depression. And, many people have noted that the Burning Man phenomenon is the natural outgrowth of the hippie movement of the 60’s.
During that time, the hippie movement flourished in San Francisco, but Berkeley was more political, more about marching in the streets and protesting. While people in Berkeley were busy trying to change the world, hippies were only interested in changing themselves. They became the change that we still see all around us today.
Nixon Vs. Trump
But we are tied to the 60’s by more than The Summer of Love. We thought Nixon was bad! Well, he was, but we had no idea who would be coming around the bend in 2016! Richard Nixon was a very smart and capable leader in many ways. He founded the EPA in 1970; Signed Title IX in 1972, a law that prevented gender bias in college sports; ended the Draft in 1973, and was the first U.S. president to visit China and made an effort to normalize relations with that country. Then came Watergate, the main event he will always be remembered for. He was taken down by his own character flaws — lying and covering up a crime. And, although he wasn’t removed from office, he WAS impeached!
Now we have Donald Trump. Next to him, Nixon is a hero. We all know the damage he’s done. He’s like a huge hurricane that blows through your town, leaving nothing but destruction in its wake. Where do I begin? Let’s start with climate change, since that’s the biggest problem facing mankind today. The first thing Trump did to make climate change worse was to hire Scott Pruitt, a man so indebted to the oil industry that he denies climate change even exists, he hired Pruitt to head the EPA. Then he proposed slashing the EPA’s budget by one third, even though it is a tiny budget compared to that of other agencies. Pruitt and Trump are planning to withdraw the Clean Power Plan, America’s first limits on carbon pollution from power plants. They are trying to gut many rules and safeguards, such as those limiting the amount of arsenic and acid gases power plants can emit. I could go on and on, but you get the picture!
I haven’t even touched on his stand on illegal immigrants, his border wall, his empty claims of widespread voter fraud, his refusal to release his tax returns, and his signing of two Muslim bans. He has made it easier for fugitives to buy guns, tried to undermine the ACA marketplace, and proposed defunding Planned Parenthood. Aagain, I could go on and on.
In the 60’s and early 70’s, we thought Nixon was bad. We had no idea!
The Vietnam War vs. Our Endless Wars in the Middle East
In my novel, Berkeley Girl, MaryBeth, the main character, gets involved in the Sanctuary Movement, a group that was fighting to keep young men from going to Vietnam. In the 60’s, it was clear to many of us that it was wrong for the U.S. to be fighting in Vietnam in what was really a civil war between North and South Vietnam. But our government clung to a silly belief in what was called “The Domino Theory.” Supporters of this theory held that we couldn’t allow any country in that part of the world become communist, because then all the other countries in the area would eventually fall, like dominos, to communism, and North Vietnam had already become a communist country. I know it sounds silly now, but that’s what they believed, at the highest levels of government.
As I said, Vietnam seemed to us to be a clear-cut case of an unjust war, and it turns out that history has agreed with us. Our wars today are not clear-cut — not any of them, except for the Iraq War. How many wars are we actually fighting? Who knows! Are we at war with Libya? Who knows! I think the consensus today is what so many of us could see at the time — that there was no reason for George W. Bush to take us into the Iraq War, and from that war evolved every other one that we are involved in today. Most young people today are not marching against these wars like we did, I think, in part, because, like the rest of us, they don’t understand these wars and don’t see a way out of them. I don’t think anyone sees a way out of them, least of all our commander in chief. It all seems so hopeless!
After that happy discussion, let’s move on to something more pleasant — music! Music in the 60’s was woven inextricably into our lives. We wouldn’t have been the same people without it. That’s how important it was to us. So much of the best music was protest music — like John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” Richie Havens’ “Handsome Johnny,” Phil Ochs’ “I Ain’t Marching Anymore,” Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” and Country Joe’s “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag,” to name a few.
When John Fogarty wrote the anti-war song “Deja Vu All Over Again” in 2004, he said he felt he had to write an anti-war song about the Iraq War since no young people had stepped up to do so (and what I said before about our wars today being so confusing, there was no confusion at all about that first one in Iraq — it was a war based entirely on lies).
In 2006, when Neil Young came out with the album, Living With War, he said, “I was hoping some young person would come along and say this and sing some songs about it (the Iraq War), but I didn’t see anybody, so I’m doing it myself. I waited as long as I could.”
It’s true that some protest songs are being written today, but they’re out there on the fringe of society, not central to our lives like the protest songs of the 60’s were.
Buy The Book
If you are nostalgic for the 60’s or just want to know more about those times, check out my book, Berkeley Girl.