THE WICKED WITCH IS DEAD—Rest in Peace California
By William Franklin
Three events were to herald the end of the 60’s; Manson, Altamont and the election of Reagan in 1980. To understand the 60’s and assuming that’s possible (For example: The best year of the 60’s was 1974.) it’s helpful to refer to the bongo drumming Beatniks of the 50’s.
The poets in San Francisco, the guys that read Alan Watts, the Huxley Door’s of Perception readers, the Kerouac books, even Hesse, and that mixture of Eastern mysticism aided by an American post war wealth bubble, (ironically allowing us to disdain materialism) as those ideas began to sink in, we under 30’s would arrive at a youthful but magnanimous consciousness/spirit best understood by the Love-in.
Love-ins could be found anywhere that trees and marijuana and kids wearing beads would congregate to listen to folk and rock music and share oranges and apples and LSD. Sometime just after the early Beatle and Dylan albums were released, idealistic, weed addled, rookie mystics would start playing guitar in droves and learn how to make leather purses.
It was an amazing time, I had fun anyway, and like all great things, it cast a shadow. And our 60’s shadow was made up of outlaws. The Hells Angels were kind of our Comanches riding in on their hogs and throwing their dark and scary and ugly power around. They got to be the security detail at the Stones and Airplane concert in Altamont which fastened one nail in the coffin of our 60’s spirit. What was that spirit? In a nutshell it was that people were good and the non-competitive, human potential harmony idea/dream could work. (There were still things to work out, though, like how to go to work on acid, which most people couldn’t figure out how to do.)
Because people were good, it was OK to not lock your doors and hitchhiking was cool. We didn’t need guns then, we were nonviolently smoking weed and admiring The Stones and anybody that looked like Michele Phillips. Then Manson sent shivers over the whole thing and another nail was sunk into “The Spirit” and suddenly doors were locked, hitchhiking was for the foolhardy and a veil of something ominous began to drown out the Beach Boys and thinking about good vibrations.
To make a long story short, the final nail in The Summer of Love thingy that lived through the years of untold throws of I Ching coins and Tarot Cards and Sufi this and mystical that, the last straw was the election of Reagan in 1980. This election foretold the reemergence of the old politics of commercialism and a new thirst for the things capitalism could buy. So it was a wave goodbye to the hippie symbol of freedom, the VW van, to be replaced by the corporate symbol, the BMW, while Nancy Reagan told kids to just say, “NO.”
We had been saying “yes” for so long, “no” felt subversive.
Now, wonder of wonders, weed is therapeutic and good for sex and legal. And things still have to be sorted out, which, I suppose, is why circles as symbols will always be very much with us.