A column about history, culture, policy, and things in between.
It’s Packer time, and I can’t let this particular summer end without some historical comment. This summer notes the forty-year anniversary of 1967, a period that is euphemistically known as the “Summer of Love”. I believe the 60’s are very relevant today, because the explosion of social and public policy which then occurred serves as a crucial backdrop to the current content of social discourse and governance at the national, state, and local levels.
A while back I wrote and delivered an extensive talk on the subject of Western Civilization and American culture, part of which contained an in depth look at the 60’s. Names such as “The Summer of Love” and “The Age of Aquarius” are vapid and sadly misplaced, for they ascribe all kinds of noble and altruistic motivations to the 60’s. To the contrary, I believe it was an era that witnessed an unprecedented elevation of “the self”.
Now if I am to treat this subject seriously I must begin with some honest disclosure. I was nine years old in 1967, and had no intellectual awareness of the tectonic shifts that were occurring in the geology of American politics and culture. But I came of age in that era’s immediate aftermath, and for many years my life and my behavior reflected that reality.
With a few notable exceptions (civil rights, music, and some others) the results of the 60’s have been an unmitigated disaster for our society and our culture. The dissolution of the family, the rejection of and disregard for authority, the Warren Court’s emasculation of the criminal justice system, the craven collapse and metamorphosis of America’s once proud University system, and the trickle-down effect it has had on all public education, the unrelenting assault on all things ecclesiastic, the sexual revolution and its shattering impact upon the emotional well-being of our young people, Timothy Leary’s tacit vindication of drug use as something innately liberating and noble, the open flirtation with and legitimization of violence so brilliantly captured in Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic, the list could go on.
It was the 60’s where the erosion of so many pillars of American culture began. It was the 60’s where the pursuit of one’s personal pleasure replaced such antiquated notions of self-control and social responsibility as being the highest attainable goal. It was the 60’s where the time-honored practices of our collective cultural responsibilities, the very fabrics that weave a society together, began to tear.
We can’t change what occurred.
But can’t we at least start calling the summer of ’67 what it really was?
The summer of “SELF love”.