Polar Opposites

The show began with a palpable tension.  And ended with a note of hope.  Once again I’ve travelled back in time through the magic of the Peabody Awards Decades program, and seen the past in a new light.  I was alive for this decade, the 1960s, but very young.  The early part of the decade I remember vaguely.  The latter parts form the perspective of a young person.

The tension I referred to surrounded both the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War.  Both vey violent.  Both very divisive.  And each in its way contributing to the restructuring of American society.  Hard fought battles.  Lingering to this day.

Snarling dogs, water cannons, teargas and riot police accompanied both movements.  Yet both held on.

There was the Summer Of Love, and it all seemed to change.  But surely it was a more gradual evolution than just that one summer.  But the Flower Children played their part too.  Some as marchers, demonstrators and rioters. 

What I remember of the sixties are the fashions, the music, and the war.  It was later that the details of the counterculture and the civil rights movement were filled in for me.  But to this day I remember seeing bodies floating down a river in Vietnam on the news.  And driving by a house in my town, near my school in fact, flying an American flag on the front porch with a sign resplendent with the words, “Welcome Home!”  A survivor.  The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  And the death of Robert Kennedy.  One summer we were at my uncle’s house and at night we could look out toward the city and see the orange glow of the fires burning in the riots.  Most of all I remember hearing older boys talking about their lottery numbers.  Not the Mega Millions lottery.  The draft. 

There were draft card burners, bra burners, rock concerts and VW vans.  Iconic photos.  Kent State, with four dead in Ohio.  Vietnam.  The napalmed young girl running down the road.  The spy executed in the street.  And a girl, a flower child, placing a daisy into the barrel of a National Guardsman’s lowered rifle.

The program ended, as I said, on a note of hope.  There they were at Abbey Road studios.  The Beatles, with some help form the Rolling Stones, singing about “All you need is love…”  Maybe it was the Summer of Love that did it.  But more likely, in every direction it turned, the decade was driven by passion.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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