Now that the right-wing hallmarks of apocalyptic hate-mongering and greed have exploded (literally) the notion that the conservative movement is anything but a cause for shame and disgust, it is time to reexamine that period of time that had been so reviled by 90s radicals: The 60s.
The 60s, as a political unit, do not encompass the numerical decade. While several major developments took place around 1960 (the laser, the pill) as a social unit the 60s can be said to encompass that time period between Kennedy's assasination and Nixon's resignation. The Beatles to The Sex Pistols. The Civil Rights Voting Act of 1964 until the Civil Rights Act of 1976. Twister to Dungeons and Dragons.
I grew up in that period of time, though I was too young to participate in it. My mother wrote a book about the underground newspapers which were established in most major cities all over the country (The Open Conspiracy, by Ethel Grodzins Romm, 1972), so I grew up surrounded by the alternate press; sort of the internet of it's time. What's interesting, looking back, is how accurate they were. There was lots of local stuff I didn't get, and there was some egregious profanity and insults, but for the most part, the major themes stressed over and over in cities across the country have turned out to be right on the mark. McNamara's confession that the Vietnam War was "wong, terribly wrong" is merely the latest confirmation that the liberals were right.
The Warren Commission was at best hasty and inconclusive and at worst a deliberate lie and a cover up. More than 30 years later, there are still questions about the JFK's assasination.
Johnson was a pig.
The war in Vietnam was a terrible idea, and many people at the top knew it.
J Edgar Hoover was a power mad homosexual under the thumb of organized crime.
Nixon was a crook, and his secret plan to end the war was to spend six years losing it (Nixon still remains the only US president to surrender to a Communist country). He was a paranoid, power hungry and without morals. He used the power of the presidency to harass the people on his Enemies List by tax audits, break-ins and ordering the FBI to cover up crimes. Watergate was only the tip of the iceberg.
Pollution was a serious problem, and the cleanup was only possible because of strong federal government intervention. Corporations were only interested in profits, and it took a grassroots movement to force them to act responsibly.
Marijuana isn't particularly harmful, and the right-wing campaign equating it with harder drugs like heroin and cocaine was stupid and used mainly by the older generation to harass the younger. Just as Prohibition forced people to drink harder, uncertified booze and bootlegging operations spurred organized crime, the campaign against marijuana led to the rise of harder drugs in the schools and major drug operations like the Medallin Cartel. Meanwhile, it was (and is) completely hypocritical of the government to subsidize a known poisonous drug like tobacco.
The "Military-Industrial Complex" that Eisenhower warned the country of was responsible for many of the worst aspects of the country, from the Vietnam War to pollution to unsafe products.
America's Melting Pot wasn't working for many of its long-time citizens, specifically women and blacks. It was Women's Liberation, the Civil Rights Movement and Affirmative Action that created the educated, well-trained workforce that drove the economic expansion of the 80s.
There were and are differences of opinion about many issues from the 60s, notably the Vietnam War. The left wing extremists were wrong when they advocated violence; fortunately they were in the minority, even on the left. But the issues were real. They existed for everyone. The 90s right wing extremists rant about black helicopters, Hong Kong police and spout hate and racism at all times. To compare the 90s right wing to the 60s left wing is to defile the memory of 58,000 soldier who died in Vietnam.
Let me end with a bit from my radio program Shockwave, aired 4/29/95:
The Top 11 Reasons That the Liberal 60s were better than the Conservative 90s
11. The Vietnam War was real, black helicopters are not.
10. Better sex.
9. Better drugs.
8. Better rock and roll. Woodstock vs. Woodstock and all that.
7. The primary means of protesting the war in Vietnam and racism was the march and the sit-in. The primary means of avoiding taxes and black helicopters is the gun and the terrorist bombing.
6. In the 60s,. Conservative Republicans like Spiro Agnew assailed the liberal media of the 60s. In the 90s, Conservative Republicans like Dan Quayle assail the liberal media of the 60s.
5. The Great Society brought us Civil Rights, Head Start and Environmental Regulation. The Contract On America brought us tax loopholes for the rich, a repeal of regulations that cleaned up the environment and forced businesses to act responsibly, and cut funding for minorities and children.
4. The 60s had Rocky and Bullwinkle. The 90s have Beavis and Butthead.
3. In the 60s, people debated Nixon's place in history. In the 90s, people debate Nixon's place in history. Hmm...
2. The 60s had excitement like the Moon Landing and the development of the chip and the laser. The 90s cut back on the space program and cancel R&D programs like the Supercollider.
1. In the 60s, spiritual leaders preached love, peace and tolerance. In the 90s, televangelists like Jery Falwell or Rush Limbaugh preach hate, fear and push the Big Lie.