The Politics And Culture Of The 1960s

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The Politics And Culture Of The 1960s Hippie Movement Essay, Research Paper The Politics and Culture of the 1960s Hippie Movement As the nineteen fifties turned into the early sixties, the United States remained the same patriotic, harmonious society of the previous decade; often a teen’s most difficult decision was choosing what color lipstick to wear to the prom. Yet after 1963, a dramatic change slowly developed in the cultural, social, and political beliefs of America, particularly the youth. The death of President Kennedy, the new music, the quest for civil rights, the popularity of mind-altering drugs, the senselessness of the Vietnam War, and the invention of the birth control pill reacted like an imbalanced chemical equation to formulate a new American

counterculture: the hippie. Contrasting with ever-dominant mainstream society, the “layed back” hippie nobly tried to change the world not by force, but through peace and love. Though not entirely successful, the hippie movement clearly marked the mid- to late-nineteen sixties and early seventies as a mixture of peace and brotherly love with “sex, drugs, and rock and roll.” The formal definition of a hippie is “one who does not conform to social standards, advocating a liberal attitude and lifestyle.” However, the true definition of a “hippie” in unclear; no interpretation could categorize every person who fits into the ambiguous category of a hippie. According to Phoebe Thompson’s definition, being a hippie is “a choice of philosophy.” Hippies are generally

“antithetical” to structured hierarchies, such as church, government, and social castes. The ultimate goal of the hippie movement is peace, attainable only through love and toleration of the earth and each other. Finally, a hippie needs freedom, both physical freedom to experience life and mental freeness to remain open-minded (12-13). In the view of some historians, thus, Thoreau and Ghandi were hippies, and hippies continue to exist today (25). Yet what unique qualities characterized the American hippies of the nineteen sixties, and how did this movement gain enough power to influence millions of teenagers? The nineteen fifties was one of America’s most prosperous (and dull) decades. Conformity and nationalism swept the nation; television sitcoms reinforced old-fashioned

family values; the typical teenager aspired for the “all-American” look and personality. Yet music had already planted the seeds of rebellion; Rock and Roll began to sweep the nation. Kids wore leather jackets, violated curfews, and considered themselves rebels, though oddly with no cause. The rebellion craze was epitomized by Marlon Brado’s role in the film The Wild One. When asked: “What are you rebelling against,” he responded: “Whatta you got?” The music of Elvis and other rock bands caused the rebellion; all the teens needed was a cause (Manning 32-34). The Vietnam War began as President Kennedy’s effort to protect the “free world” from Communism. Kennedy, a well-liked president, received little war opposition from the people. He was young and supported

free-spiritedness, open-mindedness, and equality; at his assassination in 1963 only 15,000 troops were in Vietnam. Under Lyndon Johnson the number of soldiers skyrocketed, however, reaching 500,000 in 1966. Television broadcasts from overseas became more gruesome and the deaths more tragic. The nightly news counted the dead and described compiling destruction, and many political and literary figures began to speak out publicly against keeping US troops in Vietnam (Harding 56-9). Though Johnson continually promised a swift end to the war, the Tet Offensive of 1968 finally proved otherwise. A surprise attack on American soldiers caused a significant loss of land and life; the Communists were apparently nowhere near defeat (Buchholz 861)! Shiploads of American boys came too and from