With our HQ in San Francisco, PRI can’t let the summer end without a nod to the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love.
I’m the last of the generation of Baby Boomers, starting kindergarten in 1967. The girls in my classes wore psychedelic mini-skirts, Vietnam POW bracelets, and macramé tote bags carrying notebooks with the symbol “Ɵ” for ecology. “Peace, love, and happiness” and “Doing your own thing,” were “cool”, but being a “drag” wasn’t.
While we baby Baby Boomers only had the shallowest understanding of the ‘60s movement, we nevertheless sensed something was happening, something exciting. After all, the song promised “a dawning of a new age” of “harmony and understanding.” The idealism of the era trickled down to even the littlest Americans.
In the current issue of the Claremont Review, editor Charles Kesler contrasts the idealism of the 60s with the radicalism on today’s campuses.
In describing the vision of the ‘60s New Left organization Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), Dr. Kesler writes, “The early SDS wanted to overcome ‘[t]he decline of utopia and hope,’ by showing that young people…could make history rather than wait patiently for progress to arrive….Real hope was not passive but active, indeed transformative. …In the words of the [Port Huron] Statement, ‘We regard men as infinitely precious and possessed of unfulfilled capacity for reason, freedom, and love,’ where freedom meant ‘finding a life that is personally authentic.’” He adds that the “Port Huron Statement quoted the Declaration of Independence and Abraham Lincoln, even as the civil rights leaders did, accusing the country of not living up to its principles.”
But Dr. Kesler observes, “No such Americanism, however vestigial, remains in today’s campus protestors, who celebrate only victims, not martyrs, and who have been taught to believe that America, and the West as a whole, are oppressors and nothing but oppressors . . . racists, sexists, imperialists homophobes, zenophones, transphobes, etc.”
Unlike the 60s radicals, who wanted to change society, this generation of radicals wants to retreat from it, writes Dr. Kesler. In the 60s, “Idealism depends on transcending self-interest and today’s protestors expect every ethnic, racial, class, and gender group to follow its interest, and the most powerful to win. We are a long way from utopia and hope.”
To top off your summer reading list, check out “The Old New Left and the New New Left” by Charles Kesler in the current issue of the Claremont Review.
Rowena Itchon is senior vice president of the Pacific Research Institute.