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Due to the lack of respect on gaia, I've decided it's a risk even posting this here. So, I will not post my annotated Bibliography, to avoid risk of plagiarism, as if it were worth copying, anyway. This is my paper for American National History Day. This year's topic was "Conflict and Compromise", so, I decided to pick an absurd, if not embarrassing topic that would be both original and enlightening. I chose the hippies and the Summer of Love. The title of the paper is "The Hashbury", derived from the article written by Hunter S. Thompson in Time Magazine about the hippies. Please don't bother commenting if you've nothing mature and intelligent to say.

On that note, if you have questions, opinions, or positive/negative criticisms (this does not include ignorant approvals or trolling), please, feel free to share. Here goes nothing, again

The term “hippie” often connotes a humorous and negative stereotype, summarized to a simple vocabulary of peace, love, “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll”. However, there are less hackneyed ways to define the flower children, from radical idealist and nonconformist, to philosophical revolutionary and liberator. In other words, the historical significance of the hippie has been veiled under long hair, flowers, and drugs. In fact, it was the immense commercialism of the love culture, whose first years were eccentric but modest, that wrought its decline. The psychedelic society came to a climax in 1967 when a massive gathering of youths in San Francisco, California kindled from the counterculture's popularity and spawned the “Summer of Love”. Though the event went sour and many of the “Love Generation” lost sight of their goals, society indisputably benefited morally, spiritually, and politically from this cultural revolution.

With remnants of the paranoid fifties still fresh in the minds of Americans, civil obedience was the norm in the early 1960's. College campuses, later the most notorious in the nation for civil upheavals and protests, were labeled “monoliths of conformity”; the University of California's chancellor, Clark Kerr, even went as far as to assume “employers will love this generation...they are going to be easy to handle” (Echols). When Lyndon B. Johnson became president in 1963, he could not have foreseen the future turbulence that would eventually preclude his decision to seek a second term. With the birth of the Vietnam War, the impending draft, a decline of national morale, and a long history of racism and sexual oppression, 1960's America soon became a breeding ground for social reform. As the United States watched the death toll in Vietnam climb with no end in sight and the cries for equality and integration, amplified by figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Robin Morgan, fall upon deaf ears, Americans searched for an escape. In a society determined to prolong the regimental traditions of the fifties, protest became the weapon of choice. Campuses began to erupt in discontent, young men burned their draft cards to chants of “We won't go!” and “Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?” In Indiana, students booed the Secretary of State so long, he left before making his speech (Anderson). A whole new view on patriotism began to arise. This tumultuous trend is best described in Robert McAfee Brown's statement “The question is not what right we have to be speaking, but what right we have to be silent” (Anderson). In short, society sought change and found it in radical groups, be they the militant Black Panthers, the liberal Students of a Democratic Society, or the benevolent hippies.

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Protest became the weapon of choice

By the time the summer of 1967 arrived, the counterculture had long since been established. Though communes existed nationwide, the true epicenter of the hippie culture was the low-rent district of Haight-Asbury in San Francisco (Fong-Torres). As the former residence of the fifties beatniks, the California scene was predisposed to attract flocks of bohemians searching for their former hipster icons (Echols). Instead, the plethora of revolutionaries founded a musical society of second-generation beatniks, all aspiring for a “laissez-faire libertarianism” (Echols). These idealists followed transcendental philosophies, renouncing materialism, pursuing higher-level introspection, and advocating an appreciation of nature. Likewise, hippie communes were an attempt to “drop out” from society - to reject war, racism, and the faulty ways of American life (Anderson). The “binding substances” of the subculture were drugs, such as lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and marijuana. Originally, the love children, composed of aspiring folk musicians, poets, and artists, saw these drugs as a “sacrament” (Hoffman). The world of narcotics had yet to become violent, LSD was for a long time legal and free, and medical science had not assessed the potential danger of emerging psychedelics in depth. Nor did the flower children focus solely on the drugs, but rather upon the effects they felt were unifying and culturally significant. “LSD quickly became more than a drug. It became an article of faith and a right of passage of a new movement...This new movement would go far beyond another restructuring of existing human institutions; this was a movement that would reshape the very boundaries of human consciousness itself – or so we thought” (Melton). Though an obscure tradition, the rabid, uncontrolled use of these drugs is a misconception construed by the media. Their intentions dismissed and eccentricities emphasized, hippies became a media focal point; the majority of the media characterized the hippie as a carefree comic relief and the counterculture a utopia. While in 1967, Time concluded “...it could be argued that in their independence of material possessions and emphasis on peacefulness and honesty, hippies lead considerably more virtuous lives...In the end it may be that the hippies have not so much dropped out of American society as given it something to think about” (Anderson), seldom was coverage so insightful or appraising. “By focusing mainly on sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, the press pretty much determined what the nature of Haight would be” (Echols). Thus, the people of Haight-Ashbury prepared for the Summer of Love, the implicit rendezvous of thousands of youths, a “gathering of the tribes”, from not only America, but world wide. The Diggers, a local mime troupe famous for sprinkling “absurdity of whatever they protest” (Sayre), organized a “free store” which gave away old, donated, or rejected clothes and distributed free food everyday (Diggers). Meanwhile, Dr. David Smith founded the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic (Alexander), a sagacious necessity for the future youths that would congest San Francisco's streets.

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Enough said

The Summer of Love ignited with the “Human Be-in” on January 14th, 1967, one of the largest migrations of young people that lured an estimated nearly 100,000 by word of mouth and media (Dorning). Emerging bands played folk music as poet Allen Ginsberg chanted and LSD advocate Timothy Leary coined “Turn on, tune in, and drop out”. Be-in attendant Elizabeth Gips described the gathering as:

The first great recognition of how many of us there really were...Women in lace table cloths, long dresses of oriental fabric, fantasies of every age and place moved gracefully through the crowd. Men in pied patterns smiled at the sky. The Diggers gave out turkey sandwiches. Everybody shared marijuana, apples, LSD, and love...this was a religion based on individual freedom and respect... (Gips).

Where the Be-in was a surreal beginning for many, it marked the climax and henceforth decline of the counterculture. Tourists and hopefuls continued to inundate San Francisco as the Summer of Love, a dream turned misnomer, closed with the “Death of a Hippie,” an October funeral, feigned by local activists disgusted with the influx and degradation of the “new hippie,” that urged youths to return home (Selvin).

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A sense of togetherness was all the rage

The immediate effects of the Summer of Love were detrimental to the agitated citizens of San Francisco but essential to the nation. “Would you let thousands of whores waiting on the other side of Bay Bridge into San Francisco?” was the rhetorical question voiced by a member of the Golden Gate Park board of supervisors (Allen). Many San Franciscans dreaded, rightfully so, the arrival of the event's masses. Almost instantaneously, Haight wavered from a love metropolis to a forsaken tourist attraction. “The stampede of misfits to the Bay area, the heavy drugs that were passed, and the lack of human services all contributed to the Summer of Love's short lived celebration” (Fong-Torres). The Haight district was thrown into turmoil and conflict as hundreds of homeless runaways slept in Golden Gate Park and thousands of middle class Americans suffered the consequences of voluntary poverty. Many of these dropouts were young teenagers who became desperate for food and shelter as the dismal summer progressed, and in turn, were exploited, hustled, and sexually abused as a means of survival (Sayre). Not only did the media attention attract a crowd to Haight-Ashbury, but the wrong sort of crowd. Because of the emphasis on narcotics and “free love”, hordes of counterfeit hippies arrived in search of immediate gratification, oblivious to the political endeavor behind the counterculture lifestyle. Ample group and communal sex with multiple partners became an epidemic. “It would be an understatement to say there was spike in STDs,” declared Dr. David Smith, “That would be like saying a hurricane is a small wind” (Alexander). Drug use accelerated with fervor and became progressively hazardous. Prior to the Summer of Love, LSD was the popular drug of choice, accepted and considered non-addictive due to the decrease in potency. However, the rush of youths brought a new craze: amphetamines (Echols). Furthermore, the counterculture established a shady relationship with the Hell's Angels, an intimidating organization of renegades equipped with Harley Davidsons. These outlaws, alongside others, became lucrative drug dealers (Echols). This did not go unheeded, however. The Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic sent penicillin by the gallon to communes while the Digger's philanthropies persisted with advertisements for youth housing. To the best of their ability, the Diggers scrutinized questionable communes and asked the health department to shut down those infamous for syphilis and amphetamines (Sayre). Overpeopled and poorly supplied, Haight was riddled with conflict.

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Media attention got the best of Haight

Despite all of this, the love movement was not in vain. The immediate benefits this pivotal event reaped were essential to the betterment of American society. First and foremost, it brought not only its own flaws, but those of the nation to the public eye. “Dropping out” was an important statement conveying a vital message: change was mandatory. Communal life not only urged an end to racism and war, but criticized material dependencies. Acceptance was a key component to the love vernacular. The hippies did not terminate racism or sexism, rather, provided an accelerated evolution. Civil rights, free speech, and feminist movements all prospered from the counterculture's radical notions of liberation and equality (Allen). Not only was the summer a political statement, but it was a spiritual one as well. “...At the core of the counterculture was a spiritual revolution, in a sense of leaving Western religions of control, and exploring the Eastern disciplines of liberation,” stated former counterculture activist, Paul Krassner (Selvin). Hippies encouraged the integration of Eastern practices, such as Zen Buddhism and meditation (Hoffman), introducing a broad spectrum of spiritual beliefs that augmented religious options available to Americans. Feasibly the most prominent contribution of the counterculture was the music it conceived. Prior to the Summer of Love, music was restricted to a modest propriety. So stern was this expectation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched an inquisition behind the meaning of the Kingsmen's 1963 hit “Louie Louie” (Echols). With its daring lyrics that spoke of peace, love, and challenging government policies, counterculture music objected such unjust constraints and became an integral part of the antiwar, civil rights, and free speech movements (Melton). Influences such as the British Invasion and LSD inspired artists to incorporate the electric guitar, after which popularized rock-n-roll and its risqué messages. Though the condition and health of Haight may have been compromised, it was not a lost cause.

Despite the fact the Summer of Love concluded forty-one years ago, the after effects are still significant in modern America. Often, society mocks and generalizes hippies, ignorant of the rights and advancements we have because of them. For example, present moral and legal views of equality are in large part due to the counterculture's bold advertisement of “dropping out” and anti authoritarianism, which instigated assemblies for black and women's liberation (Echols). In addition, because of the “free love” ideals nurtured by the Summer of Love, society has developed a more relaxed attitude towards sex and inter-racial relationships. “Though the Summer of Love collapsed on itself...its lingering contribution has been the freedom to choose one's own sexual path through life, with all the possible pitfalls and joys that freedom suggests” (Alexander). People still have monogamous relationships, but, they choose to, as opposed to following an unwritten standard. Freedom of expression, a primary conviction stressed by radical hippies, has enriched American culture with a vast array of music and entertainment that would have otherwise been censored or inhibited. Even technological advancements such as the personalized computer can be attributed to the counterculture and its acid hype (Selvin). “Many of the founders of the desktop computer had their minds altered by the use of psychedelic drugs. Their revolt against the elitism of the mainframe paralleled the “distrust authority” attitude of hippies and the anti-war movement” (Allen). Recently, spiritual practices proliferated by hippies have proven effective in, of all places, medical science. Transcendental meditation, created by the Maharishi, has been theorized to improve sleep amongst lymphoma patients, and has proven twice as effective in lowering blood pressure compared to relaxation techniques (Begley). Mindfulness meditation, a Buddhist observation practice, has been shown to reduce the rate at which patients are treated for depression relapses by half, which “set the stage of studies showing that mere thought can alter brain activity in a long-lasting way that benefits other forms of mental illness” (Begley). Likewise, the appreciation of nature signature of the hippie movement can still be seen today in celebrations like Earth Day and recycling programs. More conscious now that ever, America has even made the environment a primary issue in politics. In truth, the Summer of Love is still very much alive today.

From yoga and organic foods, to free speech and rock-n-roll, the Summer of Love has left its mark deeply ingrained within American culture. Though their summer went awry and some counterculture enthusiasts never made it out of the sixties, the hippie was a crucial factor in the political, moral, and spiritual advancement of America. The nation never terminated the hippie and the hippie never ended capitalism. Rather, the government created by the people, for the people, began to listen to the people. Hippie radicalism was compromised to a new era of freedom and equality; drugs and communes were left behind with that summer. As David Crosby put it: “We were wrong about the drugs. We were right about everything else” (Fong-Torres).
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Dr. timothy Leary at the Human Be-In

Pictures cited from Larry Keenan's Empty Mirror Books


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