As we get older, we tend to reminisce about the days of our youth, often to a fault. And, according to my boss, Joel Fieri, the Baby Boomers, in particular, are too often too guilty of over-romanticizing the Groovy Old Days of the 60’s and early 70’s. As Billy Joel sang, “The good old days weren’t always so good and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems”.
Now, in my childhood and teenage years, I remember hearing all about how wonderful those hippy days were – revolutionary times full of peace, love, harmony and rock n roll!
But Joel remembers them differently.
When it comes to rock n roll, he remembers seeing the Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl with so many insane teenage girls screaming at the top of their lungs, and being so filled with fear of the insanity around him that they left a mere 10 minutes into the concert. But that fear was nothing compared to what was to come.
In the ensuing years, with the Vietnam War being brought to televisions as no conflict ever had and body counts being broadcast nightly; smoke billowing from L.A. during the Watts Riots; the Manson family and Zodiac killer running around California… there seemed to be one terrorizing element after another sweeping into Joel’s world, branding an indelible mark on his impression of what others call the “Good Old Days”.
He remembers the men of his neighborhood gathering together and making a plan of attack should anyone dare come into their block with ill intent – a plan that involved guns, dogs, and protecting Joel, his siblings and their friends at all costs.
The conflict and tension didn’t remain outside the walls of his house. With a WWII veteran as a father and a hippy older brother, it was like living in the Archie Bunker house in many ways.
Joel also saw all the signs of the times at his school, particularly when a fifth-grade friend was expelled for getting high. FIFTH GRADE!
So, as Joel looks back on his “Wonder Years”, those are the types of mental images that rise to the surface before any romantic notions of the 60’s and 70’s that are often viewed very differently.
What Joel finds very interesting is the trajectory that those days set for today’s culture. For instance, on college campuses across the country, the 60’s gave birth to the free speech movement. However, in their zealous pursuit for free speech, today’s universities are now one of the least free institutions when it comes to speech from all perspectives. They may have “Free Speech Zones”, but isn’t the whole country a free speech zone? Joel believes that the free speech movement was missold to us. He looks back on the days when everyone was screaming “Peace! Love!”, but the culture also declared that “God is Dead”; and without God, peace and love will not look like you thought it will.
But, could Joel be throwing out babies with his bathwater? After all, the counter-culture movement of the 60’s brought us the civil rights movement, women’s liberation, improved labor laws, space exploration and educational standards all came out of that era. Yet, as Joel says, “any good thing can be taken too far and then corrupted”.
One major problem, as Joel sees it, is that as his generation were the first to question the norms of society, too many people believed that the institutions that they were questioning didn’t need to simply be tweaked or improved, but be completely torn down. In doing so, they then rebuilt imperfect institutions themselves, but the new ones were founded on the arrogance that “this is the new, right way” of thinking and doing things. Therefore they shouldn’t be questioned today.
In some ways, today’s Church even reflects this phenomenon. Chuck Smith’s revolutionary Calvary Chapel movement came out of this era, with a group of hippies worshipping in parks and questioning the denominations that had stood so strongly up until that point. Well, flash forward forty years, and Calvary Chapel has practically become a denomination itself – a portrait of the very institution that they questioned back in the 70’s. They broke the mold, then created a new mold.
But it’s all understandable. As parents, we all want a better set of living conditions for our children than we had growing up. The Greatest Generation wanted that for their children, the Hippies wanted it for theirs, and now Gen X and Gen Y want it for their kids. But with each generation “having it easier” than the one prior, we’re continually setting a dangerous trajectory for our culture – one with a looser and looser grip on the heritage of hard work and earning that so many generations held dearly before the 1950’s.
So what now?
Is it too late to change this trajectory or moral decay and leftism? What hope lies in store for today’s young people?
Joel says absolutely not. Not so long as we continually remember things like why we have free speech, and what was done to secure it. So long as we keep our traditional, even Judeo-Christian values as a priority, then we can continue questioning and questioning one generation after another. But, it’s when we loose the grip on our values that we see our culture and society slip into the abyss of moral decay.
So, as the DirecTV ads go: Don’t sink into the abyss of moral decay. Hold tight to our values and accurately remember our nation’s and culture’s history.
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