What’s With All The Hippie Punching?
What’s With All the Hippie Punching?
First of all, I’m an old Hippie, and proud of it.
When I first heard the term “hippie-punching” over at Digby’s Hullabaloo I felt a jolt of fear. Back in the volatile summer of ’68 I’d been a longhair foolish enough to go to Southern Missouri. I was leaving a roadhouse late one night when a bunch of guys ran out –‘Dirty Hippies!”and got in their trucks to follow us. If they’d caught us it might have been worse than punching.
Like Easy Rider. I was on the road, away from a TV, so didn’t know that that very night the riots at the Chicago Convention were raging, TVs across the country were filled with images of cops bashing in the heads of heads. Those guys may have seen it and wanted to join in the fun.
Mayor Daley, Sr. A guy who knew how to punch a Hippie.
I soon realized “hippie-punching” was a figure of speech, referring to the utterances of softies like David Brooks, who I can’t imagine beating up his dog. He recently blamed the violent crime of the 70s on us Hippies. But as I remember, it was Make Love Not War, not make mayhem in the streets.
Brooks, affectionately known as “Bobo.” Imagine him with beads around his neck, hair down to his ass…
Brooks regularly invokes the H word. Most conservative commentators don’t even have to. All they need to do is darkly infer that out there somewhere some wimp is having the thought that maybe poor people don’t deserve to be ground down into dogfood under the merciless wheels of capitalism, or that any country that doesn’t think the way we do shouldn’t be immediately treated to a little “shock and awe,” or that driving the biggest gas-guzzlingest SUV with the windows down and AC on full might not be the best thing for the planet. And you know what they’re thinking – these Un-American, even traitorous thoughts are the work of a DFH (Dirty F***ing Hippie.) Who wouldn’t want to punch one?
Now if we’re talking conservatives of my generation, who spent the glory days of the late 60s as Young Republicans for Nixon, I can sympathize. Though Karl Rove and his buddies might have enjoyed practicing their dirty tricks in college, Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll were more fun. Way more fun. So I can sympathize if they’re a little resentful.
But David Brooks was born in 1961. Too young to have missed any of the fun. What ? Did some freak rip off his bicycle, try to give him funny cigarettes at the playground? Old Bobo ain’t sayin’.
Even back when Ronald Reagan was President most hippies had become good, hardworking citizens – or quietly retreated into remote corners of the country and culture, harmless and irrelevant. The proof is that you know if Reagan could have found one deadbeat Hippie on food stamps he would have been right there beside that notorious Welfare Queen.
So why does the media – and not just conservatives – go out of its way to punch us old hippies?
Here’s what I think. For all the plastic Hippies, Acid burnouts, and very few Horror Hippies like Manson, most of the hippies I knew were very serious in attempting to invent a new life counter to the dominant culture, and most crucially to the materialism at the center of that culture. That concept was and still is profoundly threatening to many people. Acquisition – the more public and shameless the better – is the real national religion. Not Christianity, but the pursuit of Fame and Fortune, its heaven populated by reality TV stars living in 10,000 square foot McMansions.
No one is more threatened by a philosophy of anti-materialism than acquisitive, type A personalities. They live to acquire money, things, magazine cover lovers, and ultimately power. And no one gets anywhere in the rat race of the media without being just such a type A person. If in fact, as we believed – as I still believe -that there’s a better way, then why suffer all those late nights and merciless backstabbing and anxious waiting for the next move up the ladder, all the stuff which is the price of being a big cheese in the media? And so in punching us, pundits are really punching themselves, punching that small doubting part that wonders why they bother with it all. Just as anti-gay zealots can well be closet gays trying to suppress their nature.
I don’t live in fear that somebody with a “Nixon’s the One” sticker on their old pickup is going to drive up here and storm in and beat the crap out of my gray – but still long – haired self as I merrily blog away my last years. What worries me is how Hippie-punching might affect my new career as a writer. My memoir is about my famous father and me, and growing up in his shadow. It’s also about the 1960s.
I’ve had literary agents, writer and editors tell me the same thing: no one wants to read another word about the counterculture 60s. They tell me it’s been written to death, and written so well (implying – By writers a lot better than you, Sonny.) I don’t get it, because my motivation for writing about those ensorcelled times is that I’ve never read anything that actually captures how it felt back then. (There is some TV.)
When I ask these writing biz people to name some of these brilliant 60s works, they’re taken aback, “Um, well offhand I couldn’t…” Then, finally, “Famous Long Ago.” A book which itself was only semi-famous very long ago, back in 1967, and has been utterly forgotten, out of print for years. I went back to read it and it didn’t do the job. Someone else mentioned Todd Gitlin. Now Todd seems like a fine fellow, probably shares my politics. But whatever fire breathing he did in the day, he’s now an academic historian. His “Sixties” bored me to tears. I couldn’t get past the first chapter.
Books of hippie luminaries like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin are frustrating because those guys did not live the egalitarian spirit of the movement. They were ultimately interested in themselves, and that’s who their books are about.
I wonder how this conventional wisdom about 60s overload came about. I know the book biz in New York is small. Was it some big muckamuck leaning over at one of those three martini (OK, 2 mineral water) lunches and whispering – The 60s are dead –then word spread? Did everyone just wake up one morning with the same thought?
What I do know is that they’re wasting their words on me. Though my father and I stared at each other across a Grand Canyon of a generation gap during the 60s, I’ve come to accept how much of him is in me. Starting with crazy mule-ass stubbornness. Jackie and Bobby Kennedy did everything in their considerable powers to make him stop publishing The Death of a President.He fought them and their army of lawyers, and won, though it half killed him. If a bunch of naysayers in a dying , enfeebled industry think they can stop me from publishing my book, all I have to say is what I once heard Abbie Hoffman say at a rally to free Bobby Seale. He was filled with self-importance, and most of what he shouted was gibberish. But in between the nonsense came a refrain, perhaps his sole contribution to history. And no one ever shouted it like he did, his arm punching the air in a “power to the people” fist:
FUCK THAT SHIT!