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What’s With All The Hippie Punching?

October 18, 2010
OCTOBER 18, 2010 11:03AM

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 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

hoffman

FUCK THAT SHIT!

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Comments

I really like this one. I think so much of the change that has happened in the later part of the twentieth century goes unnoticed.

Heather

Right on, Bro … not only do they hate anti-materialism (it’s called child abuse now) but the thing that pisses everyone off the most is – individual FREEDOM – (that’s called anti-social narcissism now). But what do I know? as far as I’m concerned we should do away with license plates.

I was one of them, hiding in plain sight, where I spent many years blending into the woodwork….but I have a feeling that we’re going to come back into fashion, because collective action is the only solution the manifold problems we face as the graying hippies we are.

There’s a lot more of us than they think. The problem is organizing us, notoriously difficult when attempting to heard geese.

Great post my man. As a fellow hippy, I would love a book about our culture. These people watch Easy Rider and think that covers the whole spectrum of the movement. Bullshit. Write it my friend, and if it’s anything like you have written this, it will sell.
Include a vampire theme; apparently they’re still big.

I hope that you are not shocked that I raised my own fist in the air after reading this. The section on materialism exactly captures my own feelings and the alternatives.

David Brooks is a weenie. Fuck him.

And now I know who your father was. As it so happened, I reread his masterpiece to which you refer in early 2009.

Keep on truckin’.

DAMN DOPE SMOKING HIPPIES!! ( long exhale) Now — what was I saying?

I hadn’t given it much thought till now Luminous but you’re right – I can’t think of anything I’ve read that captures the best, idealistic part of the peace & love and anti-materialism movement. What I’ve read usually takes a detached view if favorable, or is a calumny if otherwise.

It’s almost the same with movies. Alice’s Restaurant and Woodstock are both pretty good in capturing the spirit.

Sorry, but I have to be the smartass here. ARE there any real hippies that don’t qualify for Social Security any more? Or at least…close to that?

I freely admit to having missed the 60s – since I was born in 1963. “My” era was all about punk rock and fast cars. It was a blast, by the way. By that time, though, the bloom was off the rose, the druggies were dead or dying, and we knew that President Nixon wasn’t half as bad as what came after.

Call me a cynic, but I’m having trouble believing that all the “peace and love” was on the side of the overindulged middle-class kids who were fully aware that Dad’s money could bail them out of whatever stupidity they got tangled up in.

Sort of like mall punks.

Right On, Brother! I was born in ’61 too but inherited the tail end of the counter culture via older siblings. So I do have a bit of the the hippie gene in me. Here I am everyday fighting for the printed word. One of my jobs is promoting — what I’m told is an ancient medium — the magazine. I totally believe there is place for them and it is not always behind the computer. Instant coffee did NOT kill the coffee market, the authentic bean is stronger than ever! Keep up the fight.

I hear you and agree about the Acquisition culture. Yup, you’ re going to have to come up with a good title for your book. STEAL THIS BOOK is taken. Love your last sentence! Peace, man …

brooks is a god damned canadian! what he knows about america he read in books. fuck ’em.

abby was a mensch but couldn’t pull it out, hoffman was a narcisstic moron and those editors with cherries up their ivy league ass can kiss my sweet hippie ass. don’t u know anything yet?

p.s. my hippie book was three manuscripts ago. i’ve figured out a new way to do it, but i ain’t telling except that i’m “revealing” on the resume i’m the first male graduate from Sarah Lawrence and i’m a bi-sexual anorexic who voted for Obama the first time but not the second because I’m so smart and not disillusioned in the least.
Great post. What IS with all the hippie punching?
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