Essay, Research Paper: Life In America

Literature: Steinbeck

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Life in America has been molded by many factors including those of the
hippie movement in the Sixties. With the development of new technology, a war
against Communism, and an internal war against racial injustice, a change in
America was sure to happen. As the children of the baby boom became young
adults, they found far more discontent with the world around them. This lead to
a subculture labeled as hippies, that as time went one merged into a mass
society all its own. These people were upset about a war in Vietnam, skeptical
of the present government and its associated authority, and searching for a
place to free themselves from society’s current norms, bringing the style they
are known for today. “Eve of destruction; no satisfaction...and a third motif
went rippling through the baby-boom culture: adhesive love” (Gitlin 200). The
freedom they found came with the help of drugs. Marijuana evolved from its
“black and Hispanic, jazz-minded enclaves to the outlying zones of the white
middle class young” (Gitlin 200). This new drug allowed a person to open their
mind to new understandings and philosophies. But it wasn’t just marijuana that
opened the minds of the youth; a new drug known as LSD came into existence:
Depending on who was doing the talking, [LSD] is an intellectual tool to explore
psychic ‘inner space,’ a new source of kicks for thrill seekers, the
sacramental substance of a far-out mystical movement- or the latest and most
frightening addiction to the list of mind drugs now available in the pill
society being fashioned by pharmacology (Clark 59). With politicians and law
enforcement officers looking on the drug as a danger to society, many expert
chemists “set up underground laboratories and fabricated potent and pure
LSD...kept their prices down, gave out plenty of free samples, and fancied
themselves dispensers of miracles at the service of a new age” (Gitlin 214).
It wasn’t just the youth in America who was using these drugs. A statistic
from 1967 states that “more American troops in Vietnam were arrested for
smoking marijuana than for any other major crime” (Steinbeck 97). The amazing
statistic wasn’t the amount of soldiers smoking marijuana; it was the amount
of soldiers America was sending over to fight a war that nobody understood.
Between 1965 and 1967, troops “doubled and redoubled and redoubled twice
more” (Gitlin 261). In a letter to President Johnson sent by student leaders
from 100 American colleges and universities and published in Time, this problem
was addressed: Significant and growing numbers of our contemporaries are deeply
troubled about the posture of their Government in Viet Nam. Even more are
torn-by reluctance to participate in a war whose toll keeps escalating, but
about whose purpose and value to the U.S. they remain unclear. With the fear of
being sent to Vietnam, many potential draftees looked for a place to run. Some
went to Mexico, some went to Europe, some went to Canada, and some just burnt
their draft-cards to resist the draft. For those who went to Canada, they
received assistance from the Committee to Aid American War Objectors. The
committee helped the young immigrants with advice and aid on the Canadian
immigration laws. For those who didn’t flee, life was full of harassment from
the Government. Popular music and literature help display this message of
repression. Jimi Hendrix released a song titled “If 6 was 9” that described
his oppression: “White collared conservative flashing down the street/Pointing
their plastic finger at me/They’re hoping soon my kind will drop and die...Go
on Mr. business man/You can’t dress like me.” During Woodstock, the music
festival in ’69, Country Joe and the Fish sang lyrics that were both comical
and intense: “What are we fighting for?/Don’t ask me, I don’t give a
damn/Next stop is Vietnam...Whoopee we’re all gonna die.” Jerry Rubin
illustrated his anger in the government, in the book he wrote while spending
time in jail. We Are Everywhere describes Rubin’s hatred towards all authority
admitting, “heroin is the governments’ most powerful counter-revolutionary
agent, a form of germ warfare. Since they can’t get us back into their system,
they try to destroy us through heroin” (118). This repression of the elder
generation sent the youth to accepting communities, particularly out west. Most
of the people leaving their homes came from working-class families whose parents
and communities had driven them out for simply for supporting the civil rights
movement. Being alienated from their towns and considered communists, they found
it easy to side with the anti-war movement. It was also easy for them to
discover drugs and the free-love idea that was already being spread. The new
culture identified themselves with the Native Americans and their unquestionable
oppression, sacramental drugs, and true ties to America. The style that they
developed was true to this philosophy. Described by Gitlin: Dope, hair, beads,
easy sex, all that might have started as symbols of teenage difference or
deviance, were fast transformed into signs of cultural dissidence...Boys with
long and unkempt hair, pony tails, beards, old-timey mustaches and sideburns;
girls unpermed, without rollers, without curlers, stringy-haired, underarms and
legs unshaven, free of makeup and bras...A beard could be understood as an
attempt to leap into manhood...Clothes were a riot of costumes...India’s
beads, Indians’ headbands , cowboy-style boots and hides, granny glasses, long
dresses, working-class jeans and flannels; most tantalizingly, army jackets.
(215) There was a tour bus that ran through the Haight-Ashbury area in San
Francisco called the Gray Line. The tours promotional brochure contained the
statement: “The only foreign tour within the continental limits of the United
States” (qtd. in Sutton 36). The significant people in the city didn’t like
the idea of a large hippie community growing in their city. The city didn’t
contain any photographs on file, nor did they “dig” the idea of journalists
doing reports on the hippies. Ronald Reagan thought of the hippies as someone
who “dresses like Tarzan, has hair like Jane, and smells like Cheetah” (qtd.
in Gitlin 217). But with or without such outside influences, the hippies
continued to pursue their “make love not war” and “free love” attitudes.
No movement in our history defines a cultural change more accuratly than the
hippie movement in the 60’s. They had their own laws, music, clothes, and
writtings. The view of what a society should be was a common one to all hippies.
Their ideas were big all throughout the late Sixties and early Seventies, and
there is still a large hippie population in America today.

Clark, M. “LSD and the Drugs of the Mind.”
Newsweek 9 May 1966: 59-64. Country Joe and the Fish. Woodstock. Saugerties,
N.Y. June 1969. Gitlin, Todd. The Sixties. New York: Bantam Books, 1987.
Hendrix, Jimi. “If 6 Was 9.” Axis: Bold As Love. MCA Records. 1987. Rubin,
Jerry. We Are Everywhere. New York: Harper and Row, 1971. Steinbeck, John IV.
Marihuana Reconsidered. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1971. Sutton, H. “Summer Days
in Psychedelphia.” Saturday Review 19 Aug. 1967: 36+. “Youth Question the
War.” Time 6 Jan. 1967:22.

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