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Good Morning Nanty Glo!

       Friday, October 8 2004 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

The 'sixties: one last revisit

In closing my series on the 1960s and the new interest that's been piqued by reading Robert S. Ellwood's book, The Sixties Spiritual Awakening, I want to simply throw out some of the most notable events and trends in that watershed decade. The decade of my 20s, in some ways it's so far in the distant past that it often seems unreal and irrelevant. But even those of us in today's human family who were not yet born in the 'sixties have been shaped by it far more than most of us ever consider. A few of the highlights:

President John F. Kennedy - the ascension of the polished and articulate Boston Senator to candidate and then President of the republic was the first great excitement of the '60s and his assassination little more than 1000 days into his administration (November 22, 1963) its first great tragedy. (Just days before Kennedy's election, we Western Pennsylvanians had another great excitement, the third world series victory for the Pittsburgh Pirates on October 13.)

Pope John XXIII and Vatican II - A great liberalization and wave of "reform" began in the reign of John XXIII, who occupied the Petrine office only five years, also dying in 1963, but after he launched the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, which radically changed Roman Catholicism and made ripples through the rest of the Christian world.

After the death of President Kennedy, the low simmering war in Vietnam was escalated rapidly by the Johnson Administration, marking the '60's young adult generation for the rest of their lives by involving virtually all the male half of the generation in it either directly or indirectly. By the end of the 'sixties, the American nation was virtually at war with itself over what was happening (and failing to happen) in Vietnam.

Birth control pills were introduced and the sexual revolution took center stage in the media on a recurring cycle for the rest of at least that decade.

Racial revolution, the end of segregation, and years of race riots in scores of American cities, ironically the biggest of them in the north, where segregation had been practiced the least. Though the Johnson Administration's anti-segregation campaign dedicated to the memory of John F. Kennedy was a political victory, the black community didn't see it that way until years later.

The Assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy (June 6, 1968) and Martin Luther King (April 4 1968) and the Tate-LaBianca murders in August 1969 seemed the tragic climaxes of a decade of heightening madness for Americans. And this spiral of violence was reinforced by student riots and shooting deaths wrought by anti-riot forces on campuses from Kent State in Ohio to the University of California in Santa Barbara.

Johnson's second major memorial to Kennedy was his dedication to having manned space flights reach the moon in the 'sixties. This was accomplished in 1969, but as Ellwood observes, it was not the beginning, but more of an end, of the human conquering of outer space.

"The death of God" and secular theology were the rage of the liberal church leaders, and helped alienate the mainstream of American Christians with the establishment churches called the "mainline denominations."

Psychedelic drugs and marijuana use entered the mainstream consciousness of younger Americans, and many older ones as well.

The hippies gave a rebirth to the teen generation of the previous decade (almost as though 30-year-olds had returned to their teens), and provided something to do on weekends for the 'sixties teens living near major cities. But beyond this rather facile description, it was also the impetus for a new spiritual quest for a whole generation and a philosophical re-examination of all the values Americans espoused.

Woodstock, which drew at least 400,000 rock and roll fans to a muddy farm in upstate New York, was hailed at the time as the beginning of a new era for rock and roll, and a new lease on life for the hippies, but like the moon landing, it turned out to be more a climax just before the end of both eras. The Rolling Stones' attempt to recreate it at Altamont, Calif., a couple of months later, which turned murderously violent, really sealed the fate of such rock extravaganzas.

Star Trek began on television in the late 'sixties, and 2001, a Space Odyssey, was one of the most discussed movies of 1968. Both have had lasting impact, in religious terms, on the generation that first saw and embraced them and their messages.

Webmaster Jon Kennedy 


What do you call a fish with no eyes? A fsh.

Sent by Mary Ann Losiewicz  

Thought for today

Never give the devil a ride—he will always want to drive.

Sent by Trudy Myers  

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