We deny it, but I think my generation of 20-somethings is jealous of the kids who came of age in the 1960s.
This week, the third season premiere of "Mad Men," a cult TV hit about an advertising agency in this illustrious decade, coincided with the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival. The virtual second coming of the Beatles in the form of a video game will be arriving in early September.
Coincidence? I think not.
The '60s have been thoroughly mythologized as a time of change and revolution — the good kind. Young people believed in their causes, and peaceful protest worked. The causes had an immediate moral weight, because they were so basic and just: civil rights, anti-war and the beginnings of the women's movement. They say that America was naive in the '60s, like it’s a good thing.
And maybe it was. The myth of the '60s, with free love and Martin Luther King Jr., walking on the moon and Jimi Hendrix playing the electric guitar with his teeth at Woodstock is quite glorious. My feeling is that the young folk today (that means me, too) just can’t measure up. I mean, what are Youtube videos compared to the March on Washington? Or, the Internet compared to space travel?
Don’t get me wrong; the Internet is awesome: It’s practically made libraries go the way of outhouses. My mom thinks it’s funny that I think a newspaper on microfilm is fun and novel. But the material point is that the '60s are now 40 years in the past, and a new wave of nostalgia is rising.
Not that the '60s were all that great. The rampant sexism and racism must’ve been awful. The draft and thousands of Americans dying in Vietnam stunk. We chose to remember the “redeeming” qualities for a reason and forget that life was just as gritty then as it is now.
Generally, I think that my generation is jealous because of the sense of unified purpose, or unified outrage, our parents say they had. Even more, I think we’re jealous that the movements in the '60s had a measurable and memorable effect — not just at the time, but an effect that is still felt 40 years later.
I was 14 when Sept. 11 happened and the perception of our world changed. Many of us in college and straight out of high school can barely remember the pre-Sept. 11 world; taking our shoes off in airports is normal. The political consciousness of a generation was made during years in which fear of terrorism overwhelmed the country and the nation accepted, even applauded, massive curtailments of civil liberties.
This does not exactly foster a sense of faith in America among young folks.
And this, I believe, is what we are most jealous of: that there was ever faith that the United States could rise above its current condition and live up to its ideals. And not just America, that we ourselves could be better. Sure, we got Barack Obama elected, but the president (even the first black president) is a symbol, not a movement of epic proportions that fundamentally changes the fabric of the county.
Despite the fun to be had playing Halo, this is something that has been lost.
Erin K. O'Neill is an assistant director of photography for the Missourian and a master's degree candidate at the Missouri School of Journalism.