Sometimes the news has to be fun. The octogenarians celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary or the new quintuplets born to a mother told she could not have kids. It is the same with our celebration of the 40th anniversary of the biggest party ever held on the planet: Woodstock.
My own perspective is definitely different from yours. Not only was I there (really), but I was backstage for a few hours helping my cousin’s band find all of their instruments. As I was reminded last week, if everyone who claims to have gone to Woodstock was actually there, the sea of humanity would have been larger than New Jersey.
However, for more than 300,000 souls (current estimates have put attendance at upwards of 400,000), it was a weekend to escape from the rules of life, a weekend of experimentation and a weekend of music, dance and life.
It was a weekend that the authorities said “Let it Be” and where those who thought that these “commie, pinko, hippie freaks” would ruin the town of Bethel and the surrounding mountains of southern New York, found good kids helping their neighbors and cheering on the next rain storm.
Woodstock was a celebration of life after a decade filled with death, violence and war; something today’s depictions of Woodstock seem to miss. There was the assassination of four primary leaders in the United States, Malcolm X, John Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., and Bobby Kennedy. At 11 years old, I watched live coverage of the killing of accused presidential assassin Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby in the basement of the Dallas Police Department. That day is a bookmark in my life; a day that an 11-year old became conscious of the world and politics that directly affect every person on the planet.
It was a decade of domestic violence and domestic terrorism I pray we never see again. Riots in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Watts and too many other cities to name, destroyed commerce and fellow citizens.
It was a decade that brought the world to the doorsteps of nuclear war, starting with Cuba and stopping, but not ending, in the rice patties of Southeast Asia. A door, to this day, that is still open.
We saw political violence in Chicago and Washington, D.C., next to pictures and news concerning the deaths of our soldiers in Vietnam.
We feared a Soviet nuclear attack as we did bombings of government buildings by domestic terrorists like the Students for a Democratic Society.
It was also a decade of achievements and striving for peace. Unprecedented demonstrations against the government’s policies in a small Asian country and for civil right for all. The enactment of federal laws guarantying that all citizens of this country, 18 and older, the right to vote and to go to any public school or college one wished, even if it took National Guard troops.
It was a decade that brought us the words of the American Prophet , the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., to the ears of every citizen of this planet; to strive for peace and tolerance, to become “holy,” god like, and to practice forgiveness and non-violence.
It was a decade when higher education exploded and community colleges came of age. When dreams were made and fulfilled. When a young president set our sights on the moon in 1961 and before the decade was out, we heard an American say, “That’s one small step for man. One giant leap for mankind.”
When the goal of educating every child, putting all on equal grounds, and the dream of security for our older citizens became realities. When the “war on poverty” was taken up by organizations as diverse as the Black Panthers to the federal government.
By August of 1969, America needed something to take our minds off tragedy and injustice, to celebrate life and the wondrous accomplishments we achieved. We needed to assure ourselves that the baby boomers were capable of goodness and our collective future.
It is now time to reassess our dreams and come back to the ideals brought by John, Bobby, Malcolm and Martin, so eloquently stated 100 years earlier, “that all men are created equal.”
All hail Aquarius.
David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.