This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the landmark "Aquarian Exposition" in upstate New York better known as Woodstock.
I was 3 years and 6 weeks old when Woodstock began on August 15, 1969. I remember absolutely nothing about it, obviously.
But, all of my siblings were much older than I was. My next oldest brother was 17 that summer. My other brother was 20 and my sister was 23. They remember those days quite well, though none attended Woodstock.
There is a scene in the movie "Almost Famous" where William's sister goes off to be a stewardess and leaves him her copy of Tommy with instructions to put on Sparks with a candle so he can see his future. That scene always struck a chord with me because with older brothers and a sister I was always either stealing their albums or inheriting them when they got tired of them. Tommy was one of my early favorites followed closely by Janis Joplin's Pearl.
So, I grew up with the music of the 60's and 70's. Even in high school I preferred Bowie to Prince and Led Zeppelin to Guns N Roses. There was something deep inside me even during the Reagan orgy of me, me, me in the 80's that rebelled against that selfish and hateful culture.
Many of my friends also tended to share those musical sensibilities. I had a great history teacher who came of age during those turbulent days of the Nixon administration and shared my skepticism of Reagan and the "Republican Revolution." In my later high school and college days I worked often with her at theater events and she expanded my love of the music of that era even further.
This weekend as media is abuzz with reflections of Woodstock, I rented the Director's Cut of the 1970 film. For the past two nights Michael and I have watched the performances of many of the greats. Some were great and some were a bit strange. I kept finding myself uttering my thought that "Some things just go better with a toke."
I'm not sure, despite my insistence as a teenager, that I would have wanted to be at Woodstock now. When you're a teenager mud, rock music, and masses of humanity seem thrilling. When you hit middle age it sort of loses it's thrill. At the same time, I can't help but be reminded how much of the ideals of that age and that event I still believe in today.
I still believe that peace is the best foreign policy and preemptive war is evil.
I still believe that people should take care of one another. It's why I am so incensed at the bullshit being said by people in the Health care Reform debate and their selfishness in trying to make sure that they and only they have health care while millions do without.
I still believe that people should be left alone if they are not harming another. That includes the use of recreational drugs. People ultimately are answerable only to themselves. I do not believe that the bullshit arguments that border on chaos theory about drugs harming people and society by osmosis are legitimate. They are simply moralizing dressed up as intelligent thought.
I believe that individuals should respect each other and not push their religion or religious mores on others. I don't like the moralizing and evangelism that was launched out of the South with Reagan and his Christian goons in the 80's and still infect our country and hold back our entrance into the 21st Century to this day. I love the freedom of the Woodstock era where Paganism mingled with New Age Thought which touched on Buddhism and Hinduism and it all came out not as an artificial moral system designed to enslave but as an organic search for truth and understanding of our place in the Universe.
I believe in doing things for people to bring them joy without the desire to profit from their joy. I can't imagine an event like Woodstock today where the event would be opened to all comers free of charge. I can't imagine people being fed and even clothed for free by individuals and companies. I especially cannot imagine that happening without someone on the left screaming bloody murder about being co-opted by whoever provided the food or clean water.
All of those early ideas and attitudes developed as a kid born on the cusp of Woodstock are still with me. What's so disheartening is to see that so many of my friends from my younger years have abandoned those ideals and embraced the hedonistic pablum spoon fed to us as the teenagers and young adults of the Reagan generation.
For me, I'll cling unapologetically to my hippie influenced childhood. Rock on, y'all and happy 40th Anniversary!