The 1960s, the decade of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Flower power, Woodstock, and the summer of love are all part of the legacy. Along with the image of peace signs and incense, we saw the rise of political assassinations, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War. Counterculture became the norm, but it was not all flower children and free love.
In fact, this was actually a decade of turbulence in the United States. Not only did it bring us hippies and great music, it also saw the birth of a violent counterculture. The Black Panthers, the Weathermen – who later became known as the Weather Underground Organization – groups born from the civil rights movement, and in opposition to the Vietnam War. Groups like the Weathermen got their start on the campuses of elite colleges, promoting the idea that revolution was needed to end American imperialism and achieve a classless world, or worldwide communism. Fighting the man for the rights of the oppressed was the creed of these groups.
Under the guise of civil rights and ending oppression, violent and terrorist-like acts became common during the summer of love.
The Weatherman are known for several very violent activities. For instance, in the summer of 1969, a group of Weathermen invaded the Harvard Center for International Affairs, beating staff members and destroying property. Also that summer, Weathermen traveled to Cuba to meet with members of the Cuban and North Vietnamese governments. What better advisors, when your goal is world communism, right? September of 1969 saw a series of robberies, including banks, and the theft of a large amount of ammunition from a National Guard armory. Killing of police officers and the destruction of government property followed, leading to the Days of Rage in October of 1969. The Days of Rage were several days of riots in Chicago. The rest of the year was spent killing police and destroying property. These terrorist activities continued through the 1970s and even into the 1980s.
If the idea of fighting oppression through violence that the Weathermen pursued in the 1960s seems familiar, perhaps that is because we are seeing something similar in America today.
Today they call themselves Back Lives Matter and Antifa. They fight oppression with a goal of communism through riots and violence. Targeting law enforcement and those they see as oppressors, in this case Republicans and anyone who does not completely support their ideology.
Much like what we saw in the 1960s, most of the instigators of today’s violence are young, white progressives. Many are college students.
The recent riots began as protests against police brutality that is blamed on systemic racism. These protests quickly transformed into violent riots, decrying private property and capitalism. It sounds more and more like what we saw in the 1960s, but this time there is a difference: Ordinary Americans are standing up against the riots and terrorist activities.
Militia groups and others who claim to have been preparing for just such an occasion come armed to so-called protests. Many of these armed individuals lived through the 1960s. They experienced firsthand the violence and strife of that decade. Some fought in Vietnam, enduring hell only to return to be crucified by their fellow Americans. Some in this counter force of armed Americans come with experience and memories of lessons learned in the 1960s. Many come to protect businesses from looting and destruction, others possibly with more nefarious goals of escalating the violence.
The 1960s saw young, progressive college students carrying out acts of violence and terrorism against authority, police, military, and government entities. The war was between the radicals and the system. Today we see a war between Americans. The violence escalates and the division increases.
Today’s aggressors see themselves as revolutionary freedom fighters, tirelessly battling for the oppressed and a new world order with global communism for all. As we see from history, the Weathermen and the Black Panthers and most of the late 1960s and 1970s, this is nothing new.
One thing worth mentioning, however, is what happened to the radicals of the 1960s. Most of them grew up, got jobs and in many cases became the yuppies of the 1980s and 1990s. They discovered that capitalism pays the bills, and activism does not. Yup, those first radical revolutionaries of the 1960s are the same people the younger generations now call “Boomers”, with derision of course!
Meanwhile, people like me, who grew up in between the 1960s and now, are familiar enough with the 1960s ideology to look at what’s happening today and shake our heads. But by all means, young radicals, keep doing what you are doing. It is nothing new and one day you too will grow up and be forced into the real world.
As for me, I’ll load my guns, kick off my Birkenstocks (suddenly very fashionable) maybe smoke a perfectly legal joint, and watch the show. Maybe I’ll chat with some of my older black friends who lived through the 1960s and experienced real racism and a real civil rights movement, and the opposition to it. Maybe I’ll get their take on the capitalist system that allowed them to move from the second-class citizens many were viewed as in the 1960s, to the business owners, educators, and political leaders they are today. Maybe we will laugh at or pity the clueless white youngsters larping through the cities of America.
“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” – Bob Dylan, “Subterranean Homesick Blues”
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