THE WORST YEAR THAT EVER WAS
"Gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside...
When I was about fifteen years of age, one of my best friends began evolving into the
original hippie of our hometown. He was gratefully dead before most of us had ever heard
of Haight-Ashbury and before any of us were even aware that Thomas Jefferson had an
airplane. Letting his hair grow while the rest of us still thought long hair was for girls
only, he refused to cut his fingernails and began wearing sandals and weird-colored
clothes. While we were still under the impression that acid is a substance found mainly in
automobile batteries, he began experimenting with LSD and dark sunglasses became his signature
trademark. Reputed to be at genius level, he used to get "A's" with hardly any effort at
all, but he ended up being a terrible waste of potential talent. By the time my senior
year of high school rolled around, he had dropped out of school and the last I heard of him, he
was in prison for dealing drugs.
Some self-justifying individuals, many of who stand to profit from such a view, claim
that what our children see and hear from the media really has little or no affect on what they
actually do. The overwhelming and tumultuous evidence I personally witnessed in the
sixties however, indicates a resounding otherwise. When I was a freshman in high school,
I had never heard of anyone taking drugs except heroin addicts on the streets of New
York. But by the end of my senior year, I estimate that at least 50% of the approximately
4,000 students in our high school were involved with anything from minor experimentation with
marijuana to taking several 'trips' on LSD and other hallucinogenic substances per month and
some, per week. During that same period of time, the music we listened to changed
dramatically as well, from songs mainly about girlfriends, surfing and parties to poems put to
music, mainly about sex, drugs, civil and not so civil disobedience, depression, despair,
rebellion and war. A now famous poet of course, claimed this is when "the music died" and
America lost her innocence. ¹ Looking back, the overpowering and distressing reality
of evidence makes it rather hard to disagree.
In addition to the insane moral contradiction of "establishment" adults telling
us it was okay and even patriotic to drop bombs on impoverished villages of Vietnamese women and children
but somehow, wrong and illegal for young American soldiers and us teenagers back home to smoke
marijuana, more-or-less equally suspect was what was and was not tolerated for radio
airplay. I can recall when "Brown-Eyed Girl" by Van Morrison and
"Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones created quite a controversy and as I remember, the Stones'
subsequent song, "Going Home", was banned from every station we listened to. Naturally
of course, one way or the other, we all managed to obtain copies of the original versions of
these songs and could easily recite each and every lyric by heart. Apparently these same
censors failed to comprehend what the music of "Light My Fire" was describing, as
both the "quickie" commercial version and the extended "long-play" rendition were allotted
We were likewise left wondering about the utter hypocrisy of "the
establishment" that banned even minor sexual references (such as forcing a change of the
original version of "Brown-Eyed Girl") while allowing the much more dangerous symbolism of drug indulgence and
self-debauchery to freely proliferate. * I remember taking my girlfriend to see The
Doors in concert sometime in 1967 and being utterly amazed at how very thin they
were. Coming home, she commented that she felt sorry for them, as they appeared to be
lost and without direction, "kinda like it says in the Bible". Even though at the time I
was a big fan of the poetry of Jim Morrison, they were rather instrumental in convincing me
that drugs are not necessarily a very good idea and consequently, I experimented with very
few. Several of my peers however, were not nearly so fortunate.
I graduated from high school in 1968, at the height of the negative reaction to the war in
Viet Nam. In that year we lost Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy to the Great
War of good versus evil and it could well be true that we may also have lost
America herself, as with the exception of Cesar Chavez and President Carter, there has not
arisen a national leader with much cohesive vision since. What transpired from
that time to the end of the millennium may well have planted the seeds of our eventual
demise and of a certainty, America's leadership at the dawn of the Twenty First Century leaves
a great deal to be desired. There is little doubt that Robert Kennedy
would have won the election and even less, that he would have been one of our greatest
presidents. To have lost Kennedy alone made this one of the worst years in the history of
our nation---to have also lost America's greatest son made 1968 hands down, the very worst year
that ever was. ** As two wise men born many generations apart have aptly
noted: "Where there is no vision, the people perish" ² . . ."Oh, when will
we, ever learn?" ³
Many, perhaps most of us, never really grow up. We rarely evolve past the shallowness
and narrow prejudice of the political, social and religious views we are raised with and thus,
we fail to comprehend the greater war that We The People of Planet Earth are caught up
in. The real war is not about nation versus nation, capitalism versus communism,
Christianity versus Islam, or even the wealthy elite versus the poor and consequently powerless,
common masses. *** Rather, we are caught up in a planetary-wide war of good versus evil;
the same war that ended the lives of Isaiah, Jesus, Gandhi and King also took Janis Joplin,
Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison. Like it or not, we are born into an ongoing, escalating
conflict between that which ultimately helps our species versus that which ultimately hurts us,
a war which we are forced to participate in and from which only death allows us to escape
(see Notes On The Great War: Of
Bondage and Greatness for more information). Neither can we choose to 'ride the fence'
and remain noncommittal for very long. As Peter, Paul & Mary continue to sing, "win or
lose now, you must choose now" 4
and we all must daily decide whether we are going to
be a positive influence for our fragile planet and its inhabitants or instead, a dragging
burden along the great "river of tears" 5, which those who seek to have lives that somehow matter, must tug along
as excess baggage.
There is a law that rises above our local laws, above our city, county and state laws and
above all national and international laws. This is the fundamental law of Human and Civil
Rights (see also Key Of
History) and it is true and correct and righteous and
patriotic to disobey any and all other laws, if and when they fundamentally conflict with this
basic tenet set down for the positive benefit and ultimate survival of We The People of Planet
Earth: "Therefore, as you would have people do to you, do also to them, for this is the
law and the prophets" 6 (i.e., the ultimate goal of all that matters for the individual and collective
positive good in the real world of people acting, interacting and reacting, or simply, the
"sum of what matters"). This is the same "Golden Rule" set down in living example by
Moses, Isaiah, Socrates, Lao Tzu, Jesus, Schweitzer, Gandhi, Keller, King, Chavez, Cousteau,
Mother Teresa and many others and against this law, no overriding legislation should be
tolerated. This is not a rule relating to religion and/or pompous morality but rather, it
is a mandate for survival of our planet, our species and the individual and collective freedom
of us all. As Bob Dylan would later sum up in Blood On The Tracks: "There's a lone
soldier on the cross, smoke pourin' out of a boxcar door---you didn't know it, you didn't think
it could be done, in the final end he won the war, after losin' every battle." 7 . . . And We The
People of Planet Earth shall overcome.
...Ain't gonna study war no more."
Endorsed by the Kennedy
DEDICATED TO: The Joseph Patrick Kennedy
Family, who have
sacrificed far more for We The People of America than all of their ill-informed critics
combined. Also dedicated to the late Janis
our beloved soul sister of the vitriolic nineteen sixties; gone far too soon.
1. "American Pie" by Don McLean, from American Pie (1971). Referencing from the
death of Buddy Holly, the larger symbolic meaning of this now famous poem seems to allude to the
fact that subsequently, music reflected the deep loss of innocence of our generation; as is
noted above, the lyrics gradually changed from the "Happy Days" when disc jockey Alan Freed
reputedly coined the phrase "rock-and-roll" to the sixties' drug-induced symbolism of de- pression and
darkness of the soul, dramatically influenced of course, by the drawn-out conflict in Vietnam and the violent deaths of
Medgar Evers (1963), President John F. Kennedy (1963), Malcolm X (1965), Martin Luther King,
Jr. (1968), Robert Kennedy (1968), four students at Kent State (1970) and several others.
2. Proverbs 29:18 (KJV).
3. From "Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" by Pete Seeger; recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary,
Peter, Paul & Mary (1962).
4. From "The Great Mandella" by Peter Yarrow, Peter, Paul & Mary Album 1700 (1967).
5. From "Went To See The Gypsy"; by Bob Dylan, New Morning (1970).
6. Matthew 7:12.
7. From "Idiot Wind" by Bob Dylan, Blood On The Tracks (1975).
*FootNote: There are few things worse that a society can do to its children than to
promote policies which appear hypocritical to their questioning minds. Hypocrisy,
especially conservative fundamentalist religious hypocrisy, was condemned by Jesus far more
than every other known evil combined.
**FootNote II: According to Tim O'Brien, one of the most famous chroniclers of the Vietnam War,
1968 was a year in which "smart men in pinstripes could not agree on even the most fundamental
matters of public policy. The only certainty that summer was moral confusion."
***FootNote III: Just as many of us in the sixties in error blamed Richard Nixon, the C.I.A. various
other "establishment" entities and even our own fathers for the problem, many of today's youth
erroneously attack corporations and/or the World Trade Organization as being the root
cause for the ills of the world's masses. Although undoubtedly many individuals within the United
States government (and other governments), within corporations and within the W.T.O. are
responsible for pouring fuel on the fires of our planet's diseases, the root cause goes to
greed in the human heart, of which we all make a contribution. Changing Human Rights
inhibiting political, social and economic structures by peaceful and non-violent methodologies
indeed has merit, but the ultimate solution does not lie in overthrowing established governmental
and economic institutions. Rather, the true answer lies in the proper motivation of
individuals toward "helping" rather than "hurting" their neighbors. Such positive
motivation is not best achieved by preaching and/or tearing down that what superficially appears
to be the cause of our unhappiness (as certain modern radical anarchists would have us believe)
but rather, true positive revolution is best achieved through personal example toward peaceful
change; i.e., Harriet Tubman, Albert Schweitzer, Mohandas Gandhi, Helen Keller, Martin Luther
King, Jr., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa, among many others.
Quite obviously, if there was a world revolution tomorrow and every corporate and
governmental structure on our planet were replaced, there would still be a significant reality
of lack of Human and Civil Rights and resulting hunger, disease, rape, pillage, theft, war and
rumor of war. Again, most individuals who naively postulate anarchy by revolution as the true
solution have little concept of the reality of starvation and suffering that invariably results
from such an historically unreliable quick-fix. One of the major tenets of both Jesus and
Gandhi is that we cannot hope to change the world if our individual personal motivations are not first seriously
dealt with. And rather than promoting violent overthrow of existing structures, if everyone
were even a little bit more like the individuals noted above, there would be no problem at all
worth fixing. It is far better and more rational to "light a candle than to curse the darkness" (Chinese Proverb;
Confucius?), to overcome evil with good rather than to be overcome with evil
(Romans 12:21; Paul, paraphrase), to use our talents to help, peacefully change and build
up, rather than to irrationally criticize, tear down and destroy.