I fondly remember the 60s. As bad as the TV clips make it look, providing you didn’t get killed or maimed in Vietnam, it was actually a pretty good time. Yes, the war was ugly and sinful. But we entered into it with the best of intentions. We were all scared of the U.S.S.R. and no one knew what to expect or how it would all turn out. Look around in small towns and you can still see fall-out shelter signs on the corners of old banks and municipal buildings. Those were the buildings we were all supposed to hang out in, eating salt pork and hard tac until the nuclear fallout blew over – by most accounts, seventy-five years.
JFK was assassinated in 1963 and we’ll never really know why. I tend to believe Chicago mob boss, Sam Giancana, wanted to kill Bobby and had to get the President out of the way first. Jack was elected mainly because his dad and former rum runner, Joe Kennedy, called in favors from the Chicago mob, swinging the Illinois electoral vote to his son by the slimmest of margins. But Joe had a stroke the following December and never fully explained the shenanigans to his sons. Ironically, after Jack appointed Bobby to be his Attorney General, Bobby went after organized crime in a big way. All you have to do is watch video testimony of his interview with Sam Giancana and you know he’s a dead man. But Giancana couldn’t go directly after Bobby with Jack in the White House. Jack would have brought the full wrath of the federal government down on Sam, so Sam had to “Whack” Jack first. With Jack out of the way and a Texan with no love for the Kennedys in the Oval Office, Giancana was free to go after that snotty Harvard punk that made a fool out of him on national TV. BTW, Jack was “banging” Giancana’s girls, Judith Exner, and Phyllis McGuire, concurrently for a while which didn’t help the Kennedy case any.
LBJ spent money like a drunken sailor and passed enough new regulations to wallpaper the Capital, in the process, planting the seeds of the modern welfare state. But all things considered, he was actually a conservative Democrat. If LBJ would have suggested a trillion dollar yearly deficit, he’d of been shot too.
The civil rights movement got ugly at times and MLK was savagely murdered. But the conversation he started and the example he set had a real impact. The children of those times remember, but my children won’t. My children only know that everyone is treated with equal respect. The times, they really are “a’ changing'”.
The pill changed society forever. What was at first looked upon as a tool of great liberation for women would have unimagined and unintended consequences that would eventually lead to complete societal upheaval. Sex rolls, marriage, and the workplace changed forever leaving generations of children wondering “Where is mom, and who are these strangers feeding me?”
The economy was booming in the sixties. The military industrial complex was in full swing making guns, planes, and bombs for everybody and the rest of the world seemed to have an insatiable hunger for all things America. Times were good and high paying jobs were everywhere. Most family cars cost only a couple thousand and gas was around thirty cents. A well-fed electorate brimming with post-war hubris must have thought it had defeated both evil and poverty and “goddammit” were going to do the same to those “Commies” in Vietnam.
The soiled children of the “greatest generation” marched in the streets, protesting everything including the very establishment that made it possible for them to “tune in and drop out.”
But all things considered, the sixties were OK. Men ran the offices and women ran households. The sexes had rolls and, for the most part, they didn’t overlap. Men played golf, women played bridge. Office parties were fun; everyone smoked, drank heavily and didn’t give a damn about political correctness. It was Ok for men to make passes at women and women weren’t expected to work in dirty places, lift heavy things, or go to war. Divorce still held a stigma and kids didn’t enter into it lightly. You were expected to stay married once you entered into a “better or worse, richer or poorer” agreement in front of all your friends, all your relatives, and God.
For all the turmoil, there was an optimism in the sixties. We went to the Moon in 1969 and there was a feeling that no problem was insurmountable. I vividly remember watching the landing on a warm July night in Linwood, Michigan. I was laying on the floor in front of the TV. The landing took place around 4:30 PM, but by the time they got organized and opened the door of the ship, it seemed like it was late at night – like 1:00 AM? My mind’s going.
I don’t feel that same optimism today. The national conversation today seems to revolve around high systemic unemployment, burgeoning national debt, and whether a decrease in the increase of the national budget really constitutes a “cut”. Kids today only protest if their iPhone isn’t the latest model or the XBox connection is slow. Women run the show and if you don’t believe me try to assert yourself. In many municipalities, a simple phone call from a disgruntled wife can land a husband in jail for battery until a magistrate can sort it out. Divorce carries no social stigma anymore. In fact, single moms are looked upon as heroic. Once a wife “gets wise” to the fact that most courts routinely award the kids, the house, and a good portion of the husband’s income in divorce settlements, she’ll leave the marriage for the most innocuous of reasons. And why not? Take the kids and the goodies, “wash, rinse, and repeat.”
In the sixties, corporations competed for the best talent. Companies paid all expenses regarding interviews, traveling expenses, and training. They had “pensions” and retirement programs that didn’t include an employee contribution. There were signing bonuses and two consecutive week vacations. Nowadays, a hundred people will compete for a graphic designer position, and after three excruciating interviews, your given “homework” to prove that you are a master of the twenty-six required skills. When you do finally land a position, you’re told in no uncertain terms that employees are expected to “put in” fifty or more hours a week. And forget about using the vacation you’re promised.