Celebrating positive aspects of The Summer of Love on its 50th Anniversary

WHAT'S so funny about peace, love and understanding?

That's the question that we should be asking in light of the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

Hippie values and culture have been taking a beating during the past few years.

However, while the hippie movement had its flaws - its biggest being that it was fueled by heavy doses of marijuana and LSD - there is much about it that should be honored, cherished and celebrated.

Fifty years ago, the hit song "San Francisco," written by John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas and sung by one-hit wonder Scott McKenzie, stated the clarion call of that era: "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair."

And come they did, in droves. Hundreds of thousands of young flower children flocked to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco for the summer. They got high, listened to music and didn't bathe much.

It was hippie culture that spawned the pro-environment movement, including the establishment of Earth Day in 1970. The culture of the hippies, whom many mocked as tree-huggers, led to the philosophy of taking care of the Earth through recycling, organic food, vegetarianism and preserving forests.

The hippies had a positive philosophy of loving your neighbor. A sense of optimism and hope prevailed. They embraced ethnic and cultural diversity and tolerance. They spoke out against greedy capitalism, racism and government imperialism.

There was a healthy questioning and distrust of the government and corporations. Young people spoke out and went to protest marches against the Vietnam War. Unlike the complacent generations before them, they stood up for what they believed in and were not apathetic. Young people believed that they could change the world for the better.

There was creativity in music and art that still lasts today. Songs by the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are still played on many radio stations and continue to influence contemporary artists such as The Black Keys, Cage the Elephant, Coldplay, U2, Foo Fighters, Radiohead, Muse, Pearl Jam, The Lumineers, and Jack White.

On the other hand, it's a bummer to see the commercialization of the hippie '60s spirit. Companies frequently use '60s music to sell cars and sneakers. The Beatles “All You Need Is Love” was featured in a Luvs diapers commercial, The Turtles’ “Happy Together” was used in a Toyota commercial, and Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride” was used in Chevy commercials. In a commercial for Ameriprise Financial, actor Dennis Hopper mocked the '60s ideals by saying, "Flower power was then; your dreams are now."

And just as often as hippie culture is commercialized, it is also mocked.

One "South Park" episode titled "Die Hippie, Die" had hippie-hating Eric Cartman drive a drill through a crowd of drugged-out hippies to try to stop a music festival. Conservative talk-radio hosts and Fox News take every chance they can get to bash, mock and ridicule the permissiveness and naivete of '60s snowflake liberals.

Yet there are many efforts to recapture the charm, spirit, energy and vibrance of the hippie culture. Go to any outdoor summer music festival, and you're likely to see 10 percent of the people wearing tie-dye T-shirts. Bell bottoms have been back in style for a few years. Mega-outdoor music festivals such as Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, Firefly, SXSW, the Philadelphia Folk Festival, Live Aid, Live 8 and Woodstocks '94 and '99 try to recapture the spirit of the '60s Be-Ins and Woodstock. Current anti-Trump protests evoke memories of that era.

So on this 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, don't celebrate by dropping acid, rolling around in mud naked, or going a week without a bath. Instead, be more open-minded to people different from you, embrace the environmental movement by going green, or have the courage to speak out against the government on issues with which you disagree.

Embrace your inner hippie. Flower power is with you.

Larry Atkins teaches Journalism at Temple University and Arcadia University. He is the author of “Skewed: A Critical Thinker’s Guide to Media Bias” (Prometheus Books). Email: larryLTatkins@aol.com . Follow him on Twitter @larryatkins4 .  This is a revised and updated version of an Op-Ed that he first wrote for The Los Angeles Daily News.

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