Hip­pies were the ones protest­ing in the streets.

The Washington Post Sunday - - OUTLOOK -

In the pop­u­lar imag­i­na­tion, hip­pies with flow­ers in their hair were at the heart of the an­ti­war move­ment. The tu­mul­tuous po­lit­i­cal cli­mate con­jures im­ages of “spoiled hip­pies protest­ing the Viet­nam War,” as jour­nal­ist Tom Joki­nen put it in Ha­zlitt, or “hip­pies protest­ing the war in Viet­nam,” as writer Robyn Price Pierre wrote in the At­lantic.

It’s true that some coun­ter­cul­tural groups, most no­tably the Yip­pies and the White Pan­ther Party, blended radical pol­i­tics with the hip­pie life­style. But an­ti­war pro­test­ers and hip­pies were usu­ally two dis­tinct groups. Hip­pies, often known as “freaks,” pri­or­i­tized spir­i­tual en­light­en­ment, com­mu­nity build­ing, and, of course, sex, drugs and rock-and-roll. Ac­tivists, often known as “politi­cos,” opted for more tra­di­tional forms of left-wing po­lit­i­cal or­ga­niz­ing.

Many hip­pies were in­dif­fer­ent or even op­posed to ac­tivists’ po­lit­i­cal or­ga­niz­ing, pub­lic meet­ings and march­ing. Writer, LSD en­thu­si­ast and “Merry Prankster” Ken Ke­sey shocked the audience at an an­ti­war event at the Uni­ver­sity of Cal­i­for­nia at Berke­ley in 1965 by declar­ing: “You’re not go­ing to stop this war with this rally, by march­ing . . . . They’ve been hav­ing wars for 10,000 years, and you’re not go­ing to stop it this way.”

Rather than march­ing or protest­ing, hip­pies hoped to change Amer­ica by se­ced­ing from es­tab­lished po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions, not by re­form­ing them. No one ex­pressed this sen­ti­ment more mem­o­rably than LSD guru Ti­mothy Leary when he ex­horted young Amer­i­cans to “Turn on, tune in, drop out” — mean­ing, in essence, to get high, dis­re­gard pop­u­lar norms, quit both­er­ing with main­stream so­ci­ety, and look in­ward for peace and wis­dom.

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