When a Hippie Retires

Baby boomers are retiring (about 10,000 per day) and many hippies are among them. Hippies might have been about love and peace, but as they aged, also were concerned about investments, a better life for their children and the future of their country.  Hippie and retirement might be thought of as an oxymoron.  Weren’t hippies allergic to work?

Hippies get a bad rap. That’s a bummer, man.

As a kid, I remember watching a network news special on hippies, it might have been 1968, but it gave me a weird vibe. The focus of the program was to cast these young people in a bad light and create a sense of crisis. Maybe a crisis in American, but certainly a generational crisis.  For me, this program was kind of scary, seeing these lost people,  vagabonds, druggies, roaming American cities like Night of the Living Dead.  Not quite, but you get the picture.  Was this the next generation?

Elsewhere in the media, and courtesy of our government, hippies were branded as war dodging, bomb-throwing, revolutionaries.  Give them a bath and haircut, put them to work or in the Army.  We’ll straighten them out.

That television program left me feeling a bit confused.  Just a year before, The Summer of Love, was a celebration, a time of gentleness and hopefulness.  The Beatles sang, all you need is love.  Here in 1968, all of that faded, quickly.  The year was violent and the evening news was full of war, assassination and disappointment.

Woodstock wouldn’t happened for another year, it would be the world’s biggest gathering of hippies, a time of peace, love and communion.  This would momentarily put a band-aid on the wound, but the fun and bright hope for the decade became an eye opening morning after.  Another rock festival, Altamont, in California, would be presented over by the Hell’s Angels, who provided security for a shitload of beer.  Great idea.  A person would be stabbed to death and even members of the Jefferson Airplane would suffer the Angels’ wrath.  Peace, love and a punch to the face.  Here’s your New World Order.

The term “hippie” is a generic label for laid-back, longer haired kids, who often rejected the views of the older generation.  Hippies might have protested but they weren’t necessarily bomb-throwers.

Not all hippies lived in communes and rejected earning a living. Not all hippies were dirty and unhealthy, or were addicted to hard drugs.

Not all hippies were naive or absent of bearing responsibility. Not all hippies were radicals or wanted to burn down the government. Most of them did want to burn down Richard Nixon.

A lot of hippies were just kids who enjoyed the freedom, embracing being young and optimistic, who watched the news and didn’t like what they saw, and looked at their parents and wondered: Is this happiness?  Rejecting many social norms didn’t make them traitors, just kids wanting a better world.

In time, a lot of supposed hippies went to college, graduated, or started a business and watched it grow. They married and started families. Divorced. Married again. Got cancer, survived it, and got healthier again. Their children grew up and played different music, didn’t visit as much, had their own kids, and gradually began to understand their parents.

These former hippies never stopped worrying about their country, they were just distracted by life, and sometimes worried more about the stock market and their pensions.  They bought into the American Dream and did pretty well, but may have wondered about what it cost them.

The male hippie had lost most of his hair, and still took drugs, but these lowered cholesterol and sharpened the lead in his pencil.

The female worked harder because women were still battling to be equals. The world hadn’t quite caught up to their ideals. Sometimes she had to remind him to lighten up and be happy.

When they looked back in their lives they wondered where it went. Just yesterday they were tie-dyeing a t-shirt or attending a peace rally. Today, they are updating their wills and putting pictures of grandchildren on Facebook.

Their friends are mostly stuffy people with expensive tastes. Very upward middle class. Talking politics is thorny, something to be avoided. Almost like dinner time in 1968.

Has the world changed so much? Prejudice is still wrong, poverty is too high, the wealthy get obscenely wealthier. Hospital bills will kill you if the disease doesn’t.  Instead of Utopia, they think of the Golden Years.

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another
Right now

Have we changed that much?


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