Monday, March 31, 2008

The Sixties - Am I Wrong?

I just posted this review of Tom Brokaw’s Boom! on and I’m including it in my blog because I'd like some honest dialogue about my opinion on the Sixties phenomena. I appreciate the many societal changes came about during the turmoil of that era but I've always questioned whether they happened as natural evolution or as a result of some of the antics of the vocal mob. I suspect it was a little of each.
Here's my review.

"I read with interest many of the comments about this book before writing my review. Ordinarily I don't read reviews at all before doing my own. But I thought the overall rating of less than 4-stars was amazing because I really enjoyed the book. So I glanced at some of the negative reviews just to see what was going on. Guess what? The turmoil of the Sixties is still with us.

Some people are still proud of their behavior during that time and defend it ad nauseum. Others reject that behavior but discount "Boom!" because it's not analytical enough. Frankly I think all of you detractors either need to put a little more effort into doing your own analysis or in forgetting how it was to smell and act like a pig.

Tom Brokaw answered a lot of questions for me in "Boom!", his splendid account of the Sixties and its impact on America. Being of the generation preceding the Sixties, I've always had an uneasiness about what really happened. There's no question in my mind that many needed changes in our society came about during that time. The civil rights movement, expansion of women's rights, war issues, political behavior, and pop culture were all dramatically addressed and changed - some of us, not all, would say for the better. But who and what brought about the revisions? How did they happen? Why? I've never really had a handle on those questions.

People who get most of the credit have always seemed idiotic to me. Muddy, screaming, sign waving, bare-chested (and breasted), wild-haired potheads are the people I found to be the most obnoxious and least effective. Could it be that their tactics were effective? Were hippies, campus rebellions, riots, and sit-ins responsible for the huge turnaround in public behavior? And why did this brief period of time seem to smooth out hundreds of years of scandalous tradition? Mr. Brokaw has laid it all out for us in this brilliant study of the people and events during about ten years of American history. He doen't answer those questions for us. He lets us form our own conclusions. Thank you, Mr. Brokaw.

What I most admired about Brokaw's reporting was just that - it was reporting. There's not a lot of commentary or proselytizing on the events in the book. Rather it is a straightforward accounting of the events and direct results of the time, leaving the analysis to those who were there and participated and who were affected by the results in later years. Probably if the writing had been done in a more biased manner, I would have bailed out early. But the insightful interviews with those who prompted and experienced the sea changes are remarkable for their candor, allowing Brokaw to report on their frame of mind rather than speculate or sermonize on their behavior or effectiveness.

Tom Brokaw is very effective in matching the actions taken during the Sixties with the feelings held today by those who were there. Some famous people have very different opinions of the who, what, and why of the movement, even though they were participants and zealots at the time. And I was surprised to find that many Americans today feel the same way I do - that the changes might have been easier to institute had the change mongers not strayed into their world of drugs and irresponsibility, thereby throwing up barriers to their cause and ruining their credibility. But that's a subject for another time.

Be ready for an interesting trip back to an interesting time. Brokaw puts you right in the middle of the turmoil. The emotions you felt at the time, regardless of where you stood on the issues, will come back in a flood of remembrance. It was a classic period, and one every American should revisit. Speaking for myself, I have a new perspective on the world as we know it today, and a real appreciation of why we are here, operating as we do. It's not perfect, but it's certainly better than, and because of, the Sixties.

Schuyler T. Wallace"

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