Not OK, Boomer

I recently received my 50th college reunion class book. Amidst the otherwise pleasant memories was an article discussing the current abject state of the nation and ascribing its fall (of course) to Republicans. At first I was infuriated. But later I came to see it as a report card on my generation’s hallmark creation, the hippie.

I am a real Baby Boomer, born during the decade after World War II. America had real problems then: overt racial discrimination, the threat of nuclear war, Communist infiltration into our government, polio and Asian flu epidemics—but we also had national unity, a belief that America was a fundamentally good country and could lead the world to just, democratic values, a strong economy, and a time of relative tranquility, at least prior to our involvement in Vietnam. 

During my teens and 20s, the Civil Rights Act was passed along with various affirmative action policies and contracting set-asides that discriminated in favor of certain demographic groups. These provided enormous benefits for many people. So how did we get from there to where we are today, with large segments of the population disaffected and believing that we have more systemic racism, systemic inequality, and systemic injustice? 

Well, I’ll tell you how: We—my cohort—did it.

We no longer had the unifying goals of beating the Nazis and Imperial Japan. We wandered aimlessly looking for something to believe in, some choosing anti-Communism, some civil rights, some environmentalism, and still others occult religions. And then there were the Hippies, the low-key successors to the Beatniks but without the poetry, philosophy, and bongo drums. Originally, hippies were a small group whose main goal was to get stoned, but Vietnam War resistance broadened their goals, swelled their ranks and made them more acceptable to ordinary Americans. Eventually they became a way of life and a political force. 

How did the hippies get us to where we are today? By mainstreaming their mantra: “Sex, drugs, and rock and roll.”

Hippies discarded the social codes that frowned on indiscriminate sex and instead promoted the notion that sex, like pot and LSD, is just harmless fun, and “if it feels good, do it.” 

The resulting promiscuity produced Herpes, AIDS—and babies. And if the father was unwilling (or unknown), well, hey sweetheart, you don’t need a man, you can do it all yourself. Single-parent families now constitute 33 percent of white families and 66 percent of black ones. There are only 24 hours in the day, however, and you need some of them for eating, sleeping, and possibly even working. So there isn’t a lot of time for helping with the algebra homework or even for keeping track of where the kids are and what they are doing if there aren’t two adults cooperating in raising a family. These kids are brought up with the high odds of poverty, lack of discipline, and likelihood of being involved with crime all stacked against them. Poverty afflicts 30 percent of single mothers and their families, compared to 8 percent of married couples. 

Persons in poor households at or below the federal poverty level have more than double the rate of violent victimization as those in high-income households. The Brookings Institution found that “individuals incarcerated in their early 30s are much more likely to have grown up in poverty, in single-parent families.” Educational achievement is also degraded. Children from single-parent homes finish their education with over a year’s less schooling on average and graduate from college at less than half the rate of those from two-parent homes. If police were 100 percent racially neutral, this statistic alone would explain the disparity in their use of force on people of different races.

The greatest evil perpetrated by the hippie-Left, however, is the normalization of the use of narcotic drugs. Drugs are now a $100 billion a year industry in the United States. This money funds criminal empires and terrorists. More people in the United States die from drug overdoses each year than in all of the Vietnam conflict. 

Drug use affects both the user and his family, causing crime, poverty, encounters with the police, and sometimes prison sentences. Drug convictions can result in loss of federal benefits such as food stamps, difficulties in obtaining public housing, reduced likelihood of obtaining a job, difficulty in getting accepted to college, and restrictions on the type of employment available.

And then there’s rock and roll. What could be bad about that? Well, we’re not talking about “Wish They All Could Be California Girls” or “The Twist.” By itself, rock music is not so bad, and much of it is fun. Of course, it fostered teenage rebelliousness, but teens have always been rebellious. 

Rock and its successors also did two important things: First, it transformed music from entertainment to big business, with the ability to influence legislation and the Federal Communications Commission. In 1964, I could have gone to a Beatles concert for $5 (just under $50 in current dollars); in 2019, the average cost of attending a live concert was around $96. 

Second, popular music had the effect of degrading comity and moral standards further and further. In 1967, the Rolling Stones’ “Let’s Spend the Night Together” was considered scandalous and many DJs wouldn’t play it. In the 1980s, Madonna attracted controversy for her teenage pregnancy ditty, “Papa Don’t Preach” (in which her protagonist affirmed, at least, that she had made up her mind and was keeping the baby.) 

Now we have Killer Mike singing: “I’m a bag of dicks, put me to your lips,” and Cardi B with Megan Thee Stallion climbing to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 letting the world know “there’s some whores in this house.” 

Just so you know what your kids are listening to.

Is there any mystery as to how these might lead to antisocial behavior, poverty, inequality, and adverse interactions with the law? To be clear, all of these things are the result of personal choices. Society does not force anyone to have indiscriminate sex, to take drugs, or to condone the values embodied in hip hop and gangsta rap. But these choices have consequences, many of which involve interactions with law enforcement. Some of these interactions will involve the use of force, especially if the subject does not comply with police orders. And some of those choices will lead to death. But it is not discrimination that causes this; it is the actions and choices of the individual—the same choices that the hippie-Left popularized.

About Thomas F. Hafer

Thomas F. Hafer parlayed a modest understanding of basic physics and computer programming and two years in the involuntary Army into a productive career developing systems for neutralizing rockets and drones. He currently attempts to keep up with the kids on his robotics team.

Photo: Sulfiati Magnuson/Getty Images

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