Guest column: A geezer ponders life in the counterculture
No, not that counterculture — the one that flowered during my early adulthood in the 1960s and ’70s. That one I was largely out of sympathy with.
Drugs? Never did ’em. Having labored mightily to kick the cigarette habit, the last thing I wanted to do was smoke a joint, with all the dopey ritual that went with it.
Free love? Called me repressed, but messy vitality struck me as just that — messy.
Is anything really free?
As for the clothes — the tie-dye, the bell bottoms — good grief, I had struggled for my entire adolescence to pass for preppy, and now I was supposed to do hippie?
And as for tuning in to my inner spirituality, heck, out of pure laziness I had stopped going to church, and now I was expected to listen to Ravi Shankar and embrace Eastern mysticism with all the Hare Krishnas outside the airport. Even if I did feel like attending a church, it would turn out to be a place where the pipe organ and 1,000-year-old hymns had been traded in for people with guitars singing Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” and all manner of heavenly hootenanny. Hare Krishna lite.
About the only part of that era that I was in sync with was the anti-war movement. Up to a point. Although the Selective Service system did force a few lifestyle “choices” upon me, it allowed me to avoid military service without my having to move to Canada or join the cult of Che Guevara and Chairman Mao, who murdered a lot more people than our B-52s over Vietnam.
Nope, I’m not talking about that counterculture. I’m talking about this one, the one I find myself in now, in my case by virtue of being an old white guy who is more aroused by Sarah Palin than he ever was by Jane Fonda.
Yes, I have read recently that America has tipped the scales and tilted on its axis so that now people like me constitute “the new counterculture.” The progressives have prevailed, and I’m an ideological Luddite.
You might be surprised to learn how liberating and exhilarating this is. After all these years, I finally get to do what my hippie peers did back then — sit on the sidelines, carp about the establishment, assume an air of smug superiority and indulge myself. As Kramer said to Seinfeld, “I’m out there now, Jerry, and I’m lovin’ it!”
For starters, I’ve ordered up a whole new bunch of T-shirts with which to adorn my sunken chest.
Forget Che Guevara. My favorite T-shirt features the face of Sen. Joe McCarthy above the words, “I told you so.”
And I have an alternative version to wear among my Catholic brothers and sisters who went off the rails with progressive socialism: Above the words “I told you so” is the image of Pope Leo XIII, whose encyclical Rerum Novarum is the most cogent, eloquent repudiation of socialism I have ever encountered.
The variations are endless. “Is the neighborhood becoming a Third World hellhole? I told you so.” Ann Coulter, of course.
And I have a T-shirt bearing the pithiest sentence ever uttered on the floor of Congress to a U.S. president, Joe Wilson’s “You lie,” the words Eve should have spoken to the serpent.
I also have a bumper sticker that reads, “If it ain’t country, it ain’t s—.” I don’t really like the music, but it’s about the only part of my Anglo heritage that remains.
I never owned a T-shirt exhorting my free-spirited contemporaries to “Do it in the road,” but now I have one with this Confucian gem: “When in doubt about the rightness or wrongness of an action, abstain.”
And sometimes, during Lent (yes, I returned eventually to the faith of my fathers), I’ll don my “What the F.O.C.A.?” shirt (referring to the Freedom of Choice Act) and head downvalley to Planned Parenthood in West Glenwood, where I’ll pray the rosary on the sidewalk. There I’ll exchange smiles with people carrying signs telling me to keep my Bible out of their uterus. Oh boy. I’m out there now, Jerry.
As for joining up with several hundred thousand like-minded people in the nation’s capital for a pro-life rally, what’s the point? The press won’t cover it, and our elected representatives will have gone somewhere else. As the Servpro commercial says, it’s like it never even happened. The old counterculture did stuff like that; the new one is a much lonelier enterprise.
I suppose that when I get really lonely, feeling like that last passenger pigeon on the planet in 1906, I’ll put on the shirt that says: “Over 75: Where’s an Obamacare death panel when I need it?”
But I jest. If you think I’m depressed, forget it. My self-righteousness bears me up, as on eagles’ wings.
So enjoy the world you’ve created, progs, while I ostentatiously mourn the one you’ve destroyed.
Chad Klinger lives in Basalt because, unlike Aspen to the east and Carbondale to the west, it hasn’t banned plastic bags at the local City Market. Let freedom ring.