2010-06-03 / Sam Bari

Hot fun in the summertime

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

Many of us remember the 1969 hit single, “Hot Fun in the Summertime,” by Sly & the Family Stone. The song captured the essence of summer, while Memorial Day marked the beginning.

Like many of the songs of that era, the lyrics stretched poetic license to the extreme. They didn’t make storytelling sense like traditional popular songs, but the words epitomized everything about summer that was meaningful to youth and young adults at that point in history.

The melody, the lyrics, the group and the time melded together to make a statement that framed the ideology of impressionable and passionate youth – the heart of American society.

“That’s when I had most of my fun, back high high high high there

Them summer days, those summer days

I “cloud nine” when I want to Out of school, yeah

County fair in the country sun

And everything, it’s true, ooh yeah...”

Who knows what “cloud nine” meant? It doesn’t matter. All that is important is that “ Everything, it’s true, ooh yeah.”

In the 1950s, rock ‘n’ roll made its indelible impression on American music and started a movement that spawned a cultural revolution. During the 1960s, young Americans made the world feel their power. They demanded a voice on the societal board of directors.

The youth movement defined the counter-culture that set the standard for Madison Avenue. America adopted a new identity that rocked the world and made the boomer generation the envy of the planet.

Without a doubt, we gave the term “freedom” new meaning. We wrestled it free from the hands that reserved it for the privileged few. Our generation introduced equality and put discrimination in its rightful place.

When Sly & the Family Stone was at its peak, the generation that marched for freedom flexed its muscles and protested an unpopular war. The offspring of the soldiers returning from WWII banded together to question government, religion and authority in general.

The culmination of those protests happened at Kent State University in 1970. That event broke the tyrannical back of the draconian ways of the old regime and made the country realize that it was at war with itself. And the purveyors of peace won.

Finally, the administration was forced to wind down the Vietnam War. Finally, women, children and minorities could publicly exercise their rights.

We had made our place in the sun, and we reveled in it. We demanded change and we got it. Our movement affected every aspect of life. Dramatic innovations in fashion, art and music laid the foundation for the dawn of an incredible era.

The introduction of “the pill” gave the responsibility of new freedoms to the youth movement. Environmentalists embraced a return to nature and living off the earth. Chemicals were denounced, organic farming was supported, music and movie stars endorsed vegan living, and cleaning up our long-polluted countryside became a national pastime.

The new ideology brought a breath of fresh air to the planet, and we were the impetus that helped the earth slowly begin to heal.

The boomers matured, produced children and raised them with an affi nity for tolerance, acceptance and respect for diversity.

The creators of the “cultural revolution” entered the political arena and took charge. The folks who said “never again” to war, oppression, discrimination and inequality are now running the show.

Let’s take a look at how they are doing.

The country is still reeling from Sept. 11, 2001, the first direct attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor in 1941. We are protesting an unpopular war on two fronts – Iraq and Afghanistan. The Korean peninsula is again raising its ugly head.

The diversity that we embraced in the 1960s has become a concern that is threatening the existence of American culture as we know it. The country is deeply divided by immigration issues that have caused discrimination, segregation and oppression.

All the work invested in cleaning polluted air, lakes, streams, estuaries and land has been challenged by huge man-made events of catastrophic proportion. Two oil-related disasters have done irreparable damage to thousands of square miles of oceans and shorelines.

The “capitalist pigs” of the 1960s took command of the economy and made big business out of professional sports and popular culture.

This past weekend, we had even more reasons to observe Memorial Day.

It is time for youth to again step in and make adjustments, lest we allow history to repeat itself and continue to live in a system we can’t understand.

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