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A counterculture force of a different color

Observer Viewpoint | Monday, April 18, 2005

In the span of American history, no group of people has intrigued me more than the hippies. For starters, who has never had the subconscious desire to grow a white man’s afro, wear a tie-dyed shirt, and get stoned while driving around aimlessly in a Volkswagen microbus covered in peace signs? More importantly, though, even if you don’t share these nostalgic bohemian delusions, it is still difficult not to admire the way in which this outrageous group of tree-hugging, acid-tripping sex fiends managed to gain national recognition as a powerful political force in the late 1960s through highly successful peace and civil rights protests.

Nevertheless, I cannot help but be slightly disturbed by the fact that the contemporary view of these sociopolitical revolutionaries is one of complete contempt and disdain. After all, instead of reminiscing respectfully about these pacifists, bohemians and counterculturalists, modern America has an undeniable passion for mocking them as hippies. Actually, I believe it was the illustrious philosopher, Eric Cartman of South Park, Colorado, who once said, “Hippies – they’re everywhere. They wanna save the Earth, but all they do is smoke pot and smell bad.” And how can we forget that other great wordsmith, the late President Ronald Reagan, who quipped, “A hippie is someone who walks like Tarzan, looks like Jane, and smells like Cheetah.” Clearly, despite their vast cultural improvements to American society, the consensus is that hippies suck because they smell.

Which finally brings me to my overall point – when is someone going to impose equally negative nomenclature upon the latest counterculture movement in America? Yes, I said it once and I’ll say it again; hippies are still amongst us. Sure, today’s radical extremists don’t listen to The Grateful Dead while rolling joints and eating organic tofu at campus McGovern rallies, but they do still represent a radical departure from the sociopolitical normalcy that has defined the United States since its inception. I’m talking, of course, about the religious fundamentalists who have crossed every line ever drawn in the sand between church and state, and appear poised to impose their interpretation of Jesus’ word on a nation filled with numerous freely-worshipping non-Christians. Of course, mainstream society will never apply a disparaging “tree-hugger”-esque name to them, though, because while the hippies had marijuana on their side, today’s counterculturalists have God, and He’s usually not the best guy to mess around with.

As a result, evangelical Christians across the country, led by the rarely-mentioned Dominionists, are staging a Biblical crusade against the secular American political system. To cite a few examples, this involves efforts to post the Ten Commandments in every courthouse in the nation, rewrite schoolbooks to depict a more Christian interpretation of U.S. history, persecute homosexuals for lifestyle preferences that may be entirely inborn, rewrite the pledge of allegiance to reflect the importance of Jesus, permit ministers to endorse political candidates from their pulpits – while maintaining their nonpolitical tax exemptions – and appoint justices to the Supreme Court who follow Old Testament law and seek to eliminate the First Amendment religious freedoms of the many Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and atheists living as free citizens in the United States.

In fact, a mere glance at the dialogue of these fundamentalists is enough to make a truly patriotic American shiver in his or her boots. One top lobbyist, for example, once denounced John Lennon’s utopian vision in the song “Imagine” as “a secular anthem” bent on spreading “clone plantations, child sacrifice, legalized polygamy and hard-core porn.” Another leader of the Dominionist movement has voiced the fact that his “job is to reclaim America for Christ, whatever the cost. As the vice regents of God, we are to exercise godly dominion and influence over our neighborhoods, our schools, our government …” Finally, as a part of his movement to eliminate the filibuster, Senate majority leader and future presidential candidate Bill Frist agreed to take part in a telecast sponsored by Christian conservatives that will portray Democrats as “against people of faith” for attempting to block President Bush’s judicial nominees. Clearly, the “wall of separation between church and state” described so eloquently by Thomas Jefferson in his monumental letter to the Danbury Baptist Association in 1802 has gone the way of Sodom and Gomorrah.

As I see it, though, the threat to a truly free America presented by these “neo-hippies” is far greater than anything that the participants of the 1960s counterculture movement could have ever accomplished. The fact is, it never mattered how much political influence those original hippies gained, because the nation would never have considered taking their beliefs on free love, drug use, environmentalism and human rights entirely seriously. After all, as Cartman said, they “smoke pot and smell bad.”

Today’s counterculture movement, though, presents itself as a group of moral, pious and upright citizens whose only “crime” has been an intense devotion to God. Consequently, anyone who bothers to question their unbelievably far-right positions on social issues is deemed a heathen who is “against people of faith,” leaving a very gullible America with only one conclusion about contemporary politics:

The Democratic Party is going to burn in Hell.

Joey Falco is a sophomore American Studies major. His column appears every other Monday. He can be reached at jfalco@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessariily those of The Observer.