Voices of Counterculture in the Southwest: New Mexico History Museum
If you remember the sixties, you weren’t there, or so the saying goes. No one knows for sure who said that: Robin Williams, Gracie Slick, Timothy Leery, the Harvard prof, best known for his LSD experiments, who encouraged one and all to turn on, tune in and drop out?
Many did just that: Dropped out. Several of these seekers – hippies or flower children if you will – settled in the Southwest at communes in the Taos area – New Buffalo, the Lama Foundation, the Hog Farm or Placitas down south. Kyle and I went to the Voices of the Counterculture in the Southwest at the New Mexico History Museum chronicles and celebrates those individuals and that period in our history. He waited outside because he's a conservative guy, but I went in to check it out.
In the exhibit, the curators point to similarities between then and now, reminding us that the sixties were far more than sex, drugs and rock and roll. At these peaceful communes in Northern New Mexico, where individuals tended to one another and the earth, the residents were engaged in issues of social justice and change. In short, they were part of the revolution.
The exhibit includes a VW bus, vintage photos, lots of first hand recollections, previously recorded and available for play back, and devices that allow visitors to record their own memories, clothes and other paraphernalia, including tributes to marijuana and peyote.
If you’re a certain age, in other words, a child of the 60’s, a romanticized decade that defies categorization, the exhibit will prompt memories, some pleasant, some not.
It was a time of cataclysmic change. Real strife. Father against son. Nasty labels: Coward, deserter, pervert. Long, haired hippie freak, which also could be a badge of honor. Mother against daughter. The most significant drug of that era: The pill. Birth control pills and planned parenthood allowed women choices.
The children of the Greatest Generation who freed the world from evil oppressors were asked to take sides in a distant war, a civil war with smudged boundaries, parallels and demarcation lines.
Some soldiered that duty willingly, others did not, preferring instead to protest here at home what seemed like a wrong-headed conflict in Southeast Asia. Regardless of an individual’s choice, those who served their country, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice, did their duty. That should never be questioned. Freedom is dear and available only to those willing to pay the price required to guarantee those liberties. Protesting governmental policies is a duty and right as well.
This exhibit did nothing for me. Nothing. So you dropped out, got tired of Haight Ashbury and moved to New Buffalo, smoked dope and ingested peyote. Cool. You made love not war during the Summer of Love. Fine.
During the 60’s, Cheney, Goodman and Schwerner went to Mississippi to register voters in a seething cauldron of hate. Their bodies were discovered months after the Ku Klux Klan murdered them. Outrage over their murders aided passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1965. That’s politically engaged. That’s what I remember about the sixties. That and epithets, like n----- lover, being hurled at individuals who thought a seat in the bus meant the front of the bus not just the rear.
Cities burned but people took to the streets demanding that all Americans be afforded the liberties guaranteed under the Constitution: Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King among them. They were murdered, but they were engaged.
Throughout the sixties, there was hope. The Age of the Aquarius would dawn in the morn. We’ve come full circle or so it seems. Freedoms are being challenged. Freedom is a living breathing organism that must be tended to and cherished, now more than ever.
We need to welcome dissent and respect others’ opinions. This is, after all, the land of the free, home of the brave, not the land of dead heads and zombies.