Woodstock Nation vs. Watergate Nation

Photo by Derek Redmond and Paul Campbell — Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved

The fortieth anniversary of Woodstock has provided a few weeks of nostalgic pleasure, real or imagined. The Camelot of festivals, Woodstock and its memories have been driving playlists, downloads, and critics — musical and cultural.

In America, conservative politicians such as Pat Buchanan and John McCain firmly believe that the legacy of Woodstock is a decline in American culture and values.

Buchanan’s campaigns and television jobs are energized by his determination to warn us of the peril of this legacy.

McCain’s best laugh line in his most recent campaign was to mock Hillary Clinton for approving funding for a Woodstock museum: “My friends, I wasn’t there. I am sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was tied up at the time.”

Good line. However, the truth, as always, is a bit more complicated.

Conservative critics want to warn us about all things promulgated by the sixties’ youth. The fact is that the “Woodstock hippies” didn’t drive the civil rights movement or the anti-war movement. These nation changing movements weren’t led by the “drop-out” crowd, but by politically engaged and determined youth. They, too, were part of the music and the circus of Woodstock. It makes you wonder: are the conservative politicians really angry at the 3 Days of Music and Peace, or are they angry at these movements that changed US politics?

Maybe the Wall Street Journal has the answer. The Journal is one of our “must read” newspapers. WSJ is well known for its in-depth reporting, international coverage, and decisive editorial positions.

The newspaper’s history, though, is one of tension between two very different trends in the American conservative movement. Although the Journal wants to be the leading voice for business growth through less government regulation it has often been the leading voice for the most insular and retro politics of the culture wars.

In its editorial on Woodstock that ran on August 28, 1969, the paper wrote:

“…there are enough of them to assume some of the levers of power in the future American society. It would be a curious America if the unwashed, more or less permanently stoned on pot or LSD, were running very many things. Even if the trend merely continues among young people in the years ahead, it will be at best a culturally poorer American and maybe a politically degenerated America.”

“Culturally poorer”? Woodstock pushed to the forefront one of America’s most significant and financially successful cultural exports — rock music. Surely, any pro-business minded American conservative should celebrate not only the revenue rock has generated home and abroad, but the message as well. Rock ‘n Roll was and is about the culture of freedom — freedom to rebel and freedom from any kind of tyranny. Just ask Václav Havel.

“Politically degenerated America”? While the editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal was fearing kids at a rock festival, Richard Nixon and his WSJ-supported politics were in the process of creating the most cynical and illegal acts of any US presidency.

Woodstock Nation or Watergate Nation?

Which is a better cultural legacy: a celebration of music and peace or a government of lies and deceit?

Perhaps our conservative editorial writers of today might be a bit more generous to the freedom loving youth of 1969. The right choice isn’t to wrap yourself in the flag of Watergate Nation, but in the spirit of Woodstock Nation.

- Bill Reichblum

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2 Responses to “Woodstock Nation vs. Watergate Nation”

  1. KadmusArts - where culture speaks » Blog Archive » Woodstock …
    August 17th, 2009 00:31

    [...] KadmusArts - where culture speaks » Blog Archive » Woodstock … [...]

  2. KadmusArts - where culture speaks » Blog Archive » One Toke. Everyone’s High
    August 24th, 2009 00:05

    [...] last few weeks have been filled with the legacy of Woodstock. While the story is often told as one of the youth culture in opposition to the status [...]

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