The year was 1969 and it was a summer of love, of hope and of horror.
Fifty years ago, the world was watching as four U.S. astronauts made mankind’s journey to set foot on the moon.
Anticipation mixed with wonder gripped the world during those four days, and hope. Hope the human race was entering a new area, that seeing the Earth as a whole, that big blue marble hanging in space, might make us finally realized that we were one people after all.
There were also the Stonewall riots at the end of June, where gays in New York finally stood up to the police and demanded the harassment stop. In Canada, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau declared “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.”
With Woodstock in August, the summer of ‘69 was the high point in the counterculture and civil rights movement that started in the 1950s. Like 1967, the Summer of Love, 1969 is remembered for the positivity that filled the summer despite the horror and madness of the “Manson Family” murders on Aug. 8 and 9.
The battle for equal rights has never stopped, but while the summer of 1969 might have been a high point in the counterculture movement, it was also the beginning of the end for that era of the fight, when it seemed like the whole world was of a common mind about moving the world in to a new age of peace, love and understanding.
So what happened in the intervening half-century to get us to the point where populist, reactionary leaders are appearing in governments around the world and the U.S. president is making it cool to be a bigot, by spouting racist rhetoric from his podium?
It is doubtless due to many factors, but in the end, it comes down to one thing. If we are going to deal with the many challenges facing the world today we need to look for solutions and ways to move forward, not try to keep things the same forever.