The film “Good Ol’ Freda,” shown at the recent Newburyport Documentary Film Festival, was an insider’s view of The Beatles as they came into worldwide prominence. The movie focused on the massive Beatlemania Fan Club that many of our generation were part of, sometimes to the point of frenzy.
There was not an empty seat at the Firehouse theater. The boomers attending were treated to a vivid reminder of the music and the innocence of those times, a piece of history unfolding and foretelling of the coming changes. As the cultural revolution swept in during the ’60s, many, but not all, were transformed.
Those were the days when the music rocked our souls, opened our hearts or freed our minds. The drugs of choice were marijuana and, for some, psychedelics. Hopes were high, sex was not thought to be a bad thing and love was more freely given. We questioned authority; we honestly believed we could make a real difference.
Women organized, wanting more personal choices ... better-paying jobs, reliable birth control, abortions for unwanted pregnancies and affordable day care so mothers had the option of finding paid work outside the home.
The civil rights movement forced important changes that were long overdue. We marched and sang and sat-in. We wanted fairness and justice for all people.
Vietnam left deep wounds for us as individuals and for our nation. So many of our young adults did not return from the war, or returned deeply traumatized. The Peacenik Movement rose up to express themselves, challenging military intervention. Should not this be the war to end all wars?
Much of our optimism was taken from us when some of our greatest heroes and spokesmen were violently cut down by bullets ... John and Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lennon.
After the ’70s ended, we watched American society unravel even more. It had to happen. Hidden matters came to the fore. No longer could we consider domestic violence to be merely “a family matter” best unspoken. We needed police intervention and laws to protect the defenseless. We needed safe homes where victims could escape the abuse. Rape, especially date rape, needed to come out of the closet. “No” means No” began to be recognized as a woman’s right, and any perpetrators using sex as a form of violence needed to be punished.
For the first time, childhood sexual assault was put on the table with some frightening statistics. According to the Crime Victims Center, 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 6 boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Until these facts were exposed (not so very long ago), no one spoke of “the taboo of incest.” The topic of sexual assault on a child, by a known and trusted adult, needed to be opened up for examination, instead of hidden away by victims ordered to “keep our little secret.” When disclosures began to be heard, the usual and immediate reaction was, “Oh, no, it’s too horrible to believe.” It may be difficult to acknowledge what some parents or clergymen, or Scout leaders, or teachers (anyone in a position of authority) are perpetrating on innocent children. But, with more and more victims coming forth, no longer can we push away these horrendous facts, no longer can we stay in ignorance or denial.
Because of the wide exposure, we have made progress. We now have educational programs to prevent assault on innocent children and defenseless adults. We have laws in place to put perpetrators in jail, and there is support and counseling available to help the victims heal from their traumas.
I think about the youths today and how very different is their experience from what ours had been. There is so much more global information penetrating them, with the threat of terrorism in the foreground. The 9/11 attacks coming to our own shores changed things forever. Bin Laden had threatening words for us, “Americans will never again feel safe.”
I wonder how much of this talk of terror, always in the media, impacts our impressionable children. Domestic terrorists invade our schools and movie theaters, the malls and our own beloved runners marathon. With this constant bombardment, we are all affected, whether we consciously know it or not.
Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to those times when we held high hopes for a better world? If only we might return to those days when, like the flower children, we believed peace and love were the only direction to go. Some of us hold tightly, still, to that vision.
Angelena Craig lives in Newburyport and teaches yoga and wellness classes. In her previous career, she was director of A Safe Place in Nantucket, an agency that provides preventative education and services for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.