It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. This Charles Dickens quote perfectly encapsulates all that was the inspiring, yet politically charged year of 1968. The revolution that occurred was not strictly political, however, and young college students strived to make social statements with “sex, drugs, and rock and roll”. The assassinations of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Kennedy also occurred in the same bittersweet year, as well as widespread riots leading to violent takeovers of college campuses, the 1968 Democratic Convention riot, outbursts by the Black Panthers, including a black power salute at the 1968 Olympic games that got the champions disqualified, anti-war protests, and Yippies. Overall, 1968 was a critical turning point in youth movements, political regimes, black civil rights, and the Vietnam War.
As 1968 rolled around the youth culture in the 50s that was marked by an air of perfection and conformity had virtually disappeared. The events of the Vietnam War inspired the “peace movement” with the “peace sign” becoming a major symbol of the 1960s counter-culture. Tensions were especially high regarding the war in Vietnam, race relations, women’s rights, roles of authority, experimentation with psychoactive drugs, and differing interpretations of the American Dream. First of all, the British band the Beatles were the beginning of new cultural forms, specifically music. They were strong advocates of peace, and their song “Revolution” was a popular criticism of the increasingly violent youth revolts. While that may have been positive, the Beatles also popularized the use of psychedelic drugs, such as marijuana and LSD, for example, in their hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”. The painting “Between Heaven and Hell” by Arlene Sklar-Wein demonstrates this interest specifically after a hallucinogenic experience. The use of drugs was just another way for the youth to “stick it to the man”. One of the most famous student...
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