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What Happened to the Rebellious Baby Boomers?

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 1973 file photo, a rock band plays before concert goers on the opening day of a rock festival in Holland, Vt., that attracted a thousands of young people over the three-day Labor Day weekend. The Vermont Historical Society's exhibit 'Freaks, Radicals

I grew up as a child of the hippie generation. My parents were both proud rebels. My dad grew out his dreadlocks, took off his shoes, and hitchhiked from Pittsburgh up to Canada, playing his guitar in streets and bars and hostels to earn his way along. My mother was a creative artist and a free spirit. They married just long enough to make the most important and adorable baby that the world has ever seen — that would be me. They went their separate ways but my mother maintained her hippie spirit.

We lived a simple life, sometimes without water or electricity but always with many loving friends around who were also creative and “earthy” and looking to change the world. We hitchhiked for groceries and listened to The Mamas and the Papas. My mother even grew her own marijuana. The images of marijuana leaves hanging to dry on hooks and shelves are a big part of my childhood memories. When my mother’s circle of friends would have their weekend-long gatherings at some cabin or cottage in the woods, we kids would be sent to bed at dark but, of course, we wouldn’t sleep. We would fight for space at the window, peeking out into the yard at all the adults sitting around a fire, laughing, playing instruments, and passing around thin, white cigarettes. Frankly, it looked very boring to our childish eyes. Where were the party games? The balloons? The snacks? Shoot, no one even has a radio down there!

It may seem strange to people reading this, but to me, it was perfectly normal. It was just our life. My mother wasn’t a bad mother…she was a rebel. She spent a lot of her youth proudly bucking the system. White women didn’t marry black men, and certainly didn’t have their babies. But my mom did. Young women didn’t raise children alone…but my mom did. Good boys and girls didn’t defy the law to smoke what they want when they want…but my mom did. Her community of friends took pride in being different. They took the creative paths while their parents “sold out” to the man for the white picket fence. They were going to treat the planet better than the warmongers who had been blowing it up for years in Vietnam and Korea. They were going to teach a new generation how to live sustainably and communally, even. They inherently distrusted “the man” and, in fact, they are the generation that gave us that term in the first place…”the man.” They were the protesters, the experimenters. They weren’t going to be the mindless zombies their parents were with their archaic notions about sex and family and religion.

Somehow, the rebellious Boomers have become the incurious rule-followers, marching to orders and questioning anyone who questions authority (not you, dear Boomer reader, of course. You are different. VIP Boomers transcend their peers. Obviously). It’s been such an odd transition to watch.

My mother lives in Canada on Prince Edward Island, the nation’s tiniest province. They went into lockdowns very early. With a population of about 125,000, it wasn’t too difficult for government to get very strict very quickly and most Islanders have complied. Their provincial health official has been making the most of the governmental decisions regarding lockdowns and, like our own here in America, she has been unsurprisingly in the “indefinite lockdown” camp. That is also where my mother stands. Twenty-seven cases and twenty-seven recoveries on the entire island but indefinite lockdown in a province that survives nearly exclusively on tourist dollars through the summer. When I called my mom on Mother’s Day, she expressed to me a bit of frustration that my little brother (who lives within walking distance) had other things to do that day so she couldn’t visit him for a hug.

“Dr. *health official* told us that for Mother’s Day we could go hug one person. Just one! Just for today. So this was my only chance to hug someone and now I can’t hug anyone.”

I was flabbergasted by this statement. I think I made some joke, but only out of shock. Was my mother actually suggesting that she was leaving it up to “the man” to tell her when she can hug someone? It was so odd to see her completely fold under the illogic of the request. If Dr. Health Official said you can only hug one person, what difference would it make if you hugged that person on a Sunday or a Monday? I was utterly shocked to realize my mother had not even considered the logic of this command at all. Her opinion of how deadly this virus is may differ from mine and that is certainly fine, but to simply acquiesce all curiosity to the “official line” just really threw me for a loop. I was shocked that this pot-smoking, creative-loving, free-spirited hippie who raised me had turned into the person who now trusted only the government without any notion of rebelling against authorities by at least drawing out the logic of their requests.

When did she become this person? When did any of the Boomers I see out there being ‘Permit Patty’s’ and ‘Karens’ turn into these people? Much of the fuss about following government coronavirus edicts to the letter is coming from the Boomer generation and it’s just so damn weird. The women who burned their bras and found new “sexual freedom” with birth control pills are now begging to be told what to do. My mother raised me to be fiercely independent. Distrust of the government was ingrained into our political discussions and life conversations. That was the mindset of her generation. As a child it made me roll my eyes — after all, isn’t the government just doing what’s best for us? She’s such a cranky old lady!

Now I look at my mother’s generation and feel sad for how easily and quickly they all seemed to crumble under the boot of government. They tell themselves they’re still “rebels” by supporting green energy and welfare for all, but all they’re doing is asking all of us to put all of our faith in the government to solve all our problems without any impropriety whatsoever.

When did Boomers stop thinking?

I didn’t expect my mother to be out actively defying lockdown orders and strutting around like an idiot. She’s a senior, after all (though, barely). However I did expect to hear at least some sort of inquisitiveness about what her government was telling her she’s allowed to do. You can hug your child on Sunday but not Monday? How did that even come close flying over her head?

I don’t know what happened to the Boomers (again, the ones who aren’t illustrious and extremely attractive VIP subscribers). Did they give up? Did they sell out? Perhaps they’ve subconsciously realized that the type of “freedom” they’ve asked for turns out to be quite the opposite. The generation that rejected God and traditional religious guidance had no remedy for the chaos of human nature and thusly began voting for government to control human nature until nature herself magically created us all to fall in line. Perhaps they look at government now as the only way to enact their visions. The problem wasn’t in the utopia they imagined, the problem was that the people just weren’t being told what to do by the right authorities.

It’s been disappointing to watch, but also an amusing reversal of fortune. Here I am – the conservative, Christian convert with a nuclear family and the picket fence to boot – telling my hippie mother that she really can’t trust “the man” to be looking out for her best interests.

What are ya gonna do?