One can not understand the Sixties without understanding the Fifties. The Fifties were the first time the American youth had excess freedom. Before the 50’s they worked on the family farm; dusk till dawn, slaved in the sweat shops, 12 ours a day, six days a week; starved in the depression; and fought not knowing it they would be alive the next day in World War II and the Korean War. Than, suddenly, came the fifties. First there were the beatniks lead by their spiritual leader Williams Burrough, than the “bad boys of rock and roll Elvis, Johnny Cochran, and Jerry Lee Lewis prevailed. This excess freedom, led to freedom to think, freedom to question, freedom to challenge.
In the sixties, the peaceful non-violent Civil Rights Movement, progressed to the Black Power and the Black Panthers. The Civil Rights Movement was followed by the creeping involvement in Vietnam, first with military advisors, than massive troop deployments to Vietnam resulting in death, violence, destruction, and … then disillusion. And complementing the war, initially, the educational teach-ins led to massive antiwar demonstrations, to the Weathermen busting windows on Michigan Ave and planting bombs in the Capital. This all digressed to the “second civil war” which recently resurfaced with the Iraq War, I afraid now is progressing to the “third civil war”.
Throughout the book we follow the characters lives from romantic innocence to reality to Expressionism. Some fighting in Vietnam, some protesting the war, some marching for civil rights, friendships destroyed and than repaired. Some lives lost, some destroyed, some survived, but all caught up in the hubris characterized by a gross failure of governmental leadership. Those betrayed the most have their names on a black granite wall in Washington DC.