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Montana Dreaming & the 'Sixties
(From the Notes for the Actors)

It's hard to over-estimate the importance of the 'Sixties to the development and later growth of Mike, Carol, and Larry. Almost everything they would one day do or believe came out of that era either as a direct influence or something they would unconsciously react against.

To those who have been born since that time, the sense of passion, glory, and importance veterans like Larry attribute to the 'Sixties may seem misplaced. But it is not.

While other generations may secretly dream of murdering their parents, the children of the that era came perilously close to doing just that. It was so intense an experience that many of those involved have since chosen to forget how intense it actually was and how genuine the threat of it going further truly became.

From 1966 until 1971 or so, not only Mike, Carol, and Larry but the great majority of college students believed that the government was actively readying concentration camps for their internment. In fact, this belief was wide-spread throughout American society, with those on the right actively favoring it. In this atmosphere there was simply no point in not continuing to engage in anti-government activities. It might be supposed that Nixon's take-over as President in 1969 signalled an end to what were essentially seditious acts and plans. But by that time the government was so poorly regarded among the young that many saw this as the last gasp of Washington rather than any setback for 'Sixties causes. Talk of setting up an "alternate government" became commonplace.

And their were many 'Sixties causes, not just Vietnam and drugs, as now loom uppermost in many memories. There was an absolute jumble of causes, and one would find articles about all of them elbowing each other in the Underground papers of the time. About the only thing they had in common was that the students took one view of them, their parents a decidedly different one. They encompassed just about any aspect of society people could disagree about, as though absolutely all social and cultural values were up for grabs. A list of these cause follows—if some of them seem tame today, it is because the students' point of view has largely triumphed, even though some of them are still being disputed. Until the 'Sixties came along, not one of them was recognized as a major social cause and was at best gingerly debated in the nation's limited Bohemian outposts:

Soft Drugs.

Hard Drugs.

Straight Sex: by "straight sex" we mean solely the kind practiced by "opposite" sexes but also no more than the standard positions and technical ability to achieve orgasm—much of this was nearly forbidden knowledge before the 'Sixties.

"Kinky" Sex, still between men & women, incorporating S&M, D&B, leather & rubber, unusual tools & toys, orgies, limited public displays, etc.

Access to—and knowledge about—Sex-Related Procedures: chiefly Birth Control & Abortion.

Gay Sex—the same year Nixon took office saw the birth of the first gay underground papers and the Stonewall rebellion.

Feminism—this came partially as a reaction to the new sexual freedoms: a famous 1967 poster showed a girl carrying a poster that said "Every Woman Secretly Desires to be Raped." The Feminists took a different view.


Eastern Mysticism & Cults.

The Commune Movement.

Widespread Sympathy for Black & Hispanic Civil Rights.

Classical Left Wing/Communist Politics.

The enthusiasm surrounding all of these causes—each one seemingly new and each one bitterly opposed by ones parents—was perhaps beyond description. One term used to describe it all at the time was "Youthquake."

It is also hard to convey how rich America truly was during the 'Sixties and how inexpensive so many things still were. With 6¢postage and 20¢ subway fares, it was fairly easy to publicize and get to demonstrations. Proposals were heard for a "universal income" to be given to all Americans, and McGovern took this up as late as 1972 as a serious campaign issue. Most college students had been brought up quite literally on the fat of the land, and it seemed as if all resources were limitless. It came as a real jolt to them that their parents actually expected them to go off at the height of their expectations to fight and possibly die for a people professing a religion some of them were beginning to believe in. Their graduation present could very well turn out to be death in the jungles of Vietnam. Perhaps this explains part of their fury.

Of course the whole "movement" was basically hypocritical in many ways. Of course it was basically the product of white, middle-class idealists, and of course the radicalism was only skin-deep and began to wear off even before the draft was ended in 1973. But none of this detracts from the sheer intensity of the movement itself and the many total or partial victories it won on a number of fronts before it suddenly fell apart almost according to the precise timing of an anarchist's timetable. All of this and more was the environment that Mike, Carol, and Larry intimately knew during their college years.

This piece is Copyright © 1996 & 1997
by Alexander Gross. It may be
reproduced for individuals and for
educational purposes only. It
may not be used for any
commercial (i.e., money-making)
purpose without written permission
from the author and his agent.

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