Bells of freedom ringing

Thinking of freedom, we can see it as personal expression as well as political opportunity. For some of us, that was a big dimension of the hippie movement.

The 50th anniversary of Woodstock is coming up next month. Normally, that would mark a jubilee, some even acclaiming it as a celebration of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. Alas, the dark ages we thought had passed have returned from the dead, in intensified deadliness at that.

Jubilee, by the way, is drawn from the Biblical book of Leviticus, and it’s a most radical idea. Every 50 years, all the wealth in the land is to be redistributed. The scriptural passage is inscribed on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, so don’t tell me it’s not American.


One of the passages I cut before the final version of my novel What’s Left is one where she’s asking her aunt about the hippie experience:

I’ve never asked you about your own drug use.

OK? Can I say it was just enough to convince others I wasn’t a narc?

So were you really a hippie? I mean, you had such short hair!

You trying to say a hippie couldn’t have short hair? Don’t you know how radical my style was? You ever think I could conform to anything?

Well, you’ve indicated you weren’t stoned. I’m going down the list.

Have you considered the impact of the Pill? Or free love?

Oh, I’m so glad Cassia stopped talking like this! In the final version, she’s pretty snippy.


For the record, some of the truest hippies I’ve known weren’t promiscuous or do drugs. And some others never marched in a protest.

Still, as an image of the era, let me ask: What’s your impression of Woodstock? Have you ever been to a big, multiday festival? What’s your favorite music? How do you best express your free spirit?


2 thoughts on “Bells of freedom ringing

  1. I still regret not having gone to Woodstock. I lived in Montreal at the time, just a few hours drive away. But I was barely into my teens – my parents would have had conniptions.

    I have been to many a festival since, though usually Christian ones which are as loud but don’t have the same sex and drug issues. One of my favorite memories is the 1981 Greenbelt Festival in the UK. Four young guys showed up, having just finished recording their second album that week, and asked if there was room for them. They felt God was telling them to play at Greenbelt. The organizers squeezed them in.

    Six songs, borrowed equipment and a show that is still burned into my head and me heart. To use religious jargon, the performance was “anointed.”

    Many of the 25,000 people in that field had never heard of the band before. Those that had, probably didn’t know about their Christian faith. That evening was a coming out party and a coming of age party.

    These days pretty much everyone knows U2.

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