Shaky Ground: The '60s and Its Aftershocks

Shaky Ground: The '60s and Its Aftershocks

Shaky Ground: The '60s and Its Aftershocks

Shaky Ground: The '60s and Its Aftershocks

Synopsis

Alice Echols has never shied away from controversy. Long before it was fashionable, she wrote searing critiques of antiporn feminism. Her subsequent books about the 1960s are trenchant and provocative, and written with unflinching honesty. Now she maps an alternative history of contemporary American culture, taking on such subjects as hippies, gay/lesbian and women's liberation, disco and the racial politics of music, and artists as diverse as Joni Mitchell and Lenny Kravitz. Echols upends many of our bedrock assumptions about American culture since the 1950s, challenging in particular the notions that the '60s represented a total rupture with the past and that the '70s marked the end of meaningful change.

Excerpt

"Eat Shit! Ten Million Flies Can't be Wrong!" It was the summer of 1969, the year of Woodstock, the Manson murders, and the unraveling of America’s leading New Left group, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). I was eighteen and part of a Quaker-sponsored project to fight racism in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The Quakers planned and funded our project, chose five teenagers to take part in it, and then, in the self-flagellating style so characteristic of sixties liberals, they handed it over to someone who had nothing but contempt for them and their “squishy politics.” Our director was a dour woman with ties to Weatherman, the most outrageously off-the-wall of all the splinter groups to emerge from the meltdown of SDS. Weatherman saw up-againstthe-wall revolutionary potential in white working-class kids, so we spent those first weeks dutifully cruising burger stands looking for recruits. Unable to lure them to our coffeehouse where we showed grainy agit-prop films like In the Year of the Pig, we took to hanging out at Washington’s SDS house, which is where I saw the puzzling graffiti, scrawled on the upstairs hallway wall. I never knew if it was meant as a gross-out or a fake-out, or if it was a send-up of the stupid slogans that passed for analysis in Weatherman. But, then, I was too young to have any idea how this moment fit into the history of the New Left. As a result, almost everything that summer was a bewildering blur, like the time a leading Weatherman, all macho bluster, blew through town and told us it was time to “pick up the gun” in support of the Black Panthers and the North Vietnamese. Anything less was wimpy. By summer’s end I had the rhetoric down, but I knew next to nothing about combating racism in suburbia.

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