One of the legendary milestones of the 1960s was the so-called “summer of love” centered around the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in San Francisco in 1967, when thousands of “hippies” descended on the town to start their new utopia. Daniel Patrick Moynihan thought the “summer of love” counterculture represented the first heresies of liberalism. “Who are these outrageous young people?” Moynihan asked. “I suggest to you they are Christians arrived on the scene of second-century Rome.” Theologian Will Herberg offered a similar judgment, observing that the hippies resembled the “Adamites” of second century Christianity, believing that “they had been restored to the sinless purity of before the Fall, in fact, to Adam’s primitive innocence in Paradise.”
The ecstasy of the “summer of love” never descended into riots or mass violence (though there was a lot of small-scale violence), but the obvious social problems arising from this Rousseauian idyll didn’t take long to become evident. Tom Wolfe memorably recalled in his essay “The Great Relearning” that doctors at the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic “were treating diseases no living doctor had ever encountered before, diseases that disappeared so long ago they never even picked up Latin names, diseases such as the mange, the grunge, the itch, the twitch, the thrush, the scruff, the rot.” The rate of venereal disease in San Francisco during 1967’s “summer of love” was six times higher than it had been in 1964. Newsweek noted that “Pregnancy becomes the most frequent serious side effect of pot.” At the peak of the “summer of love,” San Francisco’s public health authorities were treating 10,000 hippies for drug addiction, at a cost of $35,000 a month.
Herberg observed that “It is not innocent to pretend to an innocence impossible for man… The hippie spectacle is a kind of Medusa head; but it will turn those who gaze upon it without adequate protection not into stone images, but into fools and simpletons.” And as we know, the next year the “youth movement” expressed itself by destroying the Democratic Party with a huge riot in Chicago, which, in a parallel with today, the left and their media toadies called “a police riot.”
The point is, we’ve come full circle back to 1968 without even the pretense of a “summer of love.” As bad as things were in Haight-Ashbury in 1967, the CHAZ/CHOP and other Antifa-sponsored utopias of recent weeks have had none of the naive innocence of the summer of love. It went from zero-to-hate faster than a Tesla gets to 60 mph.
A couple of other footnotes. Today of course the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco has gentrified and become hugely expensive. I haven’t been by lately to see whether the Haight is afflicted with homeless encampments, as I haven’t been near the place in more than 20 years. But last time I was there, I spotted a brand new Range Rover parked on the street near the famous intersection. Except, the brand lettering on the front and back had been altered to read: “DERANGED ROVER.” Which seems a perfect expression of the rich lefties who have ruined San Francisco.
In reviewing this long ago episode I also re-read Joan Didion’s article about it, “Slouching Toward Bethlehem.” It was there that I re-acquainted myself with what I had mis-remembered as a myth: smoking bananas. Here’s Didion:
Sharon lived in a house where a friend of Max’s lived, and the next time he saw her was when he took the friend some bananas. “It was during the great banana bubble. You had to kind of force your personality and the banana peels down their throats. Sharon and I were like kids—we just smoked bananas and looked at each other and smoked more bananas and looked at each other.”
Democrats have gone from smoking bananas to embracing a bananas candidate. Buckle up everyone: the rest of this year is going to be a wild ride.