As the saying goes, you should never judge a book by its cover. Back in the ’70s, any number of young men wearing tie-dyed shirts, long hair, “Lennon glasses” and maybe even a beard felt very strongly about a number of issues, and misjudging them by their appearance was an “issue” for them. Forty-plus years later, society is making the same mistake.
If you look around at the growing number of middle-aged people it might be hard to pick out the “old hippies.” For any number of reasons, they have cut their hair, given up the tie-dyed apparel and, for the most part, look very much like every other person of their age group. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still revolutionaries at heart.
And by revolutionary I don’t mean they are a threat to national security. But we can credit a whole bunch of old hippies with advances in science, business and philosophy. Take for example how mainstream some of what used to be called “psychedelic” music has become. They play songs from Cream, Jimi Hendrix and the Grateful Dead at baseball games!
Look at the “far out” ideas that have become necessities for the entertainment industry. Altered reality is a mainstay in the movies, the integration of lights and music plays out at fireworks shows and “Country Living” stories celebrate homesteading as the new most popular way of life.
This week at the 127 yard sale I have encountered, however ,an inordinate number of “old hippies” who are out looking for antiques and treasures. I can spot them a mile away. At one of our vendor sites, a guy who looks every bit the part of Jerry Garcia is selling some beautiful gemstones and works of art. Ladies with braided gray hair in long, flowing skirts, linen tops and sun hats stroll through with collected little pieces of the past under their arms. While many others may be looking for bargains, old hippies are preserving the past among their collections.
Some old hippie guys will spend a long time talking with a vendor about an antique butter churn. The way in which it was used by some family more than a hundred years ago connects them with a lifestyle that rekindles their identification with Americans who took pride in individualism, self-reliance and hard work.
Sometimes I don’t even have to see the old hippie coming. The smell of Patchouli wafting on the breeze alerts me to look around and try to spot the person wearing it. It’s sometimes hard to do that until I realize that what I should be looking for is not a tall, slender blonde in a halter top, but to realize that time has gotten away from me a bit and that after 40 years it is far more likely to be that grandmother lovingly playing with her grandchild I should be looking for. And when I spot her I can see that inner slender blonde in the halter top still visible.
There are so many things that make life a wonderful and rich experience, and living during the era that I have lived has added a distinct advantage to my view point. I’ve had the chance to live in a time when people were much more accepting of each other, were unafraid to say they stood on the side of “love,” advocated peace and wanted nothing more than for the government to let them live their lives as they saw fit, pursuing happiness in their own uniquely personal way and lusting often times after nothing more than the success of being a good person, a good friend and a good neighbor.
You can forget the stereotype of the hippie who was nothing more than a smelly, drug-crazed anarchist protestor. That’s what the media wants you to see.
Instead look around, come to the 127 yard sale and then open your eyes. That suburbanite school teacher in the big SUV, that grandmother holding a child’s hand, that family of four sharing time together, and yes the guy in the tie-dyed shirt, they might all be old hippies. But it’s just as true now as it was back then: Don’t judge those books by the cover. It’s the content of their character that counts.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com, is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.