Woodstock today and in 2008

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This infallible newspaper reports that up for sale is one of the most famous scenes of infantilism in the 20th century, “Woodstock.” Actually on the block is the late Max Yasgur’s New York farm, 38 acres of which were used for the 1969 Woodstock music festival that hagiographers for the “1960s Generation” have ever since boomed as a pivotal event in American history.

Such rock singers as Jimi Hendrix and Richie Havens got together before a stupefied crowd of some 500,000 eternal children to sing of peace, and freedom, and mind-numbing substances, even the most feeble of which have now been shown to be extremely deleterious to intellect and spirit. Better to inhale Marlboros than to fool with the proscribed substances that eventually killed or demented many of the singers and attendees in that famous field.

As for “peace and freedom,” wars have continued and the specific war that the troubadours of Woodstock had in mind ended only when our Democratic-controlled Congress broke a U.S. pledge to send support to embattled South Vietnamese forces. The North Vietnamese communists beat them.

Even today, 38 years after Woodstock, there is no freedom in Vietnam. In fact, the only areas of the world liberated since 1969 have been liberated by pressure from the American government and in some cases the valor of our splendid military. Drunk and disorderly rockers never pacified any region I know of, and many have lived irritable and belligerent lives, leaving children and other loved ones in a hell of a mess.

Twenty or so years after Woodstock I was invited to appear with participants from the Woodstock revels to recall what it was all like for a network TV show called, as I recall, “Summer Sunday USA.” I went along with my friend the writer Roger Kaplan, who, years before, had been an SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) radical but was by then a contented supporter of Ronald Reagan.

The show’s producers recognized that I had not participated in Woodstock but was rather a critic of that 1969 absurdity. I was a conservative member of the 1960s generation and might be expected to provide balance to the left-wingers’ reveries.

On a stage with — among other nostalgiacs — an ex-Black Panther and William Kunstler, the radical lawyer, I elicited shock by saying all the left-wing rockers of the 1960s generation ever produced “was an increase in petty crime and a spike in drug addiction and venereal disease.” My fellow panel members were shocked but not particularly effective in rebuttal.

One reason for their weak rebuttal was that I was right and they were wrong in their melancholy boasts about that great summertime event of so many years ago. Another reason was that most of my colleagues had been downing matutinal beers as they blubbered, in what passed for the Green Room before the show, about their great days. And, finally, they were all pretty much over the hill and quietly selling out to what they once called The Establishment.

My ex-Black Panther colleague was morose because the company planning to publish his book of down-home barbecue recipes was insisting that the recipes contain lower-salt contents. I am not joking. And Mr. Kunstler was his usual deceitful self. After our show he wrote a letter to the editor of a major newspaper dismissing my criticism, adding I had arrived at the show in a typical right-wing conveyance, a limousine. Actually we all probably arrived in limousines. The network provided the cars for the long trip to Woodstock from Manhattan.

As I have been noting of late, the aging 1960s generation — divided as always by its left-wing and right-wing — now faces its political swan song. The Republicans and the Democrats will probably nominate members of this generation to battle in 2008 one more time.

Over the years since 1980, when President Reagan introduced the young 1960s conservatives and their policies into government, the presidency has pretty much shifted back (to the Clintons) and forth (to the Bush administration). Now the faceoff is on again, probably with Hillary opposing Rudy. It will be a bitter campaign with many interesting aspects.

My favorite is this: Hillary and the 1960s left-wingers have had to shift their politics to the middle. Rudy and the 1960s right-wingers have not had to shift their politics much at all. From the Reagan administration on, the middle has been created by modern American conservatism. Hillary and her 1960s cohorts call us “the extreme right,” even as she adjusts her politics to appear more like ours. That brings to mind another characteristic of the 1960s left-wing. Its members have always been phonies.

R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is the founder and editor in chief of the American Spectator, a contributing editor to the New York Sun, and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. His book “The Clinton Crack-Up: The Boy President’s Life After the White House” has just been published by Thomas Nelson.

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