So, let me ask you a question. Have you ever had any preconceived notions about anyone or anything, whether it be an individual, a group, or even an event, without knowing all the details? I'm pretty sure the answer is yes, because whether you are willing to admit it or not, it's the nature of the beast.
I am definitely guilty of doing just that. In fact, it happened as recently as this past Halloween. What started as a joke turned into a history lesson that made me completely rethink my feelings on an entire movement.
But let me not get ahead of myself here...
Growing up in an Orthodox Jewish community and going to Yeshiva as I did, Halloween was never on my radar. But once I grew up and left that part of my life behind, I definitely made up for lost time. Now I don't know about any of you, but for me, Halloween involves months of planning, and can involve anything from sketching out costume ideas, to watching old movies or videos to find inspiration.
This year was no exception. I had decided during the summer that there were two criteria needed for this year's ensemble: it had to be a period piece, and it had to involve a wig. Several ideas were bounced around, but thanks to my Manfriend and his love for the Broadway show Hair, I settled on doing an homage to the 1960's, and dressing as a Hippie.
At first, there were plenty of reservations on my part. I mean, what did I, a child of the Material Girl generation, have in common with those long haired, bell-bottom and sandal wearing, drug-using tree-huggers that spent four days in the mud at Woodstock? It even became a joke amongst my friends that I was dressing as the "anti-me."
Needless to say, putting the costume together was no easy feat… I mean it’s 2016 for goodness sakes, not 1966. So it wasn’t like I could just walk into Express or GAP and just pick up a pair of bell-bottoms. Eventually, I did find a pair online and ordered them (all the way from Manchester, England I might add), but then it occurred to me that I had not one clue as to what else Hippies wore. After an incident where I may or may not have offended some people in a couple of New Age type stores when asking for “Hippie inspired” clothing and jewelry, I realized I knew little to nothing about Hippies, and it would serve me well to maybe learn something about people who I claimed to have nothing in common with. So I decided to take a “trip” back in time.
Naturally, I started by reading about Woodstock, which is probably the event most associated with Hippies. It was in that reading that I learned that it (along with the Altamont Free Concert held soon afterwards on the West Coast) was actually part of a bigger picture. And what I thought were just a group of people who I couldn’t relate to were part of something greater. They were all part of a movement that became known to the world as the Hippie Movement.
It was an actual lifestyle and culture all onto itself, and it was more than just drugs and funny clothing. There was a deeper, humanitarian purpose to the movement. In a time of inequality and The Vietnam War, Hippies came forward against what was considered “The Establishment,” or “The Man.” But instead of fighting with weapons and hate, they believed in the power of love and peace. They had sit-ins and peaceful gatherings, going as far back as “The Summer of Love” in 1967. It was about finding your Nirvana and being a better version of yourself.
The movement took a lot of inspiration from historical figures such as Jesus and Buddha, both of whom could have been considered Hippies in their own rights. Hippies wanted a return to nature, and believed in equality of sexes and for all races. Love was love, and it didn’t matter if it was Straight, Gay, or Interracial. And over time, what started out as a counter-culture started to seep into the mainstream. There was art, literature, and even music that all came out of this period of time, some of which I’m sure you all know. I mean, even I have some songs from The Mamas and The Papas and John Lennon in my iTunes library.
It was after doing some reading that I realized that I was not that different than the Hippies. We actually believe in a lot of the same things, such as peace, and equality, and loving whomever you choose. And on top of that, we both believe in being vocal on those beliefs. What started as judgment based on a lack of knowledge become a respect and admiration. And although I grew up in a completely different generation, I think had I been around at that time, I may have been a Hippie myself.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I was wrong in my assumptions about Hippies, and that I could learn a lot from what people have experienced before me. It’s important to embrace the past. In the end, I really enjoyed learning about that period of time, and even gave myself a Hippie name: Gummyworms (at the end of the day, it still needed to be kid friendly). Overall, I enjoyed myself this year, and I think what really made Halloween and my costume just a bit more special was knowing the history behind it.
With that said…
I had planned on ending this blog talking about what a great time I had on Halloween. There are pictures, and even a video, on my Facebook page if you want to check it out. But when I was putting Gummyworms into the archives known as my closet, a lot went down in our country, and it really made me think of the old adage that the more things change, the more they stay the same.
As Americans, we are currently in a tumultuous place. I really don’t want to get into a whole thing about the election and who won, because it's time to focus on the aftermath. There is a bigger discussion to be had about bigotry and hate towards different religions, sexes, races, orientations, and even political parties. Hate is unacceptable, no matter who you are, or what position you hold. Nor should it be tolerated. And for those who want to sit back and believe this doesn't affect them, I hate to burst the bubble but it does, and more importantly, it will. Nobody is immune.
I understand people are upset with the direction the country is heading. As a Gay, Syrian Jew, I am one of those people. I’m all for speaking your truth, and exercising that right, whether it be in blogging, a Facebook status, a YouTube video, signing a petition, creating a dialogue, or even in the form of protesting. Our great country was founded on and moved forward by people protesting. But there is a big difference between protesting and rioting. Violence will never be the answer. It’s not a good look, and honestly, WE are better than that.
I’m going to close this blog with a quote from the song What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye. It’s a song I’ve been listening to a lot lately, and I think it embodies the ideology of the Hippie movement, and of where I am today…. For only love can conquer hate.