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Antidisestablishmentarianism

May 27, 2009

Whenever I hear about “The Modern Counter-Culture”, it reminds me…

I once had a friend in high school, a member of the C.A.P., who told me this story about his Sergeant’s own high school days in the late 60’s. The sergeant, Randy, was an amicable guy with lots of friends. He was also respected by other classmates, despite the fact that Randy didn’t exactly blend in with the rest of the high school crowd. You see, Randy attended school in a suit and tie…every day: (Remember: this was the late 60’s). He eschewed the tie-dyed t-shirts, bell bottom jeans, bandannas, and love beads that were de rigueur in those days. Randy also kept his hair in an immaculate brush cut, whereas other classmates were averaging shoulder-length locks and bowl-cut Beatles hairstyles.

One day, Randy was beckoned into the men’s room by some of his friends. He was soon surrounded by about a dozen of his hippie-high-school classmates who had attended this impromptu gathering for the good of their buddy. In this day, we would call it an intervention. They told Randy how they liked him, and respected him, and didn’t want to insult him…but he needed to “loosen up, man…stop following in the ways of the Establishment, man…throw off the shackles of mainstream oppression and find his inner groove, man…and to stop wearing his ties, let his hair grow out, and to dress more like an individual…”

“…man.”

Randy listened to their suggestions patiently. Then, after they had finished giving him their sage advice, Randy put his arms around two of his friends, said “All of you come with me, please. I want to show you something”, and led the assembled crowd into the main hallway of the high school. Randy then turned to his hippie friends, his arms sweeping the area directly behind him, and asked aloud…

“What do you see? Take a careful look at all of the kids in our school. Check out their ponytails, their peace-signs…check out all of the tasseled vests, Nehru jackets, and John Lennon sunglasses…check out all of the sandals on their feet, the bell bottom blue jeans with the patches in their knees, and the flowers in their hair…see how many students are wearing t-shirts that say “Give Peace a Chance” or “Black Power” or “Groovy” on the front….look at how many students are dressed pretty much the same way all of you are dressed…”

Randy then presented himself to his well-meaning interventionists.

“Now…how many students are wearing a pressed suit and tie…how many students have a short haircut…or polished dress shoes….how many students here are dressed like me?”

He paused to let the moment sink in.

“Who is the real individual, here?”

I do not know if this story is actually true or anecdotal…but it made an impression on me.

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