Bob Franken

The Summer of Hate

Those of us who are somewhat past puberty remember the Summer of Love. How much we recall depends on what we each ingested recreationally but the consensus is that it did happen.

It defined a generation, but for those who missed out, a little background: It was actually spread over two years of sex-drug-and-rock-and-roll…from the 1967 release of the Beatles’ incredible “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album to the musical glory and excess at Woodstock in 1969.

The epicenter of this earthquake was San Francisco, specifically in the neighborhood around Haight and Ashbury streets, which became a magnet for all things hippie, a beacon for romanticized tolerance.

Sadly, the flowers in the air have turned poisonous. In the bad trip to Now, the times have been a-changin’ and here we are in the Summer of Hate.

Instead of New Agers, it’s the Dark Agers who have the spotlight. Rather than Aquarius, it’s scariness for them.

They are having a field day. As the political slime season unfolds, they can target gays and Muslims and immigrants of color. The news has already handed them a trifecta of winning issues, if by “winning” you mean stuff that can be exploited by shameless panderers.

Their latest “victory” came in California, where a federal judge has overturned the state’s ban on gay marriage. And, yes, the loss IS a victory in the wrong-is-right world of politics, because it sends juices flowing through narrow minds.

We now can count on desperate right-wing candidates falling all over themselves to trumpet their holy war calls for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as strictly a he-and-she thing.

But when it comes to Constitution trivialization, they have nothing on those who favor dropping the 14th Amendment’s clause that grants citizenship to anybody born here, without regard to the parents’ status. It was put there in part to protect the descendants of slaves, but in these nasty times, foul is fair game.

Is that the same John McCain who was once the moderate voice on immigration policy? Apparently all it took was his tough re-election campaign to jettison that principle and declare that the cruel idea is worth considering.

Muslims always get a chapter in the Haters Handbook. Ironic, isn’t it, that it was McCain’s running mate, Sarah Palin, who popularized the word “hater,” considering she’s the one out there calling plans to build a mosque near the 9/11 site in New York a “stab in the heart.” That’s another entry in the reactionary hit parade.

The Summer of Love is history now, so much so, that a clever headline writer called the 40th anniversary in the “Haight” the “Summer of Love Handles.” Now we need to get a handle on the Hate.

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