Angelena Craig September 2019
"Well, I came upon a child of God. He was walking along the road. And I asked him, 'tell me, where are you going?'
This he told me,'I'm going down to Yasgur's Farm, gonna join in a rock and roll band, got to get back to the land and set my soul free.'
We are stardust, we are golden. We are billion year old carbon. And we got to get ourselves back to the garden."
The song, "Woodstock", written by Joni Mitchel, told of the event held in mid-August, fifty years ago. In 1969 half a million people came together, from all parts of the country and except for few, all from the boomer generation. A ticket for this three day "Aquarian Exposition of Peace and Music" only cost $18 and was free for those (totally unexpected) throngs coming on the second day.
Woodstock has been called "the defining moment" for our generation and represented those who rejected the traditional, establishment values. It was the largest group ever assembled for three days of fun and music, with 32 bands performing.
Despite the challenges of sitting for miles in state roads' traffic, the heavy rain and mud that first night, and living with not enough toilets and limited food for sale, while sleeping on the hard ground in close proximity to strangers… still there was "a sense of peacefulness and of oneness", with everyone sharing what they could…their food, their weed and their good vibes. There were no hostility, and even with the lack of security (or maybe because of this fact), there was no violence.
It was announced earlier this year that Woodstock 50 would take place again in upstate New York. Musicians were signing on and big plans were set in motion The cost for a three day pass was $450. The town of Vernon, NY requested a "Public Safety Plan". The organizers complied, stating concert-goers would not be allowed to bring into the festival grounds drugs or alcohol, chairs or other seating devices, bicycles, yard games, glow sticks, inflatables, flags on sticks or poles, umbrellas and throwing objects. This then was to be a very different experience, and so much less free and probably less fun than the original Woodstock.
One can only imagine the vigilance required to ensure no weapons enter the fair grounds. Needed would be strong security at the gate, similar to what we have at the airport, as well as the constant patrolling by well-armed police. After all, a gathering of the 65,000 expected, all promoting peace and love, could be a definite target for any number of mad men, intent on sacrificing themselves to promote their brand of radicalism. Or, those who sought to go down in a flame but have their moment of fame.
In a matter of months, shortly before tickets for the anniversary three day extravaganza went on sale, the festival was canceled. Financial backers and performers backed out, there were licensing problems, concerns over traffic jams, and possibly poor sales with people being "on edge" about possible violence.
It is a sad commentary on how far we have come from that place of "oneness", to now feeling unsafe in a sea of strangers. Trust, in general, is hard to come by. In these times most of us have no connection to our neighbors and the fear of public places is often on our minds. We are more careful to notice where the exit signs are in case we need to make a quick escape, and we know to stay aware so we can spot an unattended package or backpack.
On a more positive note…while we are far from the innocence of the way it was in the 1950' s and 60's, it is important to note the many advances made throughout the past 50 years. To name a few…
….None of our young people are being drafted to fight in a major war, like Vietnam.
…By organizing into "movements", we have seen (although still far from perfect) those successes in gaining civil rights, women's equality and gay rights.
…It is now understood how common is sexual assault on women (including date rape) and on children (often perpetrated by known and trusted adults), and how it won't be tolerated.
…The victims of domestic violence are now more willing to let the secrets out, and now have more protection from the police, the courts and the agencies set up to help them escape dangerous situations.
We live in potent times, with much uncertainty and for many fear for the future, but history has shown everything is cyclical. What goes up must come down, and come up again. Martin Lewis King reminded us, ""The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice".
Maintaining, no matter what, a sense of equanimity is for now our best hope, thereby keeping us free from worry, and feeling peaceful inside…like we did at Woodstock.