A decade is ending, thus presenting a fine opportunity for reflection on the 1980s. But instead I find myself unaccountably drawn back 20 years further, to the 1960s. I am not alone. This past year such events as the death of former Black Panther leader Huey Newton, the re-emergence of Ringo Starr, the twentieth anniversary of Woodstock, and reunions of the Rolling Stones and the Who all evoked a kind of national nostalgia for that tumultuous time.

I was 10 when the sixties began, and 20 when it ended. In certain ways I passed through the decade protected by a Teflon shield of religion and subculture. I had never developed a taste for much music written after 1890, and mind-altering drugs never tempted me. More, I spent the later sixties on the campus of a Christian college: while secular university students were holding college presidents hostage and bombing buildings, our most daring protestors lobbied meekly against compulsory chapel. Still, despite my isolation, in other ways I was profoundly affected by those years of discontent.

A Fluke Of Demographics

At the time, it appeared that the world stood at a threshold.

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

—W. B. Yeats

When Parisian students took to the barricades in 1968, political conservatives shrieked about the decline of all civilization and the freedom-smashing juggernaut of communism. Evangelical gurus like Francis Schaeffer predicted mounting unrest that would lead to cultural anarchy. No one, absolutely no one, foretold what actually did take place over the next two ...

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