The Baby Boomer generation (estimated at around 75 million) became politically active in the 1960s and 1970s, leaving its’ mark on society. The sheer size of this human tsunami rolled through American society and fueled the continuing Civil Rights, Gay Rights, and Women’s Movements and agitation against war. It also coincided with (caused?) loosening social mores, the sexual revolution, widespread recreational drug use, political correctness, identity politics, diminishment of personal responsibility, and excesses in many areas.
The 1960s mantra of “Challenge Authority” was the basis of my political activism. What exactly does “challenge authority” mean? Certainly more than disobeying your parents as a kid. Or calling the police “pigs.” Those are juvenile acts of rebellion.
Challenging authority is not an attention getting ploy to display your courage or smarts or just for the sake of a good fight. A key component is resisting the temptation to act impulsively. In short, it's okay to break certain rules. But know why the rule exists, and have a good reason for breaking it. In a serious political context, challenging authority does not have to be negative, especially when done with a clear purpose. Challenging authority is a form of nonviolent direct action. You must know what you want to accomplish—hence the need for focus, confidence, and hard facts. A legal/moral/ethical foundation is a prerequisite for such disciplined non-conformity.
The title Challenge Authority: Memoir of a Baby Boomer tells it all. Each of the five chapters contains at least a couple of challenge authority stories. In most cases I still believe my challenge, or at least questioning authority, was justified and the correct path. However, a few times my challenging authority was a dismal failure, often due to my immaturity and lack of experience.
Politics and humor play a prominent role these stories. Some vignettes include my challenging the Selective Service System (The Draft) for 2 ½ years during the Vietnam War era; learning a Zen-like concern for quality while leaf raking as a work-study student in my undergraduate years; being a war tax resister for many years; hosting an “Untying the Knot” party with my first wife while getting divorced; doing jail time (along with 1,959 others) for civil disobedience in trying to stop the opening of Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in California; twice running for Santa Barbara City Council in the mid-1980s as an avowed socialist and being the only candidate to openly support gay and lesbian rights; and bungee jumping out of a hot air balloon on my 40th birthday.
The stories are supported by more than 600 original letters and emails from and to me that examine the issues of the times—politics, relationships, and the culture—from the 1960s to the present. Additional documentation includes published articles about or by me, my journals, considerable Internet research, poetry, and hundreds of photos. The book contains 44 stories, with many complementary photos, in five chapters and more than 73,000 words.
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