Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming.... We're finally on our own
This summer I hear the drumming.... Four dead in Ohio
—Neil Young, Ohio, 1970
Boomers had a dream, and maybe our dream was naïve. A lot of us believed we could live our lives and build the world around two basic precepts: love and peace. We believed we were the generation that would do away with war. We believed that we would do away with greed, and in its place we'd create a world that would revolve around compassion and camaraderie, personal and political liberation.
Those of us who had turned eighteen had to sign up for the selective service and got draft cards, which we had to carry around in our wallets. It reminded us that we all had the possibility of being drafted and shipped off to Vietnam. I sat in front of the television most nights, seized by the images of firefights, by the images of G.I.s' flag-draped coffins being unloaded from cargo planes one after the other. I was one of the lucky ones; I drew a high draft number, and was thus spared from going to war. Instead, I did what seemed like the most logical thing to do at the time, bombarded as I was with those images—I started taking pictures. I was 18 years old and it was 1969 and these are the photos I made of this time and America.
It was the time of Woodstock, the rise of the Women's Liberation movement, campus unrest, SDS, The Moratorium, Give Peace A Chance, Richard Nixon being elected for a second term and then resigning from the Presidency, the killings at Kent State University, flag wavers, Hippies, the War in Vietnam ending, the POW's returned. The full effects of the music and the Cultural Revolution were upon America.
The social and political movements of the Boomer generation did eventually change America, but we left an unfinished agenda of social and economic rights for the subsequent generations to take up. It seemed like the
Occupy movement might be the Boomers' opportunity to move forward the agendas that were left unfinished. It's fascinating to see the similarities that this movement had to the movements in the sixties: the protesters' passion; the mass marches in the streets, the street theater; the anger with the status quo; the young vibrant energy that says, We can change the world; alternative publications; and free-form posters. It all feels so familiar.
It might be that you'll see yourself in these images. Perhaps you'll glimpse your parents. These photos show an America that was, at times, unjust and an America with dreams and promise. But more importantly, it is an America we should not forget. It was a time when there was much promise, when change seemed possible, and when young people could dream of a better world.
Editors' note: Ken Light's goal is to share his project with as wide an audience as possible. He would like to publish a book and donate copies to schools and libraries so the story of this era can be passed on to the next generation. Please visit his Kickstarter page for more details.