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The Beatles Generation—Bigotry Goes Against Grown-Up Values

by Burr Deming

My dad thought teenagers were just putting a finger in the eye of grownups.
I thought it was all about the music.

Half a century later the debate about the same kids has a ring to it.

I was just a kid. Beatles were bugs. I had heard the new yeah-yeah song a few times. It was different because it had a hard drum beat at the beginning. Kids like me liked it.

I especially knew one line, mostly because some British politician wanted to show he was cool and had his speech writers write out a line for him from the song. He tried to say it. Instead, he showed he didn’t understand anything. The Beatles sang “She said she loves you and you know that can’t be bad.” He said “The country loves us and you know that can’t be, uh, uh, too bad.”

“Too” did him in.

When the Beatles became something more than a bug, when they held concerts with audiences of screaming teenagers, after we learned the name and the music and the popularity, my dad had a theory:

It was all about homosexuality.

Doesn’t seem like it today, but Beatle cereal bowl haircuts, were considered daring in 1964. Kids were not old enough to think of the style as particularly feminine, but our parents did. Men didn’t wear their hair long, with bangs. The loathing adults felt came from the vaguest impression of homosexuality. Boys will be boys and they damn well better not be anything else!

Kids shared the bigotry. Kids didn’t go through all that with the hair style. The Beatles were cool because older folks, the ones who didn’t dance or rock-n-roll were revulsed for some reason.

There wasn’t much of a civil rights division back then. Most kids held the same views as their parents, who in turn held the views of their communities. McCarthyism was passe, had been since the 1950s. Vietnam was a point on some distant map. So patriotism was only challenged by extremists.

The Beatles presented a chance to tug at adult sensibilities, to get a reaction.

So, my dad’s theory went, the kids might not be particularly for homosexuality, but they were for kid-like rebellion against parental reactions.

It was a friendly family debate, kind of fun. In retrospect it had an undertone of anti-gay bigotry that was not at all controversial in those days. I was raised in that atmosphere. As a young adult, I eventually gave it enough thought to be ashamed of youthful attitudes. Gay people were oppressed by those of us too ignorant to be conscious of the evil we represented.

I argued with my dad. Maybe, said I, maybe kids just liked the music, and the chance to associate it with a group of pop stars. Parents were just against anything new, or couldn’t get with it. Like that British politician. That was all there was too it.

And concerts were fun because it gave us a chance to yell and cheer along with other fans. There was a sort of youthful kinship involved.

We never came to an agreement, my dad and I. The debate went for years, enlivening family dinners. We looked forward to it. The fact that we could argue was, for me, a sign of paternal egalitarianism. It was a sign of respect.

Today, a friend is more sympathetic to Trumpers than am I. Our debates reminded me of the family arguments of my youth.

I get to thinking about the exuberant enthusiasm of Trump crowds, the chants, the shouts, the similarities.

The baby boomers of yesterday are the elderly of today. But we want those years again.

The bigotry goes against grown-up values. So sticking a finger in an adult eye and trying to dial a number can be attractive to some of us. Rebellion shared with other fun-loving folks, apart from those who just don’t get it, the disapproving, finger-waving, old-fashioned adults.

Ted Cruz, and others, take turns trying to be the cool dad, but they’re too polite. They get the lyrics just wrong enough to be pathetic. Trump is the rock star who knows the words.

These are people who hate our country.
HEY JOHN! They Hate Our Country.
They hate it, I think, with a passion.

President Donald Trump, July 15, 2019

Many of the participants argue about racism and hatred.

Send her back!
Send her back!
Send her back!

They insist it isn’t about that at all.

Come on, of course the President’s not racist.
But he’s frustrated, like so many Americans are.

Representative Jim Jordan, GA

There is a sort of convivial camaraderie to it. A shared experience by like minded souls. For some it isn’t so much ideology, but rather shared polemical taste.

They like the rhetorical rhythm. They enjoy the bombastic beat. The love the political music.

It’s rock concert rebellion, a return to baby boomer youth.

I see all those red hats and white hats.
It’s all happening very fast.

It’s called Make America Great Again!
You see what’s going on.

President Donald Trump, August 22, 2017

It’s fun for elderly kids. And it’s a generational plea.

We are fading away. Make us great again!

Many thanks to our friend Burr Deming at FairandUnbalanced.

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Posted by on August 4, 2019. Filed under COMMENTARY/OPINION. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
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12 Responses to The Beatles Generation—Bigotry Goes Against Grown-Up Values

  1. jess Reply

    August 4, 2019 at 11:05 am

    I can’t with this. I lost my words, all of them. So let me get this right, the goopers are just fun loving exuberant chanters(dibs for my band name) is that what you are trying to say here or are you, in the English vernacular, taking the piss, it’s hard for me to see right now. These people are racist pigs who enjoy wallowing in the racist muck they are spreading so forgive me if I don’t find common cause with any of them. Guess I found a few words after all.

    • Michael John Scott Reply

      August 4, 2019 at 2:13 pm

      Dude! That’s not what Burr is saying, although I expect he’s a much nicer guy than I am. I hate the fuckers as well by the way.

      • jess Reply

        August 4, 2019 at 4:06 pm

        I said down there to Glenn maybe I am reading it wrong. I have been having comprehension issues today with more than a few things.

  2. Glenn Geist Reply

    August 4, 2019 at 11:48 am

    I don’t think that’s what he’s saying. I’m a reluctant Baby Boomer if you include 1945 in the definition. Not everyone does. But there came a time as we began to grow up, that the times were changing, that we were changing the world for the better and it was huge and exciting and to some degree effective. There was a great sense of power and some of the music reflected that. I think the MAGA Maggots feel the same way, may they all rot in hell.

    • jess Reply

      August 4, 2019 at 11:59 am

      Ok, maybe I was just reading into it with the hate, yes hate, I feel towards these people.

      • Tall Stacey Reply

        August 4, 2019 at 1:53 pm

        Hate, Jess, is counter productive. It is exactly what they want, ’cause it makes you self centered like they are. When you are focused on hate, you are not focused on making the situation change.

        I’m not saying you have to love them, but you could love to see them run off a cliff like lemmings… or made wrong by power change and progressive policies. The bad news is you are not going to change the minds of the hardcore racists, but we can work to make them irrelevant dinosaurs of a failed ideology.

        Anybody but tRump 2020

        Enjoyed the essay Burr. Your point about the children aspiring to the values of their parents still holds true, to a point I think. Many of us of that older generation learned to think (and love the Beatles) on our own. And although we progressive boomers are dying off, so are the ones who never learned that “All you need is Love”. While there may be a certain thrill to the current MAGA trend for the great unwashed, when the leadership changes, when that bigotry and racism is again relegated to the trash heap of history, when that wind shifts – I pray that the cool kids will (to quote another from our era, Bob Dylan) see which way the wind blows.


        • jess Reply

          August 4, 2019 at 4:08 pm

          I can do both, keep the hate and work my ass off at the same time. The hate of the intolerant ones motivates me and for now I’m keeping it.

          • Michael John Scott Reply

            August 4, 2019 at 6:44 pm

            LOL! You go, girl! Isn’t that what people say?

            • Tall Stacey Reply

              August 4, 2019 at 6:47 pm

              ummmm… not anymore

              • Michael John Scott Reply

                August 4, 2019 at 9:39 pm

                I know. I saw it on some silly show years ago and thought it would be appropriate.

            • jess Reply

              August 4, 2019 at 7:22 pm

              Have not heard that for a while.

  3. Burr Deming Reply

    August 5, 2019 at 7:40 pm

    Jess raises a good point. You need only be half a step away from insanity to recognize it as madness.

    I think Hannah Arendt had it right almost 60 years ago as she described what she called “the banality of evil.”

    At least some of those within the event horizon don’t see themselves as hate filled. They are Baby Boomers who never outgrew irresponsible adolescence, elderly teenagers having rebellious racist fun. The fact that grown-ups disapprove just adds to the attraction.

    There is something pitiful in the gleeful way they splash about in the mud.

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