Patriotism And Peace On Parade.

These photographs were taken at yesterday's Fourth of July parade in Mendocino.

The whole day, I was thinking about patriotism and peace.

Many people in this country believe that you cannot possibly be a patriotic American if you advocate for peace.

Maybe they don't know these guys. These are the Veterans for Peace. Every one of them is a war hero, and they regularly demonstrate. For peace.

Or these guys. These veterans opened the parade, and got a resounding ovation from the crowd for the work they do in advocating for the return of American soldiers missing in action.

And what about all of this red, white, and blue?

Like Uncle Sam himself had snuck into town the night before and gone crazy with the flags and bunting.

The question is, did Uncle Sam help with these signs, too?

Patriotism? Peace? Both?

Peacenik hippies would have booed "The Man" as he cruised by with his flashing lights and uniforms and sirens blaring. Right?

Yet the fire and police departments all got resounding ovations as they passed.

Because after all, when you have people like Wheelie Boy...

... or Captain Inebriation here "participating" in the festivities, having a little law and order on hand isn't such a bad idea. Not a bad idea at all.

The fact is, hippies are complicated. We advocate for salmon habitat restoration...

...we fight against abalone poaching - I think that one’s a keeper...

... and we’re passionate about protecting the ocean from environmental devastation - especially offshore drilling. How passionate? Check out the nifty pirate outfits and intense bongo drumming, if you don’t believe me.

And yet, some of the loudest cheers of the day were reserved for the funky cars.

Yes, that's a saxophone exhaust pipe.

Jesus here also got a lot of applause...

...especially when he was followed close behind by the Devil Ride hearse. Hippie humor.

Speaking of hippies... Nice flags and bunting, fellas!

But the gas-guzzler that got the biggest ovation? The General Lee. A 1969 Dodge Charger RT, complete with the stars and bars paint job. There the General was, rumbling down the road with its horn blaring Dixie, emitting copious amounts of exhaust and attitude, and the crowd couldn't get enough.

Which brings me back to my point about hippies being complicated.

For some, being called a “hippie” still carries a sting with it.

The fact is, there’s a hippie stereotype that is less than flattering. Over-educated. Lazy. Lacking in toughness or common sense. Often spaced-out. Kind of whiney.

However, I reject this stereotype. As these pictures illustrate, there are a lot of folks who live up here who can only be described as hippies - and I include myself in that mix. Maybe I’m not a “traditional” hippie, but I’m certainly a neo-hippie of the first order. And while I may be over-educated, I’m also tough. And sensible. Mostly. Sort of.

What people fail to realize is that day-to-day living up here in the redwoods is pretty challenging. There’s no room for laziness, and no one who chooses to make a life out in the sticks can afford to be anything less than resilient. The frontiersmen who settled this area in the 1850’s were the toughest of the tough, after all.

And survival out here in the woods requires working together - there’s simply no other practical option. So when the back-to-lander hippies arrived in the 1960’s, the locals taught them how to farm and hunt and fish and log. They taught them how to become self-sufficient fighters, and to teach their kids and grandkids to be fighters, too. The result is some extremely tough, sensible, hardworking hippies.

For their part, the hippies made their arguments to the locals about women’s lib, environmental preservation, and not being unkind to others just because they’re different. They also made their arguments about the benefits of peace and love. And you know, those hippies made some good points.

This collision of views is one of my favorite things about living up here in the northernmost reaches of my state. Or rather, the collaboration that results from the collision. Sort of like peace and patriotism. Because far as I’m concerned, the love of peace is a very patriotic thing.


  1. Well, now I wish I woulda gone to Mendocino for the 4th. That was the best parade! Especially through your lens.

    Thanks for the musings on hippidom. Today (and I haven't written about it yet) I thought about much of what you have written here: how the back to the land people brought their education, aesthetics. optimism, spirituality with them, and integrated into the communities without losing their identity. Some of the people did this. Not all. There were those who failed, who burned out on drugs, who drank, etc. etc. In other words, just like humans everywhere, regardless of their "trappings."

    Your words and pictures show us how a community is a container, which hopefully, has room for all.

  2. Thank you for the kind words, Swallowtail! The parade was fantastic, and provided many wonderful examples of the points you make here. In fact, your thoughtful musings have inspired me to do another blog on this topic, too! Stay tuned...

  3. How very sensitive and sensible! I'm a 76-year-old who, in the 60s, discredited Hippie concepts, primarily because of the public display of things quite foreign to my conservative nature. My, how a little age can add wisdom and perspective! I thanked Eric Burch for introducing me to your blog, and I'm now a Follower.

    Florene Kunder
    West Sacramento

  4. Dear Florene,

    First let me say that your comment made my day! I don't know Eric Burch, but please thank him for pointing you in my direction. Like you, I'm from the Central Valley of California, and I grew up in an environment that was so conservative, I wasn't even allowed to travel the 90 minutes to San Francisco because that's where all the hippies were! I'm glad that, like you, I'm learning to embrace good ideas regardless of their origins. I look forward to your future comments. Thank you so much for the encouragement! And thank you especially for following my blog.

    Kindest regards,

  5. Greetings Jendocino,

    Wonderful pictures from my favorite event in Mendo.

    In fact, you have a picture of me...I'm that big haired, smiling neo-hippie like you.

    I sure hope to run into you soon,

    Laurel from MendoCoastCurrent

  6. Hello Laurel! How cool is it that you are in one of these photos? That's the most fantastic thing EVER! I'd love to know which neo-hippie is you if you feel like sharing more details. And I'm likewise hoping that our real lives will cross over in as nice of a way as our virtual ones have. We should meet at Patterson's sometime!