I live in one of the coastal cities in Southern California, and every so often I like to take a walk down the boardwalk in Venice during the weekends when it is abuzz with lively activity. I have been doing this since I moved to Southern California almost 30 years ago.
For the most part, to me, Venice seemed trapped in a time limbo from the 60s hippie generation. Of course, some minor things have changed, people now have cell phones, etc., but for the most part, Venice has remained one of the most famous refugees of the counterculture and progressive social movements. It retains it status as one of the centers of Southern California's popular tourist industry mainly because of the very colorful people that populate Venice. And, according to an entry in Wikipedia, it has also been a temporary home to numerous creative celebrities such as the late great graffiti/street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, Simpson's creator Matt Groening, and even for a short time, Jim Morrison, when he started to form the nucleus of the Doors, among many others.
Walking along the Venice path, one will encounter innumerable fortune-tellers, sidewalk acts, hawkers, and political advocates. Of course, the pedwalk is lined with shops with merchandise directed primarily to rebellious adolescents, whether it is the bong shops or the t-shirts with a rude or a 'four letter' statement. For the past 30 years, it has been this way, and certainly, for the past eight years, the amount of anti-Bush, anti-establishment merchandise just proliferated. The frustration and anger was apparent. During the past eight years, whenever I walked through Venice, it seemed like a walk past endless despair.
Then, last month, I noticed that something happened. Something changed. I took my first walk down the boardwalk since Obama became president. The change was quite remarkable. Gone was most of the anti-establishment merchandise. Replacing it was merchandise filled with "Hope." T-shirts, bags, posters, all seemed to have shining images of Obama. For once, the merchandise had changed from not so much of what they were against, but now, to what they were for.
I have not been part of an active counterculture movement, as it is not the approach that I have personally pursued to create a qualitatively beneficial and meaningful impact on society. Perhaps, my belief is along the old saying that "it is always better to light one candle than to curse the darkness." Venice, CA may not be a real window into the counterculture and progressive movement, but personally I am glad to see that at least in Venice some candles are starting to light...
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