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John Mark Reynolds- Contributor

John Mark Reynolds is the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, and Associate Professor of Philosophy, at Biola University.

Plaids versus Woodstocks
The Last Battle for the Soul of the Sixties...
[John Mark Reynolds] 2/27/04

I just returned from a delightful reprise of the play Forever Plaid at the La Mirada Performing Arts Center. I first saw this marvelous musical memory ten years ago and loved it then, but McCoy-Rigby has gotten the show exactly right. The show is essentially a memorial to the tight harmonies of the male quartets of the early sixties. Before the British Invasion helped end their reign, and the need for actual musicality for pop fame, great songs like Perfidia and Love is a many Splendored Thing dominated American music. Children and adults actually listened to the same music.

I am too young for Plaid to be nostalgic, but it was a reminder. My father and mother were young adults in the sixties. They smoked no dope. They burned no draft cards or underwear. They voted for Nixon. They mostly thought Woodstock was a bird in Peanuts. In that, they were like the vast majority of the nation. They were squares, not fitting into media contrived images of the sixties. Paid taxes. Obeyed the law. Went to college to learn and not protest. Folk like my parents were forever Plaid, while a minority of their generation went mad. This minority engaged in stupid behavior of all sorts, often harming themselves and others. While the Plaids paid the bills, these folk organized parties to congratulate themselves on their wisdom where they destroyed themselves with bad drugs and worse sex. Call them Woodstocks.

Woodstocks have long lists of important people in the sixties, all of whom by no surprise are Woodstocks. Time has not been kind to famous Woodstocks. Plaids went on doing things while Woodstocks congratulated themselves on doing things. As a result, the best Plaids will dominate the history books while the Woodstocks fade away as the hype dies out.

My favorite example? Bill Bright was more important to the nation than Abbey Hoffman. If you consume Woodstock media, you have heard of Hoffman but not Bright. Bright founded Campus Crusade for Christ. Millions of adults all over the world were converted to Christianity. He wrote pamphlets and books. His Four Spiritual Laws is in scores of languages. He helped produce a film on Jesus that has been seen by more people than any other film ever made. Abbey Hoffman did some stuff no one can quite remember, but most of which was probably bad for himself and the country. Google both names to see whose legacy is likely to live on past them.

Plaids were clever enough to make enduring television still watched by all age groups. Woodstocks are always trying to appeal to the latest generation. Forever up to date, Woodstocks are always producing junk that is forever dated. The ultimate Plaid Andy Griffith Show is still watched by millions. Don Knotts is still funny. The great Woodstock show Laugh In produces no laughs in the rare moments it is in the lineup.

Nothing shocking in this. The Plaids gave the nation its best entertainment. Walt Disney managed to entertain for almost the entire sixties without succumbing to degenerate tastes. His master film of the decade Mary Poppins gave us Julie Andrews. Julie Andrews would give the nation Sound of Music. Woodstocks were too groovy to go to Sound of Music. They went to Hair, a musical now so unwatchable that any revival would have to be disallowed as cruelty to aging fans.

I would guess more kids went to Awana, a Christian youth organization, in the sixties than lit up. Awana kids wrestled with memorizing the King James Bible, language as beautiful as Shakespeare. Woodstock kids scoffed at such activities as anti-intellectual and read radical poets. Safe to say, people are still memorizing the King James Bible while the Woodstock grandparents, those who made it that far, cannot remember themselves let alone the names of the poets.

Plaids studied in college and invented computers and the internet. Woodstocks used it to get cheap porn.

The Plaids had the best sports stars. Forever Plaid Bart Starr led the Packers of the 1960s. I met Starr at a Super Bowl party two years ago in San Diego. He still dominated a room, always the championship quarterback. Starr played with discipline on and off the field. He was and is square and cool. Hearing him talk about duty, country, and good values made me cry. Starr was with his wife Cherry. They were the type of couple that made you want to grow old together.

Woodstocks had Joe Namath. Joe won a single championship game, but became famous for his bluster before it. Mostly he was famous for chasing skirts and booze. Recently the nation watched this aging Lothario with improbable hair, drunkenly accosting a reporter young enough to be his grand-daughter. One more win for the Plaids.

The Clinton administration began to end the cultural hold of the Woodstocks on the American imagination. It was all there. Faux-idealistic programs like AmeriCorps. Sexual irresponsibility. Hatred of the military and authority. Confusion of the trappings of college dorm life, late night gab fests with pizza, with intellectual activity. On and on it went. Until we were all sick of it. Sick of a President playing the saxophone and telling us about his underpants. At least Broadway Joe was drunk. No wonder the nation turned to a repentant Plaid who had strayed as a youth, George W. Bush. We can trust his instincts since his family from George H.W., the youngest fighter pilot in the Pacific, and his mother, Barbara, who dared to become matronly, were pure Plaid.

Vietnam is the original sin of this sordid group. Woodstocks never tire of talking about their courageous opposition to war. Of course, their courageous opposition left most of them safe at home opposing the war from Plaid funded college dorms. The war they were opposing was part of the Cold War in which the United States defeated an ideology, communism, which killed more people than any other in the history of mankind. Almost all Woodstocks had kind words for all Communist leaders and hated anti-communists. Woodstocks still get more worked up about film black lists than the Russian slave labor camps. Sadly, for them, thousands of Vietnamese have fled the slavery of the genocidal state the Woodstocks helped foist on Vietnam and live in the United States. They are living proof that the Woodstocks were appeasers like Neville Chamberlain without Chamberlain's wit and piety.

The sexual revolution is their most lasting accomplishment, though most of the folk, who foisted it on us, can no longer enjoy the fruits of their labor having long ago succumbed to the natural consequences of their libertine life style. Talk to any pastor about the hours of therapy needed by a culture forced to bear the burden of the Woodstock's murder of innocence.

About the only thing for which the Woodstocks claim credit that is a genuine, positive, accomplishment is in improved race relations. The only difficulty is that the best work in racial reconciliation was done by the World War II generation in the period after World War II and in the early sixties. The greatest generation broke the back of segregation and ended tolerance for public racism. As usual, the Woodstocks took a promising situation and fouled it up. They introduced anger, affirmative action, and re-segregated society into special interest groups. While the Plaids began to integrate Billy Graham meetings, the Woodstocks shouted for social welfare policies that would create a permanent welfare class for both poor whites and blacks. As usual, Plaids integrated in real life, in the locker rooms and slowly but surely in personal relationships, while Woodstocks took the credit.

The Woodstocks resent their exile from political power under George W. Bush. They somehow infer that it is partly due to their lack of testosterone. They have taken to screeching, even their presidential candidates, to compensate. Woodstocks believe themselves smarter than Plaids, though they are always dumbing down the educational curriculum for themselves and everyone else. By avoiding Plaid topics such as analytic logic and science, Woodstocks can now earn humanities and law degrees studying themselves and their works! These lightly read intellectuals believe the right wins because it is angry, so they too have become angry. Eric Alterman of is the best example. He sneers and he lies, he hates and he whines, but he cannot actually do anything. Like most Woodstocks, he is a parasite on Plaid culture.

This fall America will pass final judgment on the Woodstocks. John Kerry, Boston Brahmin veteran turned Maoist fellow traveler, is the ultimate Woodstock. With his eye on the future, he betrayed the Plaids of his Vietnam unit and joined the smart set. But at last, Plaid America has had enough. 1972's debacle taught Woodstocks nothing. Sneering is so second nature to them. Woodstocks believe in their own greatness. They have been writing unreadable academic articles and making unwatchable movies about themselves for a generation. It will never occur to them that their children have finally grown up. Many of them know all too well the folly of their fathers and Plaids always welcome a good conversion experience. Kerry and his Woodstock minions are sure to enrage the Plaids again. They will carry Massachusetts, D.C., and perhaps a bit more.

Plaid America aroused finished off Hitler, Stalin, and Sadaam. Well intentioned, aging, appeasers will be no problem at all. Voters shall at last push them out of public life and into their own private sixties. There they can be left to age gracelessly as botox and bile fail to hold off the justice of time. Meanwhile, we can honor the forgotten sixties heroes and remain forever Plaid.

copyright 2004 John Mark Reynolds



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