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James Ferragut, Published August 23 2009

Ferragut: Delve inside ‘the man’

It is ironic that most of the baby boomers who identified with the Woodstock Nation have become replicas of the generations we were rebelling against. Our issues were with the establishment, the media, the status quo, our hypercritical parents and teachers, churches, the warmonger politicians and the pursuit of materialism. You know, “the man.” We were rebelling against “the man.”

I turned out to be “the man.” I don’t know it happened. I never intended to be “the man.” I have a house, a lake cabin, cars, kids and more stuff than I need. When some

20-something looks at me, they see “the man,” they see their parents or their teacher or their boss.

What they don’t see is the Woodstock guy inside. The guy who graduated from high school in 1968 and was right there when Martin Luther King was assassinated in April and when Bobby Kennedy was assassinated two months later during graduation weekend.

Last week’s 40th anniversary of Woodstock was the subject of editorials, television programming, radio specials, online entertainment and endless blather in blog-world. They all seemed to miss the reason Woodstock was a watershed event. Woodstock wasn’t just a music fest; it was the spontaneous convergence of what was thought to be a small segment of an alienated generation of rebellious young adults. When thousands turned into hundreds of thousands, it was understood for the first time that they weren’t alone. We were an energized movement. We had purpose and mission. We became a cultural force.

What was supposed to be a three-day music festival for 35,000 kids turned into a celebration of hope and a glimpse into the future where peace, love and understanding was real and was going to set the world free.

That bliss lasted for about 12 minutes as real life impinged on a utopian dream. First, there were the Tate-LaBianca murders. Then there was the Rolling Stones concert at Altamont, where the Hells Angels bloodied concertgoers, musicians and roadies and ultimately killed a fan. The Tet Offensive pushed the Vietnam War to a new level. The whole “peace, love and understanding” thing ended up a cliché.

However, for a glorious moment in time what was perceived to be a minor, annoying segment of society, the “rebellious and radical youth,” revealed itself to be a force of nature.

By flexing their collective muscle, the Woodstock Generation empowered the millions of us who couldn’t make it to Bethel, N.Y.

Fifteen years ago, the metal chains I’d worn on my right wrist gave way to beaded bracelets. Last spring, the CEO of our company saw me in short sleeves and commented: “What are those James, love beads?” And all I could do was just give him a Cheshire Cat smile. Maybe they are, maybe they aren’t.

I may be “the man” now, but I know there still is inside me that rule- breaking rebel and a measure of Woodstock optimism. Maybe I’ll encounter one or two of you out there still fighting the fight.

Ferragut is vice president for marketing at a Fargo bank and a contributor

to The Forum’s commentary page.