Why do we keep hearing so much about ‘cancel culture’? First of all it’s not a real thing. You can’t cancel culture, especially someone else’s. But, just using the words can cause harm and hurt. It can be a form of bullying, angry mob mentality and destructive lack of tolerance.

Rollie column

Rollie Atkinson

Stop it. The only places we’ve noticed much reference to ‘cancel culture’ in our own local communities and Sonoma County is on our social media feeds where more than 80% of everything is outrageous, demeaning to someone, often racist and seldom kind. Generally, Sonoma County is a friendly, tolerant and progressive place. But we do have issues and yelling “cancel” at each other won’t solve them.

Let’s be kind. Instead of dwelling on whatever cancel culture is, or is not, let’s focus on making culture and not attacking it. Maybe we don’t like some things about our current general culture. Maybe we think some of our shared values and social standards need changing. There’s a way to approach all this in positive ways. Yes, we need to hold one another accountable for our actions and words. But we must believe that people can change, just like we believe we can. Dissing each other diminishes everyone.

Look what happened in the 1960s. Instead of cancel culture, America saw the birth of a counter culture. Often aligned with the Hippie Generation, the combination of cultural shifting, testing of values, questioning of authority and lots of social experimentation brought us a historical revolution to America’s and the world’s culture and society.

Art, music, politics, fashions, religion, diets, media, gender roles and sexual practices were all changed. The old ways, often encapsulated as the “Eisenhower Years,” weren’t canceled; they were built upon and transformed. Black lives started mattering more in the 1960s. Gender equality, gay rights and Gray Panther voices were heard for the first time. We’ll laugh about it now, but those were the days of “peace, love and harmony.” Things were groovy. The Beatles sang, “All You Need is Love” and “Let it Be” and we believed it. The hippies wore flowers in their hair, discovered Eastern religions, started their own newspapers (the underground press), tried to levitate the Pentagon, ran a pig for president and “turned on and tuned in” a lot more than they just “dropped out.” Lots of those people moved to Sonoma County and you know who you are.

Of course, it wasn’t all happiness and enlightenment. The ’60s generation stopped a war and changed laws of racial discrimination, environmental destruction and voter disenfranchisement. Look around — there’s still more work here to do. (Let’s not go back to bell-bottoms or tie-dye, OK?)

Or, we could continue to waste our time and energy and argue about Mr. Potato Head, Dr. Seuss, Confederate statues and whether Trump should have his Twitter account restored. That set of discussions will lead us into false arguments about free speech, political correctness and what being “woke” means. How about, “Do your own thing, man?”

All of us continue to live lives that are greatly hampered by the coronavirus pandemic. It’s hard to think about a cultural revolution when we’re happy just to be healthy and alive. But this doesn’t mean we can’t share more ideas of positive changes and necessary cultural transformations. We must give ourselves space to identify our feelings of sadness, fear and outrage. But we must also accept other people’s similar feelings of both hope and disagreements.

We’ve tried to imagine how the revolutionary times of the 1960s and the Hippies might have been different if there had been Facebook and social media then. Would 300,000 people have shown up at the Woodstock music festival? Would the Love-Ins have been replaced by Crowd Rants? We don’t know, but we do still believe that love is all you need.

(1) comment


Thanks for the column, Mr. Atkinson. I was under the impression that the "cancel culture" term was another Republican party attempt to distract folk from the message, or messages in what people were trying to point out in their objection, generally speaking. As with many things internet, some go too far, and do not proofread what they write.

And you're not trying to cancel tie-dye now, are you? ;)

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