Somewhere between 400,000 and 500,000 people attended the original Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969. By the mid-1980s, the number of Baby Boomers claiming to have been there was 73.4 bazillion.
That’s because Woodstock, in part thanks to the astonishing music lineup and in part thanks to the documentary released the next year, began to be seen as a defining moment of the ‘60s, and a lot of people couldn’t (and still can’t) deal with the fact that they hadn’t been there. So they lie.
Yes, there were up to a million people who got stuck in the days-long traffic jams while trying to get there, so maybe give them a pass, and in all probability there are some people out there who tripped balls at enough other concerts or during the documentary so much that they genuinely believe they were there. But that still leaves a bunch of Boomers who are straight-up gritting their teeth and trying to impress youngsters by lying their way into history.
And there were lots of good reasons to skip Woodstock! There is no shame in not having gone! The tickets (before the gates went down) were aimed squarely at middle-class kids with plenty of money to spend. People who weren’t in the Northeast had to be able to get there. The festival organizers had underprepared for food and sanitation to a borderline criminal degree. I would respect the choice of any former hippie who said “Yeah, that sounded like three days of sitting in suspicious mud while talking other people down from bad LSD trips, so I bailed.”
But the yearn to have been a part of such a culturally significant moment does indeed have a pull. The idea that they could have been there and didn’t try to be makes a lot of people rueful and ashamed. And, with the exception of a few sociopaths, the lying about it must take a little toll each time too.
Fortunately, there is a massive cultural event coming up TOMORROW that you, as a registered voter, can be a part of. (Not registered? You might even be in a state that offers same-day voter registration, so don’t count yourself out of that category yet.)
Because we have an actual authoritarian up for election, one who has openly courted white supremacists and only slightly less openly courted anti-Semitic groups. And that authoritarian has attacked members of the press who don’t toady to him and threatened to have his political opponents jailed. He has invited a foreign strongman to interfere in our elections and made a veiled suggestion – in public – that his followers should assassinate his opponent if he wins. He proposes banning an entire religion from entering the country and has incited violence at his rallies and has essentially threatened to stir up a coup if he can’t win the election honestly. And the fact that Donald Trump may well be too stupid and unschooled to know that that makes him a fascist doesn’t stop him from being a fascist.
And twenty years from now, people are going to want to know where you were when you had the chance to stop it. And the worst thing you have to get through to be able to honestly say “yes, I was there, yes, I stood against him” is wait in line at the polls. You don’t even have to do the extra credit parts of door-knocking or phone-banking or giving people rides to their polling places, though may all the subversive heathen atheist pagan deities bless you if you do.
Yes, it might rain, and no, Jimi Hendrix will not be there rocking his face off. But instead of saying “Well, I had a big PowerPoint presentation that day,” or “Meh, I was a little bit tired and I figured Hillary had it in the bag,” or, you know, lying about it in between gulps of swallowed chagrin, you’ll be able to whip out the page in your photo album where you’ve kept your silly “I Voted” sticker and your ballot stub all these years.
And then you will chuck your inquisitive little 5-year-old relative under the chin and say “You’re goddamned right I rose up with the nation to block that racist, fascist, sex-offending motherfucker. We buried his ass so far under an electoral landslide that no one was ever brazen or dumb enough to allow a candidate like him to get that far again. I helped save our democracy and made history by electing the first woman President. Have you done anything that amazing in your tiny squirt life? Didn’t think so. Fetch me more mashed potatoes and pie.”
This is a big one. It’s a crucial juncture on our nation’s path and our country’s soul is on the line. Get out there and grab your piece of the right side of history.