Lee Haddigan writes for EA:
This Jim Morrison, the lead singer of the legendary American rock group The Doors, was posthumously pardoned by the state of Florida for a 40-year-old conviction. The absolution brought to an end a 12-year campaign to clear the name of the singer who briefly in the late 1960s epitomised the spirit of the so-called counter-culture.
Now, I have no problem with Jim Morrison or his music, though it gets frustrating to sit in the local pub on a Friday night with a brother who insists on putting The Doors’ 9-minute dirge "This is the End" on the jukebox at least twice. (Apparently I am honoured to be listening to rock history). But my stomach is not as settled with the idea that the pardon somehow validates the notion of some from the Woodstock era that they were a misunderstood generation, who could have saved the world except for the unwarranted persecution of the mainstream culture.
In a New York Times article back in November, Ray Manzarek, the keyboardist with the Doors, “spoke for many survivors of the Woodstock era when he suggested that a pardon for Morrison would help offset the persecution that the ’60s-era counterculture felt it suffered at the hands of the American mainstream”. But, never anything less than self-involved, the remnants of counter-culture cannot see that it never really mattered outside of self-important imagination.
On 1 March, 1969, the Doors gave a concert at the Dinner Key Auditorium in Miami. Morrison was intoxicated, and during a performance that included a live lamb on the stage, he paused after the first stanza of the song "Five to One" to inform his audience “You’re all a bunch of f***ing idiots” .His baiting of the crowd continued, and after pondering that "Maybe you like being pushed around. Maybe you love getting your face stuck in the s***," Morrison simulated masturbation before allegedly exposing himself.
Over the years the indecent exposure charge has been the one most vigorously denied by Morrison fans who point out that no photo exists of the incident, and highlight the conflicting accounts of witnesses at the concert.
Tame rock and roll antics today, but after the incident was publicized in The Miami Herald, 30,000 attended a "Rally for Decency" at the Orange Bowl three weeks later, by which time Morrison had been charged with a felony offence of lewd and lascivious behavior, as well as indecent exposure, public profanity, and public drunkenness misdemeanours. Morrison was found guilty of profanity and indecent exposure in 1970, sentenced to six months in jail, and given a $500 fine. He was appealing the decision when he died in Paris in 1971.
In November, outgoing Florida Governor Charlie Crist stated in a telephone interview with The New York Times that he would try and persuade fellow members of the Florida Board of Clemency to pardon Morrison because “I just think it’s the right thing to do. In some ways it seems like a tragic conclusion to a young man’s life to have maybe this be a lasting legacy, where we’re not even sure that it actually occurred. The more that I’ve read about the case and the more I get briefed on it, the more convinced I am that maybe an injustice has been done here.”
Dave Diamond, who campaigned for years to clear Morrison, explained that he supported a pardon because of constitutional and legal flaws with the conviction, that include the contention that witnesses for the prosecution were lying, and that as Morrison was 26 while all six of the jurors were over 40 he was not judged by a jury of his peers. Diamond insists that he was not trying to get Morrison pardoned just because he is a fan of the singer but because “this case in itself is a textbook "how NOT" to prosecute someone, no matter who they are. I'll take the beating by some in the press, who think this case is a waste of time, but as an avid reader of many constitutional cases, this case is insane!”
When the campaign for Morrison’s pardon picked up pace in November, the following quote was posted on a doors.com forum:
Your right about good verses evil,i was at this concert and let me tell you it was the rednecks against the long hairs back then. There were a lot of rednecks up front by the stage and jim would have had a ruff night even if he wasn't drunk and with a beard and long hair. I didn't see him expose himself, they were out to get him and the doors for their anti war movement. Lets hope christ does the right thing here and set jim free from these false charges. The doors were a thorn in the side to the us goverment and i beleave that the nixon white house had something to do with these charges. Lets keep up the pressure on christ and hope he can get the other two votes to get this pardon done.Hopefully the remaining doors will come to fla. for a special concert for Jims pardon! That would be like "waiting for the sun" A new dawn for all doors fans and Jims spirit!!!!
Unfortunately, a romanticised story still surrounds the countercultural ‘peace and love’ generation that emphasises how they were persecuted, and could have changed the world if only the mainstream culture had left them alone. In fact, the counterculture flowered briefly in the Haight-Ashbury area of San Francisco in the mid-60s, before corporate "greedheads" (a term coined by Hunter S. Thompson and immortalised in a drinking game featuring Benicio del Toro) took it over, spread it eastwards, and made a profit from the self-centred frustrations of America’s spoiled middle class youth.
The truth is only a minority of America’s youth took part in the hippie movement the middle- class kids who could afford to go to college and avoid going to Vietnam (and who are now alive to help peddle the rosy myth of the counterculture movement). They mocked working-class kids who were drafted and could not escape enlistment by getting a student deferments, going to Canada, or producing a letter at a physical from a friendly physician exempting them from service. They were an affront to those who fought in a misguided war they had no part in starting.
In Christian Appy’s Working Class War, a firefighter who lost his son Ralph in Vietnam says in 1970:
I'm bitter. You bet your goddam dollar I'm bitter. It's people like us who gave up our sons for the country. The business people, they run the country and make money from it. The college types, the professors, they go to Washington and tell the government what to do... But their sons, they don't end up in the swamps over there, in Vietnam. No sir. They're deferred, because they're in school. Or they get sent to safe places. Or they get out with all those letters they have from their doctors. Ralph told me. He told me what went on at his physical. He said most of the kids were from average homes; and the few rich kids there were, they all had big-deal letters saying they weren't eligible....
Let's face it: if you have a lot of money, or if you have the right connections, you don't end up on a firing line in the jungle over there, not unless you want to. Ralph had no choice. He didn't want to die. He wanted to live. They just took him.
And not even all middle-class youth enjoyed their "Summer of Love". Books like Kate Millett’s Sexual Politics detail how women were repressed and discriminated against in the erroneously-named "Flower Power" era. Take a look at the 1960s youth movement in detail and you see few female leaders or spokeswomen and a general acceptance that women remained in a subservient position to men. Once promiscuity became the accepted "ideal" of the Woodstock era, propagated by older male left-wing intellectuals, it was only a short step away to sexual aggression against women, with the associated diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and suicides left in its wake.
So, good luck to Jim Morrison and fans of his music; he deserves a pardon. But if you read elsewhere that it is long-deserved recognition that a lilywhite and innocent counterculture --- who, as that sickly 1971 Coca-Cola ad says, thought they could "teach the world to sing in perfect harmony", were harshly treated --- take a pause. A counterculture of "peace and love" was never anything more --- at least after the Diggers disbanded in 1967 in disgust at the way the movement was headed --- than the invention of a privileged few.