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The Berkeley Stigma This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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This town is full of hippies, and I am one of them. There are ex-hippies, radical hippies, conservative hippies, pseudo-hippies, and super-hippies. The funny thing is that not a single true hippie here will label him – or herself – as such. Many people outside Berkeley, however, immediately identify us as the single most hippie-ridden city they know. Proof of this is that the stereotypical hippie on TV, movies, and books now comes complete with a degree from UC Berkeley, or is set to depart for our fair city after graduation. A degree from UC Berkeley now comes with a minor in peace, love, and understanding, according to popular culture. In this way, it is comparable to West Point in the extreme archetype that it creates in the collective American psyche.

In reality, Berkeley residents come from a thousand walks of life, but they all agree on one thing: they are not hippies. They are just mindful of the environment, religion, political correctness, the digestive system, and qi. They are just like anyone else: they have jobs, children and grow older. Sure, they may work for a firm specializing in environmental law or write fanatically pro-Obama letters to the editor in their spare time. Sure, they may be in a “committed partnership” instead of a marriage, because they believe marriage was created to enslave women. Sure, their children attend hippie-dippy Montessori pre-schools instead of the militaristic prep schools their parents unwillingly attended. But does that make them “hippies”? Any true Berkeleyite will scoff at the very suggestion.

Likewise, we kids who grew up here – despite eating raw, vegan, organic, lactose- and MSG- and BPA-free food all our lives – will fervently reject this labeling. Anyway, every Berkeley kid knows that generalizations are inherently racist, fascist, and probably against the law. However, there are some universal truths to growing up in Berkeley.

Berkeley kids are simultaneously enthralled and revolted when they meet their first Republican, having previously believed that such people were mythical creatures made up by their parents to scare them into taking out the compost. Berkeley kids have been protesting, rallying, and advocating since they were two or three years old. They have condemned everything from having to sit at tables during lunch, to having to wear shoes, with petitions and scorchingly critical slam poetry.

Some of these kids remain this way forever, becoming what society calls hippies. Others rebel and attend West Point, move to New York City with degrees in finance, and never again do yoga in the desert. Despite their efforts to distance themselves, the Berkeley label won't ever vanish. In the office, in the army, at the weekly squash tournaments, they will always be know as “liberal” and “open-minded” and various other euphemisms for “The Hippie.”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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bagley777 said...
Sept. 26, 2012 at 1:24 am
haha, this was really cute! A little bit of a generalization maybe? But still very cute. And good writing too! Awesome job(:
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