Authorities say that sometime in closing years of the decade, 70 or so men and women visited the Far East enclave of a bearded, charismatic leader and received instruction and special training in his fenced-in compound. Over the weeks that followed, these people made their way back to the West, carrying with them the dangerous ideas that would cause an upheaval in society and forever change the way we viewed our safe little world.
But we did not call these disciples terrorists. We knew them as The Beatles, Donovan, Mick Jagger, The Beach Boys. Some were investigated by the FBI. But they killed no one.
It was February of 1968.
These days, the act of taking an extended trip to the Far East is not generally seen as a search for spiritual renewal but a desperate act by an empty soul. Our suspicions are now raised when we read of the travels of people like Ahmad Khan Rahami, accused of having planted pressure-cooker bombs in Manhattan. Many now ask, why would one travel to Pakistan unless it was your intent to self-radicalize? No mention is made of sitars.
This is the dilemma of freedom of movement, freedom of decision, freedom of thought. Some used that freedom to write Dear Prudence — others, to write us off. What a remote possibility that seemed to be in our youth, in the insouciant West, decades ago.