The Flower-In-The-Rifle Guy of 1967

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Anti-war activist. Master Tactician. Accidental Sartorialist.

The image of the Flower-in-the Rifle-Guy, photographed at a Pentagon ‘Levitation Rally’ in 1967, has become one of the most iconic anti-war images of our time. The young man’s real name is George Harris, an eighteen-year-old actor from New York who got swept up in the real life drama of his time, the Vietnam War.

Sartorially speaking, not only did Harris choose his turtle-neck sweater well, but his carefully placed carnation, deep in the loaded barrel of a Military Policeman’s rifle, had a kind of daring panache that any A-list stylist, then or now, would be proud of. This simple act of defiance was a brilliantly staged peace tactic, taking both the military and the media by surprise. This was Flower Power in action.

Before the idea of ”Flower Power” became synonymous with psychedelic drugs, promiscuous sex and hippies, it was a phrase coined by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg to describe a political movement of passive, non-violent protest. In his November 1965 essay, “How to Make a March/Spectacle”, Ginsberg advocated that protesters should be provided with “masses of flowers” to hand out to policemen, press, politicians and spectators.The use of props like flowers, toys, flags, candy and music were meant to transform anti-war rallies into a form of street theatre, thereby reducing the fear, anger and threat inherent to protests.

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In particular, Ginsberg wanted to counter the “spectre” of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang who not only supported the Vietnam War, but equated war protesters with communists and lazy good-for-nothing bums. Today, people with views like these are part of a gang called Republicans. A word of caution for young people with strong ideals and style: Be careful when poking daisies in the face of heavily armed policemen. In 2012, you’ll be dubbed a terrorist and punched to the ground by several large law enforcers. Worse still, you’ll get tazed in the groin!

We at Unique Creatures have no specific advice on this matter, but we suspect the answer lies in using creativity and boldness in some small, but powerful way. Here’s how some ordinary people were expressing their creativity and boldness in 1967: A guy called Jimi Hendrix used his guitar to mesmerize millions of people into making love and peacing out. A dude called Evel Knievel got angry and jumped over 16 cars on his motorcycle, proving it’s better to be Evel than Evil. And a band called The Beatles released an album called “Magical Mystery Tour,” inspiring millions to go seek…magic and mystery.

Text by Howard Collinge- The Unique Creatures 

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