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In one episode of The Simpsons, Homer buys an old ambulance from the 1960s (I think). This is very vague in my memory, but at some point, somebody says something along the lines of:

Many hippies were denied service in this ambulance!

Does this refer to some sort of real issue in the 1960s USA where hippies were not picked up by ambulances when hurt? If so, why would this be? Am I not understanding something obvious? Does it have something to do with them using drugs so often that they were "not taken seriously" or something? That's my only guess.

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  • It's possible that this was due to drug abuse, real or suspected. Hippies were regarded as vagrants and criminals. In modern or any times times if ambulance crews think they're going to be beaten up, they're understandably less likely to help. And sometimes suspected drug or drink-generated incidents are treated as a lower priority than non-substance abuse related incidents. Add in a more judgmental attitude to people who dress unconventionally and it's not that surprising that this happened.
    – Ne Mo
    Feb 22 at 10:10
  • I think the underlying motivation was fear of AIDS . Much less was known about it then so due to ignorance and/or caution , I expect there were injustices. Feb 22 at 21:37
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    @blacksmith37 The heyday of the hippies were the 60s and 70s. HIV/AIDS wasn't known about until the 1980s en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV%2FAIDS#Discovery Feb 22 at 23:29
  • @DaveGremlin - I mean, they're not wrong that there was a lot of ignorance about it in the 1960's. :-)
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 23 at 1:38
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    @blacksmith37 AIDS didn't exist as a known disease until the mid 1980s, 20 years after this supposedly happened.
    – jwenting
    Feb 23 at 10:50

1 Answer 1

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You have to realize that The Simpsons is a comedy show and, like The Onion, derives a lot of its societal comedy from extrapolating weird existing situations to extreme ends.

Back in the 1960's, before the courts made it illegal, a lot of shops would refuse to serve patrons of color and anyone else they considered socially undesirable. Top of that "anyone else" list was usually "Hippies", which generally meant men with long hair, women wearing jeans, and everyone generally attired in hippie fashion.

This attitude is documented in the 1971 song Signs, by Five Man Electrical Band:

And the sign said "Long-haired freaky people
Need not apply"
So I tucked my hair up under my hat
And I went in to ask him why
He said "You look like a fine upstanding young man
I think you'll do"
So I took off my hat, I said "Imagine that
Huh! Me workin' for you!"

It would of course be both appalling and a violation of the common medical oaths for a professional to refuse emergency treatment to someone because of their social position. That doesn't mean it didn't happen (it certainly did with people of color). But the joke here is that an ambulance service was doing it with "hippies" too.

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  • I recall signs in store fronts" No Shoes, No Shirts, No Service"
    – justCal
    Feb 22 at 15:47
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    @justCal - Variants of those still exist, and are still legit I believe for public heath reasons. However, it shouldn't be lost on anyone that they date back to courts upholding the Civil Rights act, and disproportionally hit the poor (which in much of the South meant the local black population), and probably Hippies.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 22 at 15:49
  • My sister had that 45rpm single!! Feb 22 at 19:49
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    "before the courts made it illegal": the Civil Rights Act was not a decision of any court. It is an act of congress. (Also, some of the shops that refused to serve people of color did so, regardless of any personal opinion about social undesirability, because state law required it. And even after the Civil Rights Act was passed, they retain the right to discriminate on grounds that are not protected by the act.)
    – phoog
    Feb 22 at 19:53
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    Pointing to a US Civil Rights law's passage as the date a civil right was fully available is an oversimplification that has the unfortunate effect of being overly generous to those who were fighting against said Civil Rights. I think its fair to say such figures deserve no such generosity.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 22 at 20:01

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