THE ABSURD TIMES
This guy could never have been elected in the 60s or 70s, but maybe he could have given Ronald Reagan a run for it. I was able to meet people like Abbie Hoffman and all his incarnations, Tom Hayden, saw Lenny Bruce live, collaborated briefly with Severn Darden, and so on. Electing the host of the Gong Show was simply out of the question. Today, well, we elected the host of the Apprentice, so who knows?
Some time ago, someone said that the 60s was a great time, and early 70s. Having lived though it, I disagreed. Now, looking back, perhaps we need it again. After all, Gretchen Carlson was born in the 60s, so she missed them entirely. Maybe she woke up during Ronald's Rule? Seems like it.
Well, who remembers that? Most people today weren't even born then, except Gretchen. I knew some older people who could talk about Herbert Hoover (a chicken in every pot) and others who like FDR who repaired the country after the big businesses ruined it. He used ideas from Eugene Debs and other Socialists to do so. Corporations have been trying to undo what he accomplished ever since, but there have been impediments.
These big businesses managed to keep Henry Wallace from being Vice President during FDR's last term, but that wasn't enough for them. Wallace would have been an excellent President, for the people that is, but not for big business. Truman ran instead and these forces tried to get even him out with John Dewey. It didn't work.
Still, I don't remember any of this. I know Eisenhower became President, but it didn't matter much. I do remember he said "moreover," a great deal, but that's about it. No, the first President I was really aware of was JFK and that was because I grew up in Chicago and helped get him elected (I couldn't vote, but I could sure mark up ballots so they would be disqualified – just doing my bit, don't you know?) Yes, that precinct was heavily Republican. Too many Swedes, I think the story was. I'm not sure. Anyway, I did know that Nixon was evil.
In fact, I knew that because I heard the debates of the radio and I am one of the few that think Kennedy made more sense than Nixon on the radio, beard or no beard.
Still, it didn't mean that much, but I did get very tired of people talking about Jackie. Like, who cared? I wasn't a big fan of the kids, either. I wasn't able to vote yet anyway. Instead, I was busy during the summer playing semi-pro baseball, pretending I was Dizzy Dean, and making enough money to go to college. Well, things there were strange too.
First off, they offered a scholarship. I could get free tuition, live in the athlete's dorm, free food, and show up for practice and games 4 to 5 hours a day. One thing, however, no playing semi-pro anymore because you were no longer an amateur. Well, I thought about it. One the one hand, I could play 5-6 games in the summer and make enough money to pay room and board and tuition, live off campus, not have to sleep in the same room with these cretins for the entire year, or I could take their scholarship. I said "Fuck no," and that was that. No school spirit at all, I'm afraid. They sent me a booklet from the fraternity council and it has a list of THINGS THEY WERE NO LONGER ALLOWED TO DO. Man, like such creativity. What do they do now? Nope, no fraternal spirit either, I'm afraid.
Anyway, back to the world. Since I've had enough, you might as well hear all about it.
I was in my seat, waiting for the 1:00 class to begin, a class entirely on the plays of George Bernard Shaw, when someone came in with a transistor radio, put it on the desk, while it announced that JFK had been assassinated. Yes, it was shocking. Even more frightening was when one girl said, "Shit, that means Lyndon Johnson is President?" That was a bad idea.
The Vietnam War started, as I had expected and people on the BBC were predicting. (Short wave was helpful back then. It provided a way to hear news and information from other countries without any concern for the U.S. Did you know that the first female newscaster I ever heard was on Radio Moscow? I found that interesting at the time.)
Waking up Politically
Anyway, the next election featured Barry Goldwater, fan of the John birch Society, as opposed to Lyndon Johnson. Johnson said he didn't think we should be fighting a war in Vietnam. Goldwater said we should "Bomb them into the stone age." I though that was a clear choice and I voted for him (and felt guilty about it a year afterwards). There was a television show I was able to watch during the election called THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS, and it had people saying things like "You Americans think we in Britain know nothing about what it would be like to have a Barry Goldwater as President. Well, you're wrong, we had one, only his name was Oliver Cromwell."
[Here we have to digress. John Milton became Cromwell's Latin Secretary and that was an important position in those days. Milton went on to write PARADISE LOST. This is important because the Bible is Gods version of what happened. Why does the Devil have his own book? Well, the first two books of Paradise Lost are his. If you see used copies of the book, notice that the first two books are very well read. The rest, not so.]
The show made Goldwater look like an ass, but at the time (I found this out much later) Hillary Clinton was a supporter. In any case, the supporter of the John Birch Society, a fanatic anti-communist group, Mr. Koch senior, bought the time of the show from NBC and put it off the air. Still, Goldwater lost.
As soon as he was elected, LBJ started to get read to go to real war with Vietnam. JFK had 20K troops there, all volunteers, and was thinking of getting them out. It was time for me to start doing some research (something nobody did back then unless it was for a term paper). It turned out that Vietnam had been at war for at least a thousand years, we only got in when the French gave up the idea a stupid, and JFK seemed to think it was stupid to stay there so the CIA probably was involved in killing him off, but for some reason LBJ liked it (or he was afraid he would be knocked off next). He was a very easy person to hate back then.
Then, they had a system of involuntary servitude called "selective service" which is commemorated in the song Alice's Restaurant by Arlo Guthrie. The John Birch Society is commemorated by Dylan and a group called the Goldcoast Singers. Even I was writing songs. What people don't get today is that the Tea Party is supported by the sons of this Koch, Charles Koch.
Then the revolution began. Civil Rights, Anti-War, supposedly drugs, sex and rock, but really, rock is too noisy (Miles Davis was better) and girls were not that easy. By 1968, McCarthy had challenged Johnson in the primary and we were all supporting him.
LBJ resigned, but Kennedy was still reticent. Anyway, Gene McCarthy had a better sense of humor as well. When RFK looked like he was getting popular, however, and after it really seemed that he had evolved, after he made the speech about the killing of Martin Luther King, and he won California, the powers that were decided he was a real threat. Hubert was still running as well.
The convention was insane. No, we were not inside, we were in Grant Park and elsewhere. Some of the cops I recognized – they had been gang members in my old high school, but they were ok. It was the older ones, about 30 or so years old that were vicious. It seemed they couldn't stand seeing the pretty girls next to the scrawny hippie types and really went after them. Abbie did all sorts of things to go wild and when he got tired of seeing his face in the news, I helped him write FUCK on his forehead. Somehow, it came off, and he did it again in a mirror (which didn't work for anyone except Abbie).
Norman Mailer was there to make a speech and then said he felt like a coward to go off to write his column. He was encouraged to go write. The National guard was cheered when they showed up to relieve the Chicago Police. Daley had given the order to "shoot to maim and kill", so higher powers took over. Or so it seemed. I asked a few Precinct Captains and Ward Committeemen why they had resigned a few months ago and got the same answer from every on of the "Aw, da guy started ta believe the shit he had been saying like he was really da boss, ya know?" I assured them I knew.
So who come back with a plan to end the war? Nixon! Give us a break. Not him. His idea was to bomb not only Vietnam, but Cambodia, Laos, and wherever he could. That was Henry's idea. "Dr. Kissinger," to you. Later on, much later on, I was treating a vet of the "secret" war in Cambodia (he kept saying he could not tell me about it because I would be killed and he would be killed. He was surprised I was able to tell him about it. Of course, I did not know he was captured and that they pulled out his fingernails) who could not stop drinking. He had his house stocked with guns, however. (Yes, he had a license and anybody that complained would get THEIR fingernails pulled out, I suppose.) Suffering has its limits, however, and he finally killed himself. He did not get a single bit of help from our government. Also, many immigrants joined our armed forces, served, and are now facing deportation. They became people, not property.
At this point, I find myself wondering "Who cares?" A profound philosophical question. Stupidity and inequity seem to be bound up together with humaqn beings, Not even "seem to be," are. No way around it.
So perhaps the only meaning if life is whatever fun we can get out of it. Of course, with fun, is punishment. The two are bound together. If you are enjoying yourself, you will eventually be punished for it. Thos who are called pessimists and misanthropes cannot be. Otherwise, they would not bother to waste on single bit of energy talking or writing anything about how bad things were. They have to be able to envision something better in order to even consider saying anything about it.
It seems the FBI has become a secret society of left-wing radicals if you believe the Republicans. It is difficult to realize how strange this sounds, especially if you know a bit about their history, a very strange history.
It was started by FDR (who ran for President to "save my friends from themselves" during the depression) to fight organized crime. People like John Dillinger and Al Capone and J. Edgar Hoover was appointed head, or Directory. He insisted on a clean-cut look. Of course, Organized crime of those days was not very organized and the outlaws became legends. Baby Face Nelson was there too.
Later on, organized crime became more organized and orderly. It became more like a corporate business. The Godfather is pretty accurate, especially Godfather II. About the same time, a bit later, the syndicate or the Mafia, choose your own name, caught on that J. Edgar Hoover like to dress up in his mother's underwear and chase his male secretary around the room and play with him. When confronted with this, Hoover had to find other targets. He found COMMUNISM! No body else has, but he did.
He tapped Martin Luther King's phone, Malcolm X's phone, just about anyone else's. He got around to tapping many phones. The best proof of this was when a comedian who ran for Mayor of Chicago, Dick Gregory had his phone tapped. How did he know? As he said "Anytime a black man in this country can owe $18,000 in phone bills and they don't but off service, you know it's tapped!"
He also made me thing it was safe to fly. Inflation has hit to make this line seem less funny, but it was ""I'm not afraid to fly. In a capitalist country where an airplane costs three million dollars, you know it's safe." And it was.
During LBJ: LBJ actually did many good things such as Medicare, the Voting Rights act, and so on, ever an immigration law that made it illegal to discriminate on immigrants on basis of COUNTRY OF ORIGIN (I wonder what has happened to that law?). But it was hard to think about help at age 65 when you were 18 and didn't not think living past 1984 was likely. He was asked why he didn't fire J. Edgar Hoover, and there were two reasons: 1) LBJ enjoyed reading about the sex lives of other politicians and 2) "I'd rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in". It was the first time I'd heard that phrase.
So, when I had friends in the SDS I told them to be careful on the phone because it was probably tapped. They would not believe me. I asked if the phone sounded very clear and clean, no interference? They would say yes. So I would tell them it was certainly tapped, no doubt about it. They still didn't believe me. So, I decided to prove it. I told the leader, Garry (the one who applied for P.O. Statues with the Draft Board, (you mean C.O., don't you?" "No P.O. I'll fight for the other side") to call me at 8 next night and be prepared to follow along.
It was in a town with a train that passed through with a fire station on the North Side. At about 2 AM, a train would pass though and totally block one of the passages between north and south. The only way left was under a viaduct. That train sat there for abut and hour or two, every Thursday night. So that's the day I had him call. Of course, I'd told him to check the are out the night before, just to make sure. I had 20 bucks riding on this.
Ok, so he calls. We talk a bit, and then I say "Ok, the plan is set"
"It is? How's it going down?"
"Easy, you got the trucks ready to block the viaduct?"
"Yeah, so what?"
"Ok, now, you know the train will block the main crossway and the only way is the viaduct. The Fire Station is one the north side, so you pick me up along 4th street, just about 6 blocks South. Be there about 1:45."
He plays along and says "So what gonna happen?"
"Here's what's gone happen, man. Aquarius has his bomb for the Legion Hall and Leo is ready with his at the High School. They will be there about 2. Now, when the train parks, we go to the viaduct, block it, about 2:15 the bombs go off, and we are out of there. Total destruction! Man, it'll be great. We already got a sign hung on the civil war cannon saying NO MORE VIETNAM!! Cool?"
"Yeah, I'll be there."
So, when the time came, he picked me up, and we drove by there at about 2:10 and, sure enough, the train had blocked the street as we pulled up to the viaduct. And there, sitting there in a black Oldsmobile, were two well-dressed men, overcoats, jackets and ties, Fedora hats, sitting there. They looked mean and very alert. I asked Gary "Are you convinced?"
He handed me the $20 Bill and we simply drove by. Of course his phone was taped.
RFK made Hoover report to him, not to JFK. That's why he had to go, especially when it looked like he had a chance to be nominated and become President. That would have been the end of Hoover.
They had a lot to do in Watergate too, but that's old news.
They question for today is, how did the FBI suddenly turn into a den of lefties? And after years of Republicans telling us what a threat Russia was, how did they become friends of sorts and attacked so often by Democrats?