Posts Tagged ‘1960’s’

Dr. King remembered

January 18, 2019

I was a white boy growing up in the deep south.

In my life, 1951 . . .  a vivid memory stands out: the remembrance of this brave man:

MLKing

. . . his life, his work, his service to mankind, his leadership in the perilous project of fulfilling our Creator’s call to

. . . bring good news to the afflicted, . . . to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to prisoners . . . (Isaiah 61:1)

In my lifetime, I can think of no other American who demonstrated greater courage than Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He persisted tirelessly in the sacred call to blaze a trail of opportunity for oppressed people. He persevered in the face of certain death, as he fully understood the vengeful opposition of other men–white and black–who  ultimately took him down.

The name assigned to him at birth, King, was appropriate, as he went on to conduct the life of a true leader, a born leader, an orator, an organizer who truly fulfilled  the declaration of our nation’s founding principles:

 We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,  that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In my lifetime, I can recall no other person who more deserves annual remembrance during a national holiday. Although he had his faults, his own sins as we all do,  he was a man of whom this world was not worthy.  In this world, he helped God and fellowman to “make a way where there is no way.” He blazed a trail toward that “equal” status mentioned by Mr. Jefferson and the Continental Congress when they composed our Declaration back in 1776.

I looking forward to meeting Dr. King in heaven, or whatever you call it. Many years ago, I wrote this song about him and an ancient leader named Moses:

Mountaintop

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Change is Gonna Come

October 19, 2018

Some wise person said a fish wouldn’t know (s)he was out of water until it actually happened. When the angler yanked the critter up the into air, the fish would immediately know that something had gone terribly wrong.

I think our situation in modern life is a little bit like that. In our present media-engulfed life, we humans are so totally immersed in electronic media that we would feel disoriented and panicky if we were suddenly jerked out of it—like a fish out of water.

Some might even suffer withdrawals.

Nowadays some social critics among us complain about the dumming-down effects of twitter and facebook, and all that other blahblah googlifief also-ran flimflam that’s floating around in the datafied air of 2018.

Back in the day, during the adolescent phases of my baby boomer generation, people romanticized about the fact that we were the first generation to get raised up with a tv in the living room and therefore a boob-tube mindset. Whoopdee doo that we had pop-culture and instant gratification on the brain instead of the traditional 1-2-3 and a-b-c worldview of previous generations. No wonder we fantasized that we could change the world. We were walking around in the first-ever TV-generated dream world.

Actually, some of us did change the world. Those guys who were mastering their calculus and fortran instead of doping up—they managed to hatch out a totally electronic data tsunami that has since commandeered our attention and maximized our compulsive fascination with constant entertainment distractions and rampant twitt-faced narcissism.

Along with some real information, of course. There’s always both bad and good in any changes that are gonna come.

A  generation before us in the timeline, it was another set of emergent media wonders that were transforming the world of the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. Our parents’ generation also grew up with a revolutionary media box in the living room and the dashboard—radio. They had Roosevelt’s fireside chats, Glenn Miller, Amos n’ Andy,  and Orson Wells’ terribly realistic radio depiction of us being invaded by extraterrestrial aliens.

But radio was no TV. Radio was about hearing. TV was like a whole new, artificial world of hearing AND seeing.

The rate of change, accelerating in the TV age, has exponentially accelerated and intensified with the coming of the electr(on)ic internet, 21st-century version.

A few years ago, I undertook a writing project to express some of the angst of the boomer generation that I grew up in.

Because I had graduated from high school and then entered college in 1969, my novel, King of Soul,  turned out to be mainly about the elephant-in-the-room issue of my g -generation’s historical  era—the Vietnam war.

But that war was far from being the only issue that we Americans had to deal with.

LittleRock

In struggling to depict—and even to somehow reconcile—the great divide between them that went and us who did not go to Vietnam, I embarked on a research project to learn how the Vietnam war had started and how it escalated to become such an overarching generational crisis. My g-generation was torn apart because of what all took place over there as a result of our tragic illusion.  We thought we could, with our high-tech way of doing things, show a country of undeveloped farmers how to expel the communists.

We learned a very hard lesson. It was tragic, what happened.

While the world had worked a certain way during the Big War, when we ran the Nazis back into their holes, something had sure as hell changed by the 1960’s.

The old tactics of massive military push against jungle guerrillas did not work.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, the kids didn’t wanna have to go over there and do Lyndon’s dirty work.

The anti-war movement’s seemingly sudden organizational strength in 1967 was no mere happenstance. Those activists who devised a widespread effective resistance against the war had learned the hard facts of life from a previous protest movement—the Civil Rights movement.

It took a while for the anti-war movement to get its act together. But when they finally did, it was because of a hard lesson that had been learned by black folks down in dixie.

In the Freedom Summer of 1964, a widespread collection of honky activist youth suddenly showed up down in the Segregated South to help the black folk get organized for voting and organizing real societal change. There in the historical shadow of the old defeated, slave-slappin’ South, wide-eyed yankee students got a fierce reality check. Their rose-colored glasses were left broken on the blood-stained grounds of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, when they saw what violence and oppression the racist Establishment was inflicting on people of color.

Right here in Amerika, it was. Land of the free? and home of the brave!

A wake-up call it was. Based on what them wide-eyed college kids from up Nawth encountered when they got down here, they got a severe reality check. Stopping the war in Vietnam  would be no walk in the park. There was bad shit going down right here in the good ole USA, just like in the rice paddies of Vietnam.

If the peaceniks wanted to get us out of Vietnam, they would have to get organized, and maybe even pick up some heavier-duty tactics . . . civil disobedience.

Meanwhile, there were a few blacks who were doing alright. Sam Cooke was one of them.

During the early 1960’s, Sam was a very successful singer-songwriter. Most of his tunes were soulishly romantic and swingy. He had a knack of finding the best in everything he wrote about. With an admirable optimism that shone forth in all his song-work, Sam managed somehow to spread good will and positive attitude everywhere he went, in spite of all the tough changes that were going down.

Some may have thought Sam to be an uncle tom, because he didn’t get angry.

But Sam Cooke—even though he celebrated optimism and good attitude—was no uncle tom.

He was not a “house nigga.”

Here’s a song that expresses Sam’s feeling about the societal changes that he felt needed to happen in the USA in the mid-1960’s.  After his death in 1964, this composition was released posthumously on the B-side of a single record called Shake, and also on an album by the same name.

Here’s the tune, A Change Is Gonna Come:

     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wEBlaMOmKV4

And here’s my version:

    Sam’s Change Is Gonna Come

As we geezers have seen in our lifetime, change did indeed come.

But some things will remain the same.

Here’s a truth that always remains: Change is gonna come, like it or not.

When it does, may the change be with you, and . . . may you be with the change, if it is good.

If it’s not good, go listen to some of Sam’s old hit songs and get an attitude adjustment. Maybe you can learn to deal with it as he did—with a good attitude.

King of Soul

The Justice/Righteousness Struggle

April 9, 2018

Maybe it’s because I studied philosophy in college many years ago. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the deep south in the 1950’s-60’s. Maybe it’s because I was raised Catholic and then, at the age of 27 turned to the “born again” approach to spiritually.

Maybe it’s because I, like Jacob of old, have had to wrestle with God before I could let him into my way of thinking and doing. Maybe it’s because of Moses, or Paul, or Jesus himself that I had this wrestling session yesterday. For whatever reason, I spent yesterday, Sunday, wrestling with God.

Not literally, of course, but mentally, spiritually.

Let me try to explain this.

On Saturday evening, my wife and I shared an evening meal, and several hours,  with a small group of friends whom we have known and loved for a long time, since the early 1980’s. We are, as they say, Christians.

These are people with whom we have, on a regular basis, gathered, prayed, worked, laughed and cried, for most of our adult life. We have all raised our now-adult children together and released them into the great wild world.

My struggle yesterday was precipitated by an ethical dilemma. The problem was working through my mind all day because our host friend had shown us a video link. The half-hour online presentation introduced to us—and to the world, generally— a work of ministry that is being carried out by our hosts’ son-in-law, whose life and struggle is being worked out in his chosen hometown, Ferguson, Missouri.

In the video, Jonathan “JT” Tremaine presents some historical information along with some gospel enlightenment, and he then goes on to explain his vision for justice that is linked to a Christian call to righteousness.

As I ruminated all yesterday (Sunday) on what Jonathan had said, and the images he displayed, I became perplexed while wondering about this thorny question:

Just what the hell is justice anyway?

Is it equality instead of inequality? Is it income redistribution? How does this monumental concept of justice really play out in history, American history?

For many blacks, that idea of “justice” is defined largely by what color of skin a cop sees on the face of some citizen that he is trying to protect, or . . . protect himself against.

And how does justice relate to this “righteousness” thing that we so-called evangelicals like to claim for ourselves?

These are the two primary points—justice and righteousness—that JT raises in his podcast, and in his ministry in Ferguson, Missouri, which he calls “Meet me in Ferguson.”

For many people, especially honkies, neither of these issues is any big deal. Yet that unawareness—that insensitivity— is part of the problem.

The bottom line I’m working toward here is this. Both of these issues—justice and righteousness—are very important issues that we Americans must address if we are going to move forward in our great, historical experiment with democracy.

As the Hebrew prophet of old, Amos, presented a challenge to his people—and to all people throughout history. . .

“Let justice roll down like the waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream!”

This is a message of many prophets of old, and many modern prophets as well, such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks . . .

And Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

MLK1

And Dr. Billy Graham.

BillyG

Say what? Billy Graham? What’s he got to do with social justice?

You probably didn’t know that back in the 1950’s, Billy Graham insisted that the ropes be removed—the ropes separating blacks and whites at his very own gospel crusades. And when racist ushers of that day refused to do it, Billy himself did remove the damned things. So that blacks and whites could, together, participate in the work of bringing in not only righteousness, but also justice.

And we are, y’all, still working on it.

Let Jonathan JT explain. This thing goes way back . . .

  https://www.facebook.com/meetmeinferguson/videos/618272528508148/UzpfSTE3ODQxMTQ5ODg1Njc2NDoxODI4MzQ4NjE3MTk2MzY5/

I’ll finish this struggle session with a song:

Mountaintop

Boomers’ Choice (reprise)

February 17, 2018

Is this world screwed up or what?

Tell me about it.

Nevertheless, there may be reason enough to find happiness,

contentment fulfillment and all that stuff

in the silver lining that highlights those dark clouds.

We baby boomers do have a choice, you know,

about whether to cry in our beer

or find cause enough to rejoice while

we’re here on planet earth.

Have a listen:

Boomers’ Choice:

Well, the boys came marching home from Germany and France

and the bomb had made a blast in in Hiroshima.

We were driving brand new cars; we were waving

stars and bars

and everywhere was another factory.

Back in 1953,

cruising with Dwight E.,

Elvis sang the whiteboy blues,

McCarthy looking under every bush.

In the home of the brave and the free

rolling on prosperity

and all the kids were going off to school.

57ChevF

Ten years down the road

another dream had come and gone

and the power of one gun had made itself known.

Back in 1964

big Lyndon opened the door

for civil rights and a bloody Asian war—

LBJ&McNa

young men on porkchop hill

young women on the pill.

At home they said don’t kill;

get a psychedelic thrill.

But the dreams of a woodstock nation

were just an imagination

when the boys came trudging home in ’73.

So it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home

and its hie hie hey, seeking light in the night of day:

the dreams of a woodstock nation

were just an imagination

when the boys came trudging home in ’73.

Well, it just don’t pay to sob;

guess I’ll get myself a job

selling leisure suits, maybe real estate.

I’m not moving very fast,

just waiting in line for gas

and Johnny Carson gives me all my news.

Back in 1976,

overcoming dirty tricks,

some were moving back to the sticks;

some were looking for a fix.

Ayatollahs on the rise

sulfur dioxide in the skies

and the system makes the man that’s got his own.

They say an elephant won’t forget;

let’s play another set.

There’s always another ghost on pac-man’s tail.

Don’t let this boom go stale.

Let’s find an airline for sale

or pop another tape in the VCR.

Back in 1989,

we’re living on borrowed time

getting lost in subtle sin

eating oat bran at the gym.

But there’s an empty place inside

and I was wondering why

these vanities don’t suit.

I’m going back to the gospel truth.

And it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home

and it’s hie hie hey, seeking light in the night of day;

There’s an empty place inside and I was wondering why.

These vanities don’t suit;

I’m going back to the gospel truth.

Put on your Sarejevo, Mogadishu, Kalishnikov and Columbine shoes,

for the way is treacherous with ruts and rocks.

Yeah, we figured out digits out

before that Y2K could spoil our rout,

but that 9/11 call was in the cards.

Did you consider the question of heaven

before the wreck of ’07?

EdselOld

Will you hear the trumpet call

from the Ancient of Days.

Our way is littered with freaks and fads

from Baghdad through our mouse pads

as the reaper swings his steely scythe

across our wicked ways.

And it’s hey hey ho is there anybody home?

And it’s hie hie hey, seeking light of day.

It’s a dangerous place outside

and I was wondering why.

This world don’t give a hoot;

I’m going back to the gospel truth.

  King of Soul

Minnie Meets Mantra

December 17, 2017

Back there in the baby boomer timeline long about 1967, we were informed that George Harrison had made the trek to India.

As a consequence of that Beatle lead guitarist’s visitation to the the ancient land, the strange soundings of sitar were suddenly showered upon our young and tender rockn’roll sensibilities. When the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album burst into our consciousness, the musical world changed forever.

George’s exotic Within You and Without You chant  on the album featured a multilayered montage of multi-chromatic musical exploration unlike anything we had ever heard.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q2dMSfmUJec

And ’twas no accident that on the same LP John Lennon’s lyrical odyssey within and through the Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds metaphor turned our thrill-seeking minds toward previously unexperienced states of druggish space travel.

Subsequently in our baby boomer history, the legendary Sgt Pepper’s went down as a landmark in our freakin’ freefall toward collective short-lived synthetic nirvana.

Now we all know that all that flower power psychedelica and counterculture cannabishia  later disappeared into hippie hokum smokem when most of us finally grew up in the ’70’s and learned, like our parents and grandparents before us, how to work for a living, raise children and have a good time without depending on the lysergics and cannabis for our inspiration.

Meanwhile, life happened while we were waiting for something else to happen. The years fly by; even whole centuries pass into oblivious forgetfulness as we dreaded the world falling apart at Y2K and then it actually did, or began to, blow apart at 9/11.

As it turned out In the aftermath of the 1960’s, corporate America appropriated ’60’s blooming garmenture, cleaned it up and sharpened the edges into managably rebellious fashion, while the 8-miles-high music of our juvenility morphed unpredictably into disco, new country, punkish angst and new wave whatevah.

Now the full extent of Establishment America commandeering our trend-setting rebellious impulses was brought to my attention a day or two ago when I happened to witness this scene at Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

SitarDisn3 - 1

Minnie meets the raga in a theme park! Go figure.

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1tPFomrlUI

I never thought I’d see the day . . . I mean, this is some serious change, bro, no Mickey Mouse stuff. Are you trackin’ with me, dude?

I guess I never took my rose-colored glasses off after all.

King of Soul 

Your mother would know

March 19, 2017

Well goll-ee.

Lights

Let’s all get up and wave to a tune that was a hit soon after your mother was born;

though she was born a long long time ago,

your mother would know;

your mother would know.

And your grandmother

and your father and your grandfather.

AlbertJohn

Uncle Albert would know it too– Uncle Albert Schram, who conducted the orchestra last night.

You see him here in the background of this alternative-fact unauthorized photo.

In fact, Albert knows those old Beatles tunes so very thoroughly. He conducted the Charlotte Pops through an incredibly rousing symphonic accompaniment last night.  I could hardly believe it.

Take the infamous John Lennon composition Day in the Life piece, for instance. It’s on Sergeant Pepper’s.

When I first heard that strange finale in 1967, my sixteen-year-old mind didn’t know what to make of it.

Whatever it meant or did not mean (we were all wondering), it signaled that the Beatles had turned a huge corner in their musical development, from pop-music fab-four phenom to . . . ???

“. . . found my way upstairs and had a smoke. Somebody spoke and I went into a dream, Ohhhh, oh oh ohhhh. . .”

Now in 2017, it means. . .hell, I don’t know what it means.

That such a cacophonic  cadence as that Day in the Life finale could actually be orchestrally performed was amazing to me last night. All these years, I thought it was just Brian Epstein’s  or George Martin’s studio tricks.

Tony Kishman, the musician who fulfills the Paul McCartney role, pointed out that John, Paul, George and Ringo had never done this with a live symphony back in the day when they were in their heyday. Pretty interesting, I thought. Now their aged Sgt. Pepper’s studio wizardry has morphed into this phenomenal “tribute” event performed by an incredibly talented Beatles-tribute band. And however many hundreds or thousands of us geezers were enthusiastically waving our lit-up phones while singing.

“Naa naa naa, na na na naa, na na na nah, Hey Jude!”

“Take a sad song and make it better. . .”

Take an old song, and make it rock again . . . is what these guys do, the Classical Mystery Tour (they call themselves) along with our jubilant audience-participle thronging of us when-I-get-older-losing-my-hair baby boomers. I mean it was, like, so far out man.

Just how many 64-year-olds there were waving their devices and singing Hey Jude in that theatre last night, I do not know. But I can tell you this. A rocking good time was had by all, including the band. Just some good clean fun, y’all.

Tony also said something to us that, as he so poignantly pointed out, Paul had never said to a Beatles audience.  “Visit our website.”

Haha! Ain’t it the truth. Who’d have thunk it, that all this stuff would happen since those halcyon smoky days of yore.

    http://www.classicalmysterytour.com/

But hey, life goes on. Times change, and most of us get a little stuck in our minds back in that time of unsure discovery when we passed through teendom while wearing bell-bottoms, wondering who Lucy in the Sky was. And if you’re have trouble remembering the ’60’s, it’s probably because. . .

Never mind. Beneath the surface, something very special was always going on.

PianoPaul

Underneath it all, such a time as that had never happened before, nor would ever again.

But this is true even now; its part of the mystery tour of this life. Our kids will never view it, nor comprehend it, the same way we did. Nor could we see it the way our parents did.

Our parents had grown up in the 1930’s with Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington, Louie Armstrong and George Gershwin, and that was all well and good and they did their thing.

That greatest generation–who then grew up to  fight the Nazis back into their holes back in the 1940’s–that generation came back from the Big War, started generating us boomers like there’s no tomorrow. And at some point in the ’60’s, there was indeed some serious question about whether there would BE a tomorrow, because Khruschev and Kennedy almost blew the whole damn world up over those alternative-fact nukes down in Cuba.

When we boomers came along, the old War–the one they call WWII–was so intense, and still fresh in our parents’ memory and experience. But it was just history-book stuff for us. As John had sung:

“I read the news today, oh boy, the English army had just won the war.

A crowd of people turned away, but I just had to look,

having read the book.”

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read a newspaper, or a book, or hazard a listen.

Smoke

How Future comes Present

January 11, 2017

InfoMcL

I was born and raised as a child in the 1950’s. During that unique period of history, the USA was growing in many ways. Our military infrastructure, which had been necessarily pumped up during the big war in the early 1940’s, was morphing into an expansive peacetime economy. While we had needed tanks, guns, airplanes, aircraft carriers, etc in 1943, by 1953 our nascent prosperity demanded automobiles, interstate highways, refrigerators, washing machines and all the features of what was fast becoming modern life in America.

In the midst of all that economic expansion and life-changing technology, television entered the picture in a big way.

My g-generation was the first to grow up with TV, and this made a big difference in the way we thought and felt about everything. Now no one really knew what to expect of us baby boomers, because there never had been before, in the history of the world, a generation of kids who grew up with that lit-up screen projecting the world into everybody’s living room.

So the old folks, most notably Lyndon Johnson, were taken by surprise when, in the 1960’s, half the kids had no interest in carrying on with the capitalistic crusades of previous generations. We had not lived through that earlier time–the 1940’s–in which the USA’s “greatest generation” had shed blood and sweated blood and shed tears for the purpose of defeating national socialism and fascism in the world.

Furthermore, we grew up with a TV in the living room, and that changed everything.

Now our children–the X-er’s, the millenials, etc–are manifesting a similar sea-change, as they are growing up, and have grown up, in the age of the internet. So it seems to me that my generation, the boomers, are now carrying the burden of watching a bunch of kids come along who have a totally different worldview. While we were natives of the TV age, they are natives of the Online age.

Now the question in my mind is, how will they be different from us?

During the past year or so, I have been studying the historical time in which I grew up, while at the same living in the present, and seeking to understand the times in which our three children (now in their thirties)  have grown up.

My research led me to consider the work of Marshall McLuhan.

If you don’t know who he is, but you are wondering, google it.

For the sake of simplicity in this presentation, I will say that he accurately figured out, early on, a few things about the effects of TV and radio on my generation. He was prescient, which means he could see where things were headed, where history was taking us, into a wide world of information exploration. Here is an example of what I’m talking about.

On May 8, 1966, while being interviewed by Robert Fulford on Canadian Broadcasting, Marshall McLuhan described future communication* in this way:

“Instead of going out and buying a packaged book of which there have been five thousand copies printed, you will go to the telephone, describe your interests, your needs, your problems, and say you’re working on a history of Egyptian arithmetic. You know a bit of Sanskrit, you’re qualified in German, and you’re a good mathematician, and they say it will be right over. And they at once xerox, with the help of computers from the libraries of the world, all the latest material just for you personally, not as something to be put on a bookshelf. They send you the package as a direct personal service. This is where we’re heading under electronic information conditions. Products are increasingly becoming services.”

*quoted from page 101 of : Understanding Me, lectures and interviews, Marshall McLuhan; ed. Stephanie McLuhan and David Staines, with foreword by Tom Wolfe

The above quote was spoken presciently by Marshall McLuhan in 1966.

Now, in 2017, here is my revision of his statement, according to how his prediction has actually played out:

Instead of opening the Encyclopedia, you will use your electronic device to key in a word or phrase for your search. You may refine the search including a keyword about, for instance,  the history of rocket science. The online services know that: you have an interest in physics, you’ve got a BA level of information usage, and you can lean on your device for any calculations necessary. In the blinking of an eye, the search results pops up on your screen. You choose, let’s say, the Wikipedia link for starters, because you know the site’s sources are populated by researchers and their databases all over the world. Then you get to pick and choose which linked info you want to include in your own work. This is where we have evolved to under “electronic information conditions.” Information has become both a product and a service.

If you compare McLuhan’s prediction with my interpretation of how this has played out in the real world of 2017, the textual exercise could be instructive about how history actually develops, as compared to how we think it might unfold: close, perhaps, but not exact.

And here’s something to ponder.  About nineteen and a half centuries ago, Paul of Tarsus wrote:

“For now, we see through a glass, darkly.”

Which to me means: we can formulate educated guesses about what the future holds, but the picture is not clear to us. So, what else is new?  It’s up to you to find out. My experience says this could take a lifetime of learning.

King of Soul

America Bleeding

November 7, 2016

In the middle of my teenage years, back in the day, I was a high school student. On the other side of the city where I grew up, our state university provided education for thousands of students who had already matriculated to the college level of learning.

Here is a picture which I lifted, by iPhone helicoptering technology, from a book that I recently perused. The image depicts a campus walkway, circa 1965, where students are going into and out of the LSU student Union building. A few years after this photograph was snapped, I became one of those students, 1969 version, who traipsed from class to class on the campus of LSU.

LSUnionWalk

The book from which this image is lifted is linked here:

  https://www.amazon.com/Treasures-LSU-Laura-F-Lindsay/dp/0807136786

This morning, while viewing this photo as part of the research for the novel that I am now composing, I found something interesting about it. Take a look at the apparel that these students are wearing. Most of them are clothed in solid colors, which, in this photo, registers as either black or white. On almost every student whose garb depicts this black/white arrangement, the black is on the lower half of the body–the pants, or skirt part.

Considering the way Americans dress nowadays, this seems to be a boringly plain, regimented arrangement. It is, however, perhaps a little more dignified than what we might see at a typical 2016 visit to, say, Walmart, McDonald’s, or any college or university.

Notice, however, that six of these students in the picture are wearing a clothes motif that stands apart from the black/white pattern. And in every one of these six individuals, the fashion statement is the same:

Plaid.

Six students are wearing plaid.

This was a new trend in youthful clothing  during the mid-1960’s. It was, however, the beginning of a virtual tsunami of color that would be be flaunted in the coming years, in the clothes and fashions of young people. By the end of the decade, this small bursting forth of crisscrossed chromaticism would metamorphose into a riot of  self-expressive color displayed uninhibitedly on our young bodies. Thus would we baby boomers strive, in our own threadish way, to find and establish own generational identity.

My memory of this elaborative fashion development began in my eight-grade, 1964-65. The pattern retained in my mind from that time is a certain kind of plaid:

Madras.

The Madras plaid came from India, specifically a city there named Madras, which has since had its name changed to Chennai.

What was really groovy for us back in the day was that Madras plaids had an earthy, handwoven look. The fabric itself had curious little irregularities in it. . . little clumps in the thread, and variations in the weaving. The look and feel of it was a departure from the American stuff, which was obviously machine-made, bland and boring.

So we started wearing the Madras plaid in–I think it was–about 1965. This photograph seems to have captured the very inception of that style-shattering sea-change in our thread preferences.

A very attractive feature of the Madras was this: it bled.

When you washed your plaid shirt, or pants, the colors would “bleed.”

With each washing, the threaded pigments would migrate slightly out into the white regions of the fabric.

This was way-cool.

It was groovy. All that color was leaping out of the grooves of regimented style, testing the compartmentalism of society, violating the tick-tacky of conformity, even setting the stage for a fading American resolve to retain our post-WWII position as policeman of the world.

But this fashionable Madras bleeding was but a small shriveling on the torso of the American corpus writ large.

At the same time, in the mid-1960’s, America was bleeding real, red blood, and it wasn’t cool.

It was hot blood, 98.6 degrees.

America was bleeding in Vietnam.

America was bleeding in the ghettoes of the cities.

America was bleeding in Selma.

America was bleeding in Watts, in Detroit.

America would bleed in Orangeburg, at Jackson State, at Kent State.

But that was nothing new.

America had bled at  Lexington and Concord, at Yorktown.

America had long been shedding blood in the cotton fields, and at the trading blocks in New Orleans, in Charleston.

America had bled in Kansas, and at Harpers Ferry, Fort Sumter, Antietam.

America bled at Gettysburg and Appammatox.

America bled at Little Big Horn and at Wounded Knee.

America bled through the hands, the arms and backs and feet of thousands of immigrants who drove steel stakes into the railways that stretched all the way from Boston to San Francisco.

America bled at Haymarket, Chicago

America bled prolifically at Verdun, Amiens, Flanders

America hemorrhaged at Pearl Harbor, at Normandy, at the Bulge, at Iwo Jima  and Guadalcanal and Okinawa.

And America continued its bloodletting in Korea, at Inchon.

America bled at Ia Drang, at Khe Sanh,  at Saigon and Hué and Danang.

America wept bloody tears at My Lai.

America bled from Kuwait to Baghdad

America bled in Beirut and Mogadishu, and in Kosovo.

America bled at the Word Trade Center on 9/11.

America bled at Fallujah, and in Helmand, Qandahar and Kabul.

America weeps for the blood shed at Mosul and Aleppo.

America weeps, America bleeds in millions of D&C’d in uteri.

We have always been bleeding somewhere. It is the way of all flesh.

And America is still bleeding; she is bleeding now.

As to which way we will be bleeding tomorrow, that remains, until 11/9, to be seen.

Glass half-Full 

Hammer and Sickle ’65

August 23, 2016

Here’s an excerpt from chapter 5 of the new novel, King of Soul,  now being researched and written. We’re talkin’ ’bout 1965:

       The manipulations of human history had conspired to contrive a vast, geographical hook. The hook itself was forged in the shape of a country; it was a skinny little wire of a nation, slung long and slender along the 900-mile S-curve of an Asian sea strand.  Upon this seacoast hook the fearless pride of Pax Americana would be fearlessly snagged, fish-like. But the snagging ended up requiring an extremely long expedition, for the catch fought on the line for eleven years before being reeled in.

       This was Ho’s intention all along; he was a very patient angler. Ho was not a novice; he had been around the world a time or two. He’d been to London and to Paris, Hong Kong and Can-ton. He had spent part of the 1930’s in Stalin’s Russia, and had learned a thing or two by observing Uncle Joe’s tactics. Ho Chi Minh understood what it would take to get his fish on the line, and how to handle the catch once it was snagged. The expedition would take 11 years, but eventually South Vietnam was dragged up into the Viet Minh boat.

       Uncle Ho had learned a thing or two.

       Around the world, especially in defeated France and in bold America, there was talk about Ho Chi Minh—who was he and who did he think he was and what the hell was he capable of.

       Some folks never saw the hook at all. When they looked at that odd-shaped southeast Asian country on the map, it resembled something else, with its long arc curving around the western shore of the South China Sea. .  . . . maybe a domino?

       No. Vietnam was no domino; there was nothing straight nor square about the place. Nothing predictable. But we didn’t know that until much later in the game.

       The shape of Vietnam did, however, have resemblance to a sickle, like that sickle of the  infamous hammer and sickle. It was a curved blade,  hauled upon the lean, hard backs of legions of peasant laborers. As the years of the 1960’s rolled by, the sickle was forged into a weapon, to be skillfully wielded in the hands of militarized Viet Minh insurgents and Viet Cong guerillas. And that army of sickles was backed up by the persistent pounding of Uncle Ho’s communist hammer.

       Vietnam was a hammer and sickle; that’s all. It wasn’t some great domino scenario that toppled the Republic of the South during the 1960’s, ultimately rejecting President Diem and killing him, and then later ousting Thieu and Madame Nhu,  like Ho had swung up at   Dien Bien Phu.

       After the French pulled out—with tail between their legs in 1954—when  the Americans pulled in, hellbent on showin’ the world how to defeat communist incursion, it was pretty slow going for awhile. B’rer Ho Chi Fox, he lay low, waitin’ to see what  B’rer Rabbit-ears would pickup on his radio, because B’rer Rabbit did have a pretty fancy radio, and a lot of heavy equipment to back it up with, and a heap o’ ordnance to fling around with a lot of fired-up thunderations. B’rer Rabbit-ears could sho’nuff make some powerful destructions when he put his mind to it.

       By the time things got really cranked up in 1965, the man in charge of yankee warfare had come up with a plan. But there was a problem.

       The problem was an old one; stated simply, from a mathematical viewpoint, it was this: the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

       No way around it; shortest distance between Hanoi and Saigon was a straight line. But the line didn’t go through Vietnam; it went right through two other countries.

       If Uncle Ho were to set a taut insurgent line of troop transport from, say,  Hanoi to Saigon—like from the handle of the sickle to the endpoint of the sickle’s curved blade—it  would pass, not through the south part of Vietnam, but through Laos and Cambodia.

       This was a problem. It wasn’t so much  a problem for Ho—his stealthy, low-lyin’ insurgent diehards just crawled right under the rules of international proprietary expectations; they slouched through Laotian jungles and beneath Cambodian canopies like it was nobody’s business. After a while, the clandestine route they had cut for themselves was called by the name of the one who had commissioned it: the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

King of Soul

The Wisdom of Eldridge Cleaver

April 20, 2016

I am reading the book that Eldridge Cleaver published in 1978, Soul on Fire.

As I am currently writing a novel about the year 1969, my research has followed many paths of discovery about that period of time in which I was a teenager; One of the most influential dissent groups of that period was the Black Panthers. I’m not talking about the Carolina Panthers who lost this year’s super bowl to the team from Denver.

I’m talking about the militant Black Panthers, revolutionary terrorists of the 1960’s, who were infamously lead by a trio of intrepid militants: Eldridge Cleaver, Bobby Seale and Huey Newton.

During the course of Eldridge Cleaver’s amazing sojourn through civil rights activism and the minefields of 1960’s black extremism, he had renounced, along with Stokely Carmichael and other leaders, the non-violence that  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had espoused.

Eldridge fled the United States as a fugitive in 1968. In the seven years that followed, he visited the primary communist countries: Cuba, USSR, Peoples’ Republic of China, North Vietnam, North Korea. The young revolutionary, having been driven out of America, sought revolutionary guidance from communist leaders.

Because I’ve got to go to work in a few minutes, I’ll just cut to the chase here. On page 109 of his book, Soul on Fire, Eldridge writes:

“While in overseas exile, I discovered the frequency with which I was lecturing the hard-rock mentality of Communist leaders, reminding them that the world revolution was deeply rooted in the American people. I had heard so much rhetoric in every Communist country about their glorious leaders and their incredible revolutionary spirit that–even to this very angry and disgruntled American–it was absurd and unreal.”

And on page 97:

“I had lived defiantly so long and in such seething hatred of all governments, people in power, people in charge, that when I came under the shelter of Communist powers, I sadly discovered that their corruption was as violent and inhuman as the people the ‘victoriously’ displaced. ‘Up against the wall’ was a trendy slogan of the underground movements around the world–but I later learned that without inner control, a moral perspective, and a spiritual balance that flowed out of Christian love, justice and caring, the Communist promises were to become the largest fraud of all.

“Pig power in America was infuriating–but pig power in the Communist framework was awesome and unaccountable. No protection by outbursts in the press and electronic media–the Reds owned it. No shelter under the benevolent protection of a historic constitution–the Marxists held the book and they tore out the pages that sheltered you. No counterweight from religious and church organizations–they were invisible and silent.

“My adult education began in prison and was ruefully completed in the prison that is called Marxist liberation, ‘power to the people’: that was meant for the party in control, writing the script, and enforcing the rules. I did mean it deeply when I said seven years later that I would rather be in prison in America than free somewhere else.”

And prison in American he did do, when Eldridge Cleaver returned from exile. He did his time, was released in 1976, and lived free, free indeed, until his death in 1998.

King of Soul