Posts Tagged ‘David Horowitz’

Walking into Maelstrom, 1969

January 3, 2015

I graduated from high school in May of 1969. Then I left home and went to college. What a change that was. There was a lot going on at the university.

I think most kids who leave home at the tender age of 17 find out that there’s a whole ‘nother world going on out there, and it seems quite different from what they grew up in. It’s exciting, like turning over a new leaf, or starting a new chapter of life.

Now that I’m past sixty, I’ve gained some perspective that I didn’t have then. And since reading and doing historical research are pursuits I enjoy, I’ve decided to study that decade in which I lived as a teenager–the 1960’s.

I have a feeling I’m not the only boomer who is doing this, which is why the stuff of my research will eventually be written as a novel, my fourth. It is named King of Soul.

Back in September ’68, when my senior year in high school had just begun, I addressed our student body as the incoming President of the Student Council. I remember telling them something about there was a lot going on out there in the world, and that our generation seemed to be discontented. But we, as responsible young adults at a Catholic high school, could certainly change the world by acting reasonably and playing by the rules. The students rewarded my innocent positivism with a standing ovation at the end.

About a year later, when I was a freshman at LSU, I began to see (although not necessarily understand) that my well-received idea of playing by the rules was not so simple as I had presented it.

There was, indeed, a lot going on in in 1969, and a lot of that change was being propelled by kids, not much older than I, who were working against the system with organized resistance, rather than “playing by rules.” There was an authentic reason for this.

The Vietnam War.

One of the things that happened to me while I was discovering all this angst and protest in my g-generation was the draft lottery. My number came up 349, so I didn’t have to worry about being drafted. I would be able to stay in school without being called to go fight the Viet Cong.

Nevertheless, all that ’60’s stuff was not just about the war. There was something happening here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5M_Ttstbgs

Among the war-protesters, there was a wide array of strategies being implemented to end the war–everything from pacifist Episcopalians, to SDS “bring the war home” agitators, to outright Weatherman revolutionaries.

In the research I am now doing, here is something I have come to understand clearly:

The seeds of antiwar, anti-establishment resistance tactics were sown into the American experience during the Civil Rights movement of the 1950’s-60’s.

Oppression breeds Resistance, which leads to Tactics.

You know what I’m talking about–Little Rock Schools, Rosa on the bus, Dr. King’s courageous, nonviolent leadership, Selma, Greensboro Woolworth’s sit-in, voter registrations in the deep South, etc. It was mostly black folks getting organized.

Medgar Evers had fought in the Great War, in Europe. He was a hero, like all them Americans and others who had run the Nazis into the ground back in ’45. But when Medgar got back to Mississippi (where I was in the 1950’s a clueless white kid living in suburban Jackson), he got on a bus to ride back to his hometown, and the driver told this war hero– who had risked his life for our freedom– to go the the back of the bus!

Say what?

Medgar, being a man of peace, a Christian–well, he got through that humiliating incident–but he quietly went about his bid’ness. But he got to thinking he might try to help his people make some changes (and he was playing by the rules) so he started working with the NAACP to get black folks registered to vote in his home state.

But in June, 1963, brother Medgar was shot dead, near midnight, in his own front yard.

Now that–along with all the other injustices being brought into the light of day– got the attention of a lot of Americans.

So some of us honkys started to see the light and get involved.

The next year, 1964, saw a flood of white folks headed from up Nawth, going down South, to help black folks get organized and register. The whole movement was called the Mississippi Freedom Summer. It was a great event in American history, except for when Andrew Freedman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner got murdered.

During that sweltering summer in Mississippi, the seeds of American antiwar, antiestablishment resistance were sown. White kids from Boston, Philly, Santa Monica and Sausalito and everywhere in between went down south to help black folks.

And the black folks taught ’em how its done–civil disobedience to resist injustice, in the streets of America.

There were hundreds of white kids who went. To name just one: Mario Savio, who went down South to do civil rights work, then returned to his home in California. Later that fall, 1964 he climbed on top of a car so he could be heard while making a speech about a local issue to his fellow protesters.

And the Free Speech Movement was born in Berkeley.

Now, go back to the future–the year I was telling you about when I started this piece–1969:

While the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley was still rattling the ivys at colleges all across the nation, including the campus at LSU were I was a clueless freshman . . .

The administrators of the University of California at Berkeley had bought a vacant lot very close to campus. It was, according to David Obst, in his book, Too Good To Be Forgotten, a “three-acre field the school had bought a couple of years before.”

http://www.amazon.com/Too-Good-To-Be-Forgotten/dp/0471295388

David writes:

“In mid-April a number of street people decided the field would make a groovy park. They decided to reclaim the land from the university and give it back to the people. All this was to be done under the doctrine of squatters’s rights.

For the next few weeks, hundreds of students and street people, folks who wouldn’t work if their parents or employers begged or paid them, worked for free at the park. They transformed the mud-splattered field into a grass-covered park by bringing together a weird collection of sod, shrub, and seedlings. A grove of apple trees was planted and and a brick walkway was laid. Swings and a sandbox for kids were put up; there was even a fishpond, and a . . .’revolutionary cornfield.’ “

Now, I, reading this, thought that was a pretty productive, creative way to make good use of a vacant lot.

But of course the Berkeley admins didn’t think so, so the chancellor called Governor Reagan, who called in the National Guard, and things got ugly, kind of like, you know, Selma, or you know–but this was a bunch of white kids.

By ‘n by, I later came to appreciate Ronald Reagan, when he was President. But this was not one of his shining moments.

Which gets to my point: there are two sides to every story. Confusion is the order of the day when you’re a freshman.

When I walked into the college maelstrom of 1969, I was entering a storm of controversies. . . with both sides right and both sides wrong. How was I to make sense of it all?

As I later learned from Scriptures: “There is not one right, no, not one.”

The long, collegial tradition of free thought and orderly discourse was being challenged from both sides–left and right–during those  tempestuous days.  On the left, the “Movement” was being split. A huge rift was tearing the violent-prone revolutionaries apart from the “play by the rules” nonviolent protesters.

David Horowitz, years ahead of me, had been, along with David Obst (quoted above) in the very thick of the antiwar, antiestablishment resistance during those days. But later, in the 1970’s, he changed his tune and his political affiliations. In his book, Radical Son, Horowitz wrote:

http://www.amazon.com/Radical-Son-A-Generational-Odyssey/dp/0684840057

“Although the Panther vanguard was isolated and small . . .its leaders were able to rob and kill without incurring the penalty of the law. They were able to do so, because the Left made the Panthers a law unto themselves. The same way the Left had made Stalin a law unto himself. The same way the Left makes Fidel Castro and the Sandinista comandates laws unto themselves.”

“. . .the best intentions can lead to the worst ends. I had believed in the Left because of the good it had promised; I had learned to judge it by the evil it had done.”

Such is the electrifying commotion of ideologies and tactics that I walked into while starting college in 1969. And I am still trying to figure it all out–who is right, who is wrong.

More about all this later. Film at 11. Book in, probably, about three years.

Glass half-Full 

The “class” thing

January 25, 2014

I am an American, a southerner, college-educated working fellow, married with three grown, and reasonably happy. I love my wife and I love my life. I am a follower of Jesus. Although I do a 40-hour gig as a maintenance guy for 92  apartments, I am not a member of the working “class.”

All this talk these days, arising from the Democrats and sociologists and talking media heads, about “class” this and “class” that, the “working class,” the “privileged” class, the so-called “disappearing middle class”–I wouldn’t give you a nickel for all of it.

As far as I’m concerned, I am an individual, my own man, and beyond classification. God made me just the way I am, thank you, and I thank Him for that. So you can call me middle-class if you want to. You can classify me in the disappearing middle because my working wage is 2/3 of what I was bringing in at my peak, a dozen or so years ago when I was fifty years old. You can call me middle class, working class, dumb-ass, or whatever you wanna call me, you can call me ray, you can call me jay, or ray jay, or  you can call me “hey” or “hey you,” but ya doesn’t have to call me anything at all.

The only identity that matters is what my wife, my grownup young-uns, loved ones and friends call me–Carey. And btw I’ll soon be publishing the third novel, which is named Smoke. So put that in your literary pipe and smoke it.

This little class rant came up this morning because I have been hearing more and more about these designated class distinctions lately, ever since, oh, couple years ago when the Occupy thing started and they were out in the streets–I watched them for two days in Vancouver and Seattle–with their signs about the 1% and the 99% and all that redistributionist and income disparity hype.

Maybe I’m in the 99%, maybe I’m way down in the 50% or even below that. I don’t care. If I had a chance to join the 1%, I would jump at it. This great country was built on upward mobility.

We used to call it the American Dream. I still do. I’m not subscribing to this neo-marxian class stuff. No thank you. It’s just for political manipulation, and I am no political hack’s lackey. Therefore am I not pleased to accept some sociologist’s semi-permanent societal place assignment. Well, maybe “first class”. I would settle for that, but I’m not buying the proletarian, nor the bourgeois label.

Speaking of “not buying”. . .

This morning I began reading David Horowitz’ excellent autobiography, Radical Son.

Here is a passage from page 39 that got my attention, then became, it seems, the impetus for the little bloggish rumination you are now reading. From Radical Son:

“At the time my parents moved into the (Sunnyside) Gardens in 1940, they could have purchased the house on Bliss Street for $4000–less than its original price. But as radicals, they had scorned the opportunity to own property and moved in as renters. Seven years later, the Gardens were acquired by new owners, who decided to sell of the individual units, including our house. A Sunnyside Tenants’ Association was organized to resist the sales.”

Why did David’s parents not buy their house when they had the chance to do it? Weren’t they Americans? Well not yet, apparently.

They were second generation Americans, from Russian immigrants, and they identified themselves as communists. I understand that angst; its where they came from, how they were brought up and so forth. They did not subscribe to the American dream, but to the Russian communist dream that they had brought with them, and then dragged it as excess baggage off the boat at Ellis Island.

Son David later learned, in the school of hard knocks, what it means to be an American, to be an opportunist for yourself and your family, instead of letting yourself be limited by an imposed class identity. If his parents had been willing to learn that lesson in 1940 when they bought their home in Sunnyside Gardens, maybe they would have acceded a little more successfully to the American Dream motivator. But hey, they were immigrants; what can you expect? It takes a generation or two off the boat to acquire a taste for this melting pot porridge. David Horowitz’ life is testimony to that, and that is what his book is about.

Now I’m a southerner, and very different from all those immigrants and their Old World forebears who got off the boat at New York Harbor. (My wife, Pat, is however from an Irish family from New Jersey.) And although my life experience is very different from that of Mr. Horowitz, I sure enjoy reading a good book, which is btw, the key (reading and education) to overcoming all this classist entrapment that’s going around now.

Try it some time, you’ll learn a thing or two from reading a book, even if its on your Kindle.

Smoke

Angela and David: Tale of Two Citizens

January 18, 2014

I was reading David’s book on

why he switched sides in

the war between Left and Right,

and I was very moved by his life-changing event,

when the Panthers killed his coworker

in Oakland in 1974.

But then I took a Netflix break like

so many citizens do these days and so there was I

hearing Angela’s soulful lament to a Swedish reporter

about growing up in

violence

in Birmingham, contending with KKK and Bull Connor

and for me it was like tale of two cities:

Brooklyn and Birmingham.

David grew up communist household in Brooklyn;

Angela grew up black neighborhood in Birmingham.

But then in their diverging odysseys

they both gravitated to other far-ranging places like

(tale of two cities) San Francisco and Oakland,

left and right, black and white, male and female,

gut and theory, feel and think, stare and blink.

One switched sides and the other

didn’t.

Now I’m a white guy in sixties who grew up in the sixties and

I can understand why David switched from radical left to

conservative right

cuz I be little bit like that myself but not nearly as extreme as

his sitiation,

since i grew up in baton rouge, upriver from n’orleans.

That be the deep south you know where magnolias grow

and de moss hang low and de thinkin is slow

lit bit like over in Birmingham where Angela was raised up

‘xcept she be black and i be white so I don’t know

bout her sitiation, but she did get to study in Paris

at the Sorbonne so what does that tell you bout black folks in

Birmingham or Oakland?

Tale of two cities I guess:

theory and gut

heal and cut

oh shut

my mouth.

Glass half-Full