In 1968 I lived in the Haight Ashbury and was a member of Students for a Democratic Society.
I had been at the Pentagon Demonstration in October of 1967 and I moved from protest to resistance.
I took part in numerous violent street demonstrations and would continue to do so until February 1970.
I threw my vote away in 1968.
After all I was a radical, I was pure and LBJ, who was one of the most socially progressive Presidents I have lived under was a monster for continuing the war which had been handed to him by JFK.
Of course no one remembers what a hawkish war monger JFK was. All we ever remember of him is that he and Jackie were glamorous and that he was murdered 49 years ago in Dallas.
As for LBJ we remember the war. We forget the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the War on Poverty.
I was 21 in July of 1968, the elections that fall were going to be my very first chance to exercise my right to vote.
I was part of a faction of “radicals” who spurned the very thought of seriously engaging in electoral politics in 1968. Gene McCarthy and the “Get Clean for Gene” campaign seemed senseless. While RFK did arouse excitement, that last hope died in early June, cut down by an assassin.
So come November we were faced with a choice between two candidates: Hubert Humphrey who represented the gray banality of failed liberalism, which lacked the courage to stand up to Joe McCarthy and the Red Scare or the Military/Industrial Complex, or Richard Nixon, the very embodiment of the banality of evil, a man who promised to undo all the positive programs the democrats had instituted over the previous eight years.
I listened to the radicals who said we shouldn’t vote for the lesser of two evils. They rationalized that if Nixon won, his election would heighten the contradictions and bring on the revolution.
Instead we should vote for the alternative; The Peace and Freedom Party Ticket. They ran Eldridge “the rapist” Cleaver, who bragged about being a rapist.
At the time of the election I was still three months shy of coming out as transsexual, yet I had been raped a few months prior while in the San Francisco City Jail and would never vote for a rapist no matter how radical he claimed to be.
So I was one of the was one of the few people in the state who voted for the Communist Party USA that year.
Well 1969 dawned and I came out.
The radicals became more violent. People started getting killed by the police and the National Guard at a frightening rate.
The radical machismo with the pick up the gun and throw the bomb rhetoric sounded like a recipe for revolutionary suicide, instead of the kind of revolution where peaceful, gentle people, who loved life would have a place.
When the ultra radicals started quoting Mao, Stalin and Kim Il Sung they lost me because I knew those countries were openly hostile to not only transsexuals but to gay and lesbian people.
But moreover I might have been a radical but I was an American Radical, raised on the Yankee radical values that made the people of New England among the first to support the American Revolution, Abolition and Women’s Suffrage.
I was born in a small town where the streets were named for the Generals who fought the wars that shaped this nation, I played outside the walls of Fort Ticonderoga. I knew where John Brown was buried and why he lay there mouldering in his grave.
I was from a part of the country where the abolition and suffrage movements were born.
Those were my values.
My ideas of freedom and justice had their roots in the Americans who have shaped this country not in Lenin or Mao.
Jean Luc-Godard called my generation the children of Marx and Coca Cola.
Many of us who were hippies not revolutionaries put it slightly differently. We used to say, “We are followers of Marx and Lenin, Groucho Marx and John Lennon, that is…
By mid-1970 the violence had alienated so many of us that we stopped listening to the absurd rhetoric.
Too many of us abandoned politics altogether.
Others of us, particularly women and LGBT/T folks who had never been taken seriously in the macho world of the Revolutionaries started working within the system.
Even Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party were starting to tell people, “Serve the People.” Build the institutions that support the people instead of committing revolutionary suicide.
So we built those institutions in enclaves like Berkeley, West Hollywood and other places.
But too often we refused to embrace politics or support the Democratic Party.
In the meantime the Republican Party treated every single election, no matter how small, as important. They placed increasingly rabid right wingers on school boards and in small elected offices across this country.
In the 43 years since I came out I have watched as transsexual and transgender people have won numerous small victories that have made our lives ever so much easier.
I have watched as feminist won many victories during the 1970s only to see support for feminism be eroded as the increasing provenance of the “radical feminists” drowned out the voices of way too many ordinary women.
I lived through the 1980s when Reagan, the epitome of banal evil, couldn’t bring himself to say the word AIDS or pony up the money needed to deal with the AIDS Crisis.
I’ve been horrified as I’ve watched the ever rightward drift this nation and too many other nations have taken over the last forty years.
Yet people react as though I am engaging in hyperbole when I use the words Fascism and Nazism to describe this drift.
Now I am old. It has been fifty years or so since I was moved to left wing activism by the students sitting in at the Woolworth Counter in Greensboro.
If JFK failed us as President he nonetheless inspired my generation when he said “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Fifty years since Mario Savio called upon us to put our bodies upon the wheels and demand a better more human world, with institutions that serve the people and not the corporations.
Fifty years ago…
Back then I thought there would come a time when progressive values would win, simply because they were the right thing to do.
Finally in 2008 we elected a black man as President. Hell the campaign for the nomination came down to a black man and a white woman. Both representing people who had to fight for the right to vote during the 20th century.
The right wing is so upset by his election they are busy passing laws to keep people of color from voting. Laws that impact the voting rights of the young and old, alike, including the poor and others who might not drive and therefore lack the designated mandatory identification to vote. This also includes TG/TS people who may live in a state that doesn’t permit them to obtain gender appropriate identification. Or people who may be gender ambiguous in appearance and therefore turned away from the polls for identification “non-match.”
We are in an economic crisis as well as an environmental crisis. Instead of addressing those important issues the Republican party has declared war on women’s reproductive rights while scapegoating LGBT/T people in a manner reminiscent of the Nazis scapegoating of the Jews during the rise of the Third Reich.
As a life long left wing activist and as a proud progressive I am appalled and embarrassed when I hear the “radicals” say we should sit this election out rather than vote for “the lesser of two evils.
Or that we should vote for a “true progressive.”
This election isn’t a fucking joke.
Does any sane person want Mitt Romney nominating Tea Bagger approved neo-Nazis to fill the Supreme Court vacancies that are likely to occur over the next four years?
There was a slogan in 1968: “Better get straight, in ’68 because there may not be time in ’69” It was part of the “Get Clean for Gene” campaign but it could have been applied to the entire election that year.
After I came out I realized how much I was going to be dependent on social service agencies that were government funded to assist me in my transition. Unfortunately one of those was a center funded by the War on Poverty. Eventually I co-ran that center. By then it had been defunded by the mentality of “small government” that started with Nixon. We got a private grant but were no longer able to get funds for education to help our people gain employment retraining.
Now we are faced with a choice between someone who believes in America and the American people vs someone who represents the one percent and believes in out sourcing the jobs we need to survive.
A man who started out by serving the people as a community organizer vs one who lines his pockets on profits from deserted factories and broken lives.
A man who may have been slow in coming to the position of fully supporting the rights and equality of LGBT people vs one who panders to those evil factions who would deprive us of all rights perhaps even including our lives.
If you value Social Security and Medicare as well as health care for all then the choice is clear.
If you value women’s reproductive rights then the choice is clear.
If you are opposed to the racism and bigotry of the Republican Party then the choice is clear.
If you are really a progressive and not some posturing revolutionary dreamer then the choice is clear.
If you are concerned about climate change then the choice is clear, as the Republicans lie about the reality of climate change.
If you believe in religious freedom then the choice is clear, as the Republicans are a bunch of theocrats pushing a Christian version Sharia.
I am supporting Barack Obama and I am appealing to all that is good and decent for you to support him as well.