Long ago, a half century and more ago I learned I had to be true to myself.
I wasn’t always right in my actions, sometimes took the wrong paths, let myself be led astray and be persuaded by leaders I should have questioned. Made some stupid mistakes, got knocked down but picked myself up and went on.
I’ve always between a reader and a student attending a university without wall, with teachers whose works live on pages bound up into books.
Today Amazon delivered me a self bought birthday present of a song book by Alan Lomax, Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, Hard Hitting Songs for Hard Hit People. A decade before people call the folks of the bohemian, alternative culture hippies, a San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Herb Caen dubbed people of the alternative culture, beatniks.
Well in 1957 I was bookworm beatnik wannabee. Then came the great folk music scare of the late 1950s and early 1960s. I discovered a magical place called Greenwich Village. Aha, a place for me. Because, you see, I have always been an outlaw.
Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs were beacons of clarity during the turbulent 1960s. I marched for civil rights for all, to end the war in Vietnam, to protect the environment. I marched for freedom, for women’s rights and the rights of LGBT people. I didn’t need to out source the seeds of my radicalism and look to Mao, Lenin, Marx or Che. I’m yankee born and raised. I had the Sons of Liberty, Sam Adams, Ethan Allen, Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson too. I had John Brown and the Abolitionists. Susan B. Anthony and the Suffragists. I had the mine worker’s union organizer Mother Jones, Big Bill Haywood and the women textile workers.
All American Radicalism… Sometimes seems like we all went astray. Particularly when we looked for radicalism that wasn’t All-American, at radicalism that divided us up into identity groups.
Recently I saw a Rainbow flag that was some sort of weird mutation of the Rainbow flag. Funny thing is I felt included back when it was “Gay Liberation”.
But I was a hippie and felt more a part of that and that “Gay Liberation” was just another battle to be fought.
Now I’m old and never ever dreamed things would get as bad as they are today. We have a bunch of full blown Nazis in power while the left is all divided up into various identity groups and the words of Rev. Martin Niemöller seem truer today than ever.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
Over the years it seems like so many of the leaders from the 1960s died questionable deaths or were out right assassinated. Worst mistake we ever made was driving out LBJ and refusing to support Humphrey. Started us down the road to today. Trump is a million times worse than Nixon and we thought Nixon was the worst. But the Republi-Nazi pukes keep on moving the worst possible goal line and now we have this useless pile of Nazi shit.
I still feel pride when I listen to Pete Seeger sing “Which Side are You On” and “Solidarity Forever”. But Pete and Woody and all the rest of the Almanac Singers are dead and seems like those of us who were inspired by them mostly have one foot in the grave as well.
Pride… It is hard not to feel ground down by events, hard to overcome all that divides us, hard to pull together and fight the good fight.
Pride… Mostly pride means keeping on, keeping on and not getting demoralized.
Come November go to the polls and vote the straight Democratic Party Ticket. It may be the last chance we get before things deteriorate to camps and guns and a civil war.