Friday, February 16, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 8: Discovering IDA, 1967

Chapter 8: Discovering IDA, 1967 (iv)

I met Josh in the Furnald Hall lobby and gave him a copy of the completed IDA-Columbia connection expose’. He shared the paper with a number of Columbia SDS steering committee members during a meeting which was held at Teddy’s apartment during the spring semester break. I did not attend this meeting because I went out to my parents’ apartment in Queens during this spring break. I spent the break catching up somewhat on my required academic work and driving up to Boston for a day with my parents to visit my sister, who was now living in a rooming house in Beacon Hill (in the days before all of Beacon Hill again became gentrified).

After I returned to my dormitory room, there was another Columbia SDS steering committee meeting in Earl Hall. A consensus developed that Spectator’s editors should be told about the weapons-research sponsorship activity of Columbia. It was agreed that Mike Klare should bring the expose’ to Spectator’s editorial offices with me. At a faculty-sponsored forum on University-Pentagon ties the previous week, Klare had asked Columbia’s Dean of Graduate Faculties, Ralph Halford, whether any institutional connection existed between Columbia and the Institute for Defense Analyses. Dean Halford’s reply to Klare at that time was: “There is no institutional connection.”

Klare had vaguely heard about IDA before, which is why he asked the question regarding its possible institutional connection to Columbia. But Klare did not know exactly how IDA had been set up and functioned until he, afterwards, heard that I had made the IDA-Columbia affiliation discovery. So when Dean Halford lied at the forum about Columbia’s true relationship to IDA, Klare mistakenly assumed Halford was stating the truth.

Prior to bringing Spectator the expose’ of Columbia’s IDA tie, I went to Ted’s dorm room to let him read the expose’. He had missed the steering committee meeting in which the expose’ had been passed around because he had been away from New York during the spring break.

After I had sat down on the chair in Ted’s dorm room, he smiled and said: “Let me see the paper you wrote that I heard about.”

I smiled in return and handed him the expose’. Ted began to read with great interest. After he had finished reading the last page, he turned to me and said: “That bastard. Kirk really is a bastard!”

We then smoked some marijuana together and listened to some of his early Rolling Stones, early Dylan, early Judy Collins, early Supremes and Beatles albums, as well as to the Dionne Warwick album in which she sang “Walk On By.” A few weeks before I discovered Columbia’s IDA connection, I had started to smoke marijuana with Ted.

Prior to February 1967, I felt that—like liquor—pot and all drugs should be legally sold and all people should have the right to smoke and use drugs, as well as to drink, without fear of arrest. But, personally, I felt smoking pot was not for leftists because it could give the government a pretext for arresting an activist on non-political grounds and because, like religion, it was an escapist way to deal with an oppressive reality. When political activism wasn’t fulfilling me emotionally and I was feeling trapped and unloved, I would escape with my songwriting, guitar-playing and singing and “get high” by being creative and artistic. I had no sense before smoking pot of how intense a feeling the weed produced and that a marijuana high was qualitatively more of a turn-on than a creative high. My pre-February 1967, somewhat puritanical, attitude resembled the anti-bohemian Old Left middle-class attitude toward marijuana that Ted’s parents had, and that Ted originally had.

When Ted started to smoke pot heavily in late 1966, however, I started to reconsider my attitude towards grass because he was the first “head” I knew who remained as politically active after he started to turn on as he was before he started smoking. So, finally, I ended up spending one Friday night and early Saturday morning turning on with Ted, Brian and another guy who lived on Ted’s dorm floor, named Waller.

“It really is absurd that it’s illegal to smoke pot,” I said with laughter, once the grass started to affect me and make me high and really happy and full of laughter.

“Yeah. The Old Left’s line on grass is totally absurd,” Ted replied with a laugh. Then I played him a song satirizing the Marine Corps that I had written to counter the pro-militarist “Ballad of the Green Berets,” accompanying myself on my guitar. The song included the following lyrics:

We are Marines
The best of men
America’s freedom
We do defend….

Charlie Whitman
An ex-Marine
Climbed to a tower
And killed thirteen….

It also included verses about ex-Marines Richard Speck and Howard Unruh, both of whom were also mass murderers in civilian life, and verses about Byron de la Beckwith, the ex-Marine killer of Medgar Evers, and ex-Marine Lee Harvey Oswald.

After I finished singing the song, Ted laughed and commented:

“That’s a great song. Except for the part about Oswald. He really didn’t kill Kennedy, you know. Mark Lane’s written a whole book exposing the whole Warren Commission cover-up.”

“You really think Oswald was framed?”

“From what I’ve read about all the contradictions in the Warren Commission Report, it looks like he was.”

While stoned, Ted would talk much more rapidly than when he was straight. But he still spoke about New Left radicalism, U.S. culture, Columbia politics, U.S. and world politics and questions related to socialism, capitalism, Maoism, Marxism, Cuba, Black liberation and revolution in an enthusiastic way—in-between listening to record albums.

Still stoned in the early hours of Saturday morning, Ted, Brian and I headed for Duke’s Restaurant on W. 112th St. and Broadway—which was open 24 hours a day—and ate an early morning breakfast. After breakfast, as the sun was rising, Brian walked back towards his apartment on W. 114th St. and Ted and I walked back towards Furnald Hall. Seeing a bundle of that day’s New York Times which had been dropped off in the early morning hours, in front of a closed Broadway newsstand, Ted ripped apart the string that tied the bundle together and helped himself to two copies of the newspaper, before walking back onto the campus. He gave me one of the newspapers and then we each went back to our dorm rooms, to sleep until late Saturday afternoon.