Friday, March 2, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 10: The Viet Nam Summer of Love, 1967

Chapter 10: The Viet Nam Summer of Love, 1967 (iv)

During some political discussion in his apartment during the academic year, Teddy had mentioned that he “didn’t believe in shrinks” and that “friends should help each other solve their personal emotional problems.” At the time I heard Teddy make this statement I had nodded in agreement, because this was my feeling, too. And experience observing shrinks at the clinic had confirmed my view that friends were preferable to shrinks when it came to having someone to talk over your emotional problems.

So I wrote Teddy a note and asked if I could talk with him about my emotional problems. After receiving my letter, Teddy telephoned me.

“I got your letter. When do you want to get together?” Teddy asked.

I agreed to meet him in the evening at his apartment, later that week. When I got to Teddy’s apartment, I felt somewhat awkward. But I also felt relieved that he was kind enough to attempt to help me with my emotional problems. My love for Teddy was as strong as it would ever be, and I trusted him fully. He seemed like the best friend any person could have.

Teddy answered the door and looked concerned as he invited me into his apartment. Nancy was also in the apartment at the time, looking as beautiful as ever, but also looking concerned and uneasy as she said “hello.” Then, after a minute or two of small talk, Teddy and I left the apartment to go for a walk across campus and into Riverside Park. As we walked towards Riverside Park, I opened up myself emotionally to Teddy and he seemed very understanding.

“You have Nancy to love. And that makes life worth living. I can’t seem to find anyone to love. And without love, New Left politics gets to be emotionally empty after awhile,” I said sadly.

Teddy tried to cheer me up. “Being with Nancy doesn’t solve everything. The System is still enslaving and totalitarian and encourages sexual repression and alienation. But political activism can sometimes help overcome feelings of emotional alienation from everybody,” Teddy replied.

“But do you really think New Left activism can create a new ideal society? Won’t there always be people like Hitler and other frustrated artists who will be dissatisfied, even under a socialist society?” I asked.

“They’re building a new society in China and overcoming bourgeois artistic elitism and elitist intellectualism with their cultural revolution. And they’re creating a new man in Cuba. We can do the same in the United States…Although not all personal problems can be solved immediately by revolution,” Teddy answered.

We continued to talk about the need to change society and the human obstacles to building a new world in the United States, as we walked in Riverside Park. Then it started to get dark and we headed back towards Broadway and Columbia’s campus.

By the middle of my walk with Teddy, I began to realize that, although it felt good to talk about my feelings of emotional emptiness and loneliness with Teddy and he proved to be a kind listener, Teddy could provide me with no easy solutions. I would have to learn to live with my loneliness, but not let my emotional loneliness interfere with my ability to work politically to build a New Left radical movement that would strike at the sociological sources of my personal unhappiness.

On the Upper West Side, Columbia SDS activists who remained in Manhattan were taking part in “Viet Nam Summer.” Patterned after the “Mississippi Summer” of 1964, “Viet Nam Summer” was a nationwide student anti-war campaign to raise off-campus consciousness about what was going on in Viet Nam. SDS activists around Columbia set up tables on the sidewalks and canvassed Upper West Side apartment buildings. Some other Columbia SDS activists, like Mark, spent a good part of the summer out in California’s Bay Area, where Haight-Ashbury was experiencing its ‘Summer of Love.”

But the “Summer of Love” was also another “long, hot summer” in the African-American ghettoes of the United States. Black mass rebellions, generally triggered by acts of white police brutality, took place in Tampa, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Newark, Plainfield, NJ, Detroit and other U.S. cities. In the Newark Rebellion, at least 21 African-American civilians were shot down by police and National Guard soldiers. In the Detroit Rebellion, at least 33 African-American civilians were also killed by police officers or National Guard soldiers.