Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Sundial: Columbia SDS Memories: Chap. 22: At United Parcel Service and Queens College, 1969

Chapter 22: At United Parcel Service and Queens College, 1969 (vi)

In October 1969, the U.S. corporate media felt that the War in Viet Nam was now unwinnable. So when a non-Movement, non-radical white middle-class group called “The Viet Nam Moratorium” organized local anti-war demos at which Democratic Party politicians spoke in mid-October, the mass media provided pre-demo publicity. Like most Movement people in October 1969, I felt the main issue was imperialism, racism and the System that had let the immoral war last so long—not just the war. So although I welcomed the entrance en masse of liberal democratic people into the anti-war ranks, I did not trust all the Democratic Party politicians who began to jump on the anti-war bandwagon at this time.

In Manhattan, the Viet Nam Moratorium demo was well-attended, but dull and non-militant. Aside from Pete Seeger, none of the invited speakers or performers appealed to me as much as the speakers and performers who had been appearing for years at the previous anti-war rallies I had attended.

Around this time, I was getting lonesome for Helene, whom I hadn’t seen since I moved from Staten Island. So I spontaneously hopped on a subway from Jackson Heights and headed for the Staten Island Ferry terminal in Manhattan. When the ferry docked in Staten Island, I suddenly noticed a familiar-looking physical beauty standing next to me and smiling. It was Helene.

“You’re just the person I’ve been longing to see, Helene. I was hoping to meet you tonight. It must be cosmic,” I said with a giggle.

Helene laughed and invited me up to her new apartment, where she was now living with a different guy than she had been living with the previous spring. Her present boyfriend was away on a business trip within the record industry. Helene’s new apartment was a bus ride away from the ferry terminal and we spent the rest of the evening and early morning hours, after we arrived there, getting smashed together on Helene’s potent hashish, gossiping and feeling close again. I still was in love with Helene. But she still was not interested in getting involved with any New Left activist.

“People walking around with picket signs aren’t going to ever really change anything anymore in this country. Why waste your time trying to wake all these straight people up?” Helene said. Helene also joked with me about how some of the professors at Richmond College were now acting more like hippies and how a few married male professors there kept trying to seduce her. In tribute to Helene, I later wrote the “Open Up Your Eyes” song:

Open up your eyes
And eat my sweet candy
And hold me tight in darkness
And love me, fair Helene.

Oh, I was just a hobo
Trapped in poverty
But one day I spied you
I’m in love Helene.

Let me buy you ice cream
Fill your world with glee
People call me `stranger’’
Call me friend, Helene.

And I don’t want your money
Save your Aunt Tootsie
I just want to hug you
And be with you, Helene.

The Chicago 8 Conspiracy trial was getting daily coverage on all three TV networks during this time and Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin were able to turn it into a comedy show, after Black Panther Chairman Bobby Seale was bound and gagged and shipped off to New Haven for another trial on a trumped-up murder-conspiracy charge. The effect of the fascist way Bobby Seale was treated and the media coverage of the satirical antics of Abbie and Rubin was to increase, in a major way, the number of anti-war white youth who considered themselves radical; and who felt that the U.S., indeed, had a totalitarian political system.