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Honor Amerika Smoke-in

Honor Amerika Smoke-in image Honor Amerika Smoke-in image Honor Amerika Smoke-in image Honor Amerika Smoke-in image
Parent Issue
Month
October
Year
1970
OCR Text

Accounts of movement levents in the underground press have had a depressing similarity this past year. It's us vs. Them, the good guys versus the pigs, complete with details of every confrontation, pig atrocity, and people's victory. If it's a politico's account, inevitably connections are drawn to the international antiimperialist struggle. If it's a hip or yip account, the basic tale is embell'.shed with descriptions of the wondrous quality of the dope, plus mentions of the delights of the dan-' cing, fucking, and blowing the minds of the bourgeoisie. Similiarly, if it's a rockfestival story (which can almost be written now by never leaving your stereo) a writer attacks the capitalist rip-off promoters and the avaricious concession stands, details the gate crashing, expounds ,onthegood vibrations, ■ , the evils of hip1 capitalism, and the beauty of the1 people's music. Which isn't to say that this reporting style lacks accuracy, but that lately wrtters have been suffering f rom a certain lack of imagination, and a fatal . timidness. The movement and youth culture has so many sacred cows, and so many interest groups it's unwilling to offend, that the sharp criticism and excite ment of the early underground press is long dead. Women's liboration writing is the only writing coming through the guts of experience which offers some new in-' sight and the pain of truth. Otherwise it's description by formula, and the familiarity of the reports produces boredom. The cast) of characters changes from event to event, butfor most readers, besides a momentary turn on, there is little to'. distinguish oné bust from another) one demonstration or riot from, another, whether it takes place in New York, Seattle, Atlanta or: Washington. j All these things that usually, happen, happened at the Honor Amerika Smoke-In. There was a little trashing, busts, some bravery, a' little itupidity, andfar out scènes like pushing the search lights into the' reflecting pool, and interrupting the mindless comedy of the ' evening extravaganza with chants like "Fucfe, Bob Hope" and "Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh,' Acid Headsare Going to Win. " Which made the pro-war comedian blanch and hurry through hts sexist, racist, militarist jokes. Elsewhere Pete Seeger, old black blues singer Bukka White, and others played at the Hog Farm stage. Electric Kool Aid was mixed and passed around through the crowd. And of cour se there was a bountiful number of joints rolled in American flag paper, but that's the usual story as I said before. It's been fully detailed elsewhere already. VU try to write a few thoughts about MidAmerika, Fascism, tactical decentralization and media policy which spring f rom the event. An Experiment in Fascism WASHINGTON, D.C., JULY 4Nobody really likes Amerika very much. Not even the Mid-Amerikans whoshowedup for Honor Amerika Day. They might wear flags on the Four:h of July, and hope to find inspiration in Billy Graham, but if you stop to talk they'll teil you they're not satisfiëd with their lives. Real happiness is something they last feit as teenagers, before they achieved their installment plan, work day drudgéry, hygenic plastic, status symbol lives, complete with screaming kids and marriages which resemble nonaggression treaties. Molded before the Amerikan assembly line began to shutter and turn in upon itself , they don 't know where t'o find exits f rom their arid lives. They've been told freedom's around the corner, but somehow they lost it between living by the rules and the deoderant commericals on r.V. They don't know where to look, and they're secretly jealous of those who do. Compounding their personal affliction, Mid-Amenka patriots know from Walter Cronkite, the dope smoking long hairs in the neighborhoods, and their poisoned food that something's gone wrong. (If you can 't even believe in the Breakfast of Champions, what can you believe in? (Then world is a whirlpool of confusión, filled with vague wórries of riots, bank bombings, nerve gas, power shortages, LSD, and Mansonesque murders. If they're too conditioned to find freedom in their personal lives, they're far too powerless and divided to change the world around them They're uneasy and looking for something to give their lives meaning. Which of course means they have a potential for fascism. If the state can mobilize these people's discontent, we'll have a Hitlerian Germany fascism with a popular base. If it can't, Amerika will become a bureaucratie and technologically efficiënt pólice state in which revolutionaries will struggle against the thought pólice, and lobotomized Mid-Amerika will watch the showdowns on their televisión sets. Underneath thé surface "Let us come together" Honor Amerika decorum, was a dress rehersal for fascism. Coming af ter the hard hat riots in New York and the emergence of Agnew, it was sort of a pulse taking of potentials. . . Resources were mobilized Government printing offices in Washington ground out patriotic propaganda. Rumors of chartered busses with New York hard hats ready to kick some hippie ass were spread in an effort to keep away the freak nation. Straight media was utilized to build excitement- "Come to Washington. Show them how you feel." Flag waving chairmen Bob Hope and Billy Graham repeated, "Amerika may have its problems, but remember it'sourcountry." Which of course is another way of saying "My country right or wrong," and excuses genocide. All the while Public Relations Departments of corporate Amerika coopera ting in besí Germán circa '38 style ground out publicity to prove that our Flag was where our hearts, was where our money is. The list of participating corporations which reads like a Who's Who of the Corporate reactionary establishment, included AT&T, Standard Oil of California, New Jersey and Indiana (The Rockefeller family moves to the right?) Gulf Oil (so do the Mellons), Chemical Bank of New York, General Mills (who bring you those fine cereals), RCA & Rayethon (who bring you stock dividends courtesy of Southeast Asia) , Alcoa, Eli Lilly & Co. those cheap drugs for painless, living), and Readers Digest, McCall Publishing, and Newsweek (who present that inside interpretation of the news). Icing on the cake was provided by liberal supporting whores such as George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey and Roy Wilkins. Working hand in hand with the media, predictions of attendance of a quarter of a million and more patriots were made before the event, and this number was confirmed afterward though seasoned observers on the spot guessed that half that actually showed up. While the state made its effort to mobilize a silent majority, our sides long standing plans to hold a smoke-in continued without any organizing committee, publicity statements, or televisión appearances. A few underground papers printed stories, but the word was mostly passed by word of mouth along the freak grapevine. There were no official sponsors. It was a people's action, and the government had no leadership to infíltrate or arrest on conspiracy charges, and nobody to serve with an injunction. It was an experimental model for future actions depending on the selfreliance of people at the local level to get themselves together. It assumed that we had enough experience to love and fight together in large groups without predetermined tactical plans or a self-appointed cadre leading the battles. But with no headquarters, nobody knew - how many people io expect, if we'd be outnumbered ten to one by honk Amerika, if we would be able to take care of people who were busted, if the legal, medical, sleeping and Communications problems could be solved by Yip and White Panther groups and friendship affinity groups working without centralized leadership. The air was charged with expectancy. Things seemed to be getting together. Lawyers had decided to leaflet the crowds with bust information, rather than regard themselves as detatched professionals in a service capacity. Rennie Davis and people from the Quicksilver Times put some equal time demands on the promoters, and announced that if a more cooperative attitude wasn't manifested by the sponsors, there was a chance of violence between hard hats and street fighting freaks. (A ploy which might have helped reduce the crowd size.) Some medical committee people said they weren 't going to turn out because the scène would be too heavy and they The nightof July 3 produced the answers. The panorama under the thrusting macho cock Washington monument was enough to make one's heart glad. All night freaks straggled in with sleeping bags, on the road stories, and dope. Indian war whooping yippie tribes from places like Richmond, Virginia and Fullerton, California roamed the grounds, harrassing the rehersal on the main stage and leading skirmishes against the horse cops. New Nation flags went up the poles and firecracker bombardments followed pigs trying to take them down. When one tired, there was sitting on the grass and mingling with the large crowd attracted to the Smithsonian American folk culture festival. These people, sympathetic but apart from the new nation, were generally intimidated by the pólice threats of violence. At one point the pigs closed down their southern blues festival "before trouble started", and the crowd obeyed meekly. But unlike the mid-Amerikans who feit uptight, they were happy for their children to play wih freeks, and didn't get upset about the grass smoking. The smallest group, disconsolate that the hippies outnumbered them and put them on the psychic defense, were the patriots. Later investiga tion proved what on-the-scene-observaton indicated: the hotels were half-filled, the rail and bus stations reported normal crowds. Nixon and the corporate massagers hadn't touched a wellspring right wing sentiment. The next morning, Billy Graham, hair silvered and stylishly long, standing aside a banner which proclaimed ambiguously "Hour of Decisión- God or Country", proclaimed intensely that we ought to reexamine the stitches in the Ameircan flag. Poor stitching, included racism (we ought to "build not burn" and "remedy this problem in time for 1976, our 2OOth anniversary!"), poverty, pollution, and "moral permissiveness which could lead to decadence". And racism... The crowd of 10,000 appreciated the remarks, but there were only 10,000. Everyone knows Amerika is uneasy, but Rev. Billy had nothing much to offer except Old Glory and warmedover God. Billy Graham is to religión what McDonalds is to Hamburgers. The rest of the "All Star" Honor Amerika cast feil off from there. With a thud. If the potential for a popular fascist movement is to be realized, leaders will have to provide a crusade that - can gíve people a sense of purpose and a feeling of importance as individuals. Bob Hope, Billy Graham, Nixon and Agnew har dl y do that. Though the idea was there, halfhearted as it was, the execution was third rate. You can't mouth platitudes and build fascist consciousness. You have to appeal to base emotions and the deepest insecurities. No moderate can hoid this country together. Western capitalist institutïons such as educational and family structures, and legal systems, and religión have degenera teef too far. Catholic conditions will accelerate until the country is reorganized fo fhe right or the left. The stagingi)f the Honor Amerika show looked like the Iowa Falls High School drama teacher was given a big budget and told to whip up something on a patriotic theme. Hitler would have rolled over in his grave. Instead of Power and authority, the people were offered nostalgia-fond fantasies of tranquil and simple times in the past. Nothing sent the blood racing. Not even ex-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Curtis LeMay advocating something like ending the war in Vietnam by bombing the North Vietnamese "back to the stone age". The Mid-Amerikans I've spent most of the last eight months traveling and talking with average white working Amerikans, mostly in the South. I cut off my beard, clipped my hair, and it still took me two months to lose my middleclass hip paranoia around working people. At first I thought my reactions were my own failufe. But as I began to more clearly understand theclass structure of the South I realized that this system divides people by training middle class people to feel a certain arrogance and superiority, and at the same time fea-, toward the working class. When I got to the point I feit easy about striking a conversation in a roadside tavern or lingering with a farmer on a general store porch, I began to understand the curious uneasiness and anger that passes for patriotism. It's not so much love for the flag or the other nationalistic symbols, ( after all as nations go this one is relatively young and has thoroughly trained people to look out ; for themselves), but that people who work hard are pissed off at people who don't. Patriotism is in essence a misdirected class hostility among the masses of people. Wandering stoned through the afternoon M i Am er i ka crowds, I began striking up versatiions to discover why people had come. One burly, aged Pennsylvanian, wearing a yellow hard hat with an Amerikan flag decal and painted. with "America Love it or Leave It" couldn't figure out the war in Vietnam and didn't like it. Because the numbers of hips had created a stalemate for the day, he seemed willing enough to talk. He didn't like demonstrators because they were college students who didn't have to go to the war, but "were always making noise and disrupting things." His son went to work after high school, but was considering going to community college when he saved some money. He got drafted and was serving in the infantry in Vietnam. Later the man told me he didn't like the Republicans like Nixon because they were "in with the rich people". He thought he might support Wallace next time because "Wallace under stands the problems of people who have to work for a living." Another man wearing Bermuda shorts and carrying an American flag talked mostly about the sixty thousand dollar inheritance he'd invested in a coin collection. "U's one of the best investments, much better than stocks." Though he was unable to relate on any level beside discussions of different types of investments, he was clearly lonely and hoped I would talk longer. A middleaged bachelor, he'd come "to feel a part of something". A young girl with a puffed and laquered hairdo told me while her boy.friend watched me savagely that she carne to Honor Amerika day because she was afraid if the demonstrators got their way her brother who had been drafted might be abandoned over in Vietnam and wind up killed. A Polish guy in his twenties who worked in a factory and had a wife and two small kids thought people like him should get together like the blacks. His tone was a mixture of hostility and respect toward blacks. He thought they were gettting the things he needed, and it was getting tougher with the inflation to take care of his family. He couldn't exactly express why he carne to Honor Amerika day, but he sort of had the sense that if his loyalty was recognized, then the government might' appreciate people like him and take care of them a liftte better. These people like most of the rest, are disoriented: I've found the militaristic racist right relatively small. But very real frustrations exist for most middle Amerikans- they're bound to intensify as the country degenera tes. While some will become disheartened and seek escapes, many, including the most intelligent and energetic will either become a new element of the movement or they will be organized on Fascist lines. In one case we will have a sea of people to swim in, in the other hip youth and minorities will fight a civil war against the militaryindustrialists using working people as their pawns. The question still hangs in the balance. In the past certain academically oriented student based groups such as Progressive Labor, RYM II, ánd Young Socialist Alliance have argued for a workers' strategy. Invariably these políticos have read Marx and can expound on super exploitation, the theory of surplus value, the labor áristocracy, industrial versus craft unionism, the new working class, etc. What they can't do well is talk to working people. They lecture them. Hips are a little better off. They offer a greaser a joint and talk about life, but all of us possess an incredible arrogance. We were trained to be the elite, so even when we drop out, we assume we are the elite of the revolutionary struggle. To reach other people we have to have a strong sense of our own culture, but we can't assume its superiority. You can dig rock music and still get into country music, which is basically poor white blues. Maybe grass has the same properties as the workers' beer (one very stoned chemist who has been doing drug research told me that certain alcohols have psychic properties and that hes convinced that our social training interferes with our realization of them. Of course on any alcohol its hard to stabilize at a particular stage of the high. The tendency is to keep drinking and pass on to the point where you begin to poison your body and experience the bad sensations associated" with drinking. (We must think about bridging the cultural gap, and getting into other uncommercialized stj which are a part of our real roots. women's liberation movement taught us that we still have lots of death culture's hangups still in us. Recognizing that there still more hangups to discover, we sh be a little humble when we try to ■ on new people. Any person who spent most of his time in school h lot to learn from working and cou people. continued on page 28 The nighttime festivities attracted a huge number of MidAmerikans, maybe 125,000, in addition to about 25,000 hips. Our impact was phenomenal. We had passed from a protest movement to the youth mainstream of the country - only these people hadn't realized it yet. Except for some Turkeys running around in YAF suits, all the young kids were with us in spirit. The important thing wasn't the chanting which disrupted the Honor Amerika day message. (From the stage: "God bless Amerika", from the field thousands chanting, "Free Bobby Seale".) Or the fact that our battles with the pólice and their use of tear gas was a more interesting show than the stage production. For those present it became clear that we weren't as Billy Graham had put it earlier, "a relatively small extremist element, which has knocked our courts, desecrated our flag, disrupted our cducational system, laughed at our religious heritage, and threatened toburn down our cities." We were in fact the future. We were from their flesh and blood, and couldn't" be written off as Amerika 's bastard black child, which they one day may try to destroy . In fact, as honky white adults moving fearfully in this country's first black city, they might have understood in the secret corners of their minds that an attempt to preserve their white Christian imperialist Amerika by employing the Nazi final solution on black America, would also mean killing their blue eyed children. The small number of blacks in the crowd were with the whites who had chanted "F-U-C-K, Fuck! Smoke dope. Get high, all the pigsaregonna die." The impact was shattering. So many1 emotions crossed the faces of these red white and blue Amerikans, from bewilderment to hatred, from desperation to an impending sense of defeat. The tactical debate The night ended with a fireworks display, but the finale, the turning of the Washington erect cock monument red white and blue - was spoiled. Freaks had destroyed too many searchlights. We carried away a sense of elation. We had entered an uncertain situation and shaped its definition. The state had mobilized its prestige, and we had relied, on our own media and information channels, yet except for the July 4 night entertainment we had turned out as many people as the establishment. More importantly our people had struggled well. Because of the Mid-Amerika crowds, the pólice could only take a defensive posture. They had to form defensive cordons, and experienced an evening when the advantage was on the other side. More importantly, the consciousness of every non-freak had been altered. In the heart of the Capital, utilizing their publicity machine and right wing stars, they weren't able to mobilize enough people to carry on a God, Military, Nationhood Revival. Our mood was up. There was a sense that we should hold simultaneous festivals with other honk Ainerikan events. Decentralized organizing without announced leadership seemed the intelligent response to repression. Particularly in our situation when advocacy of illegal actions such as trashings or smoke-ins otten lead to long and defensive trials. Two days later spirits had dropped. The national media mentioned the smoke-in as a minor incident, and painted a rosy picture of 50,000 more citizens flooding Washington in patriotic fervor. Sharp debates aróse. . Did the objective experience of the people involved matter or was the impression the rest of the country had more important? Sóme feit that only the reality could have much effect on peoples' lives, and a newspaper or tv account was soon forgotten. Others responded that it made the world think that Amerika could still pull off a public pro-war gathering with minimal dissent. If people had this false impression then the reactionary movement had been given a boost. Some militant" argued that cadres should have decided tactics in advance, brought buil horns and led the people in confrontations. Others argued that it was more important tht we gain a sense of our selfreliance and unity, and that a few, leading a veteran crowd inte an action it didn't spontaneously take was the worst sort of elitist manipulation. Everyone agreed that we had within our tactical grasp the ability to storm the stage and stop the performance. If we had halted the show the national media would have had to headline "Dope Smokers Dishonor America, Performance Stopped by Unruly Mob" or something like that. That plan had been discussed throughout the day by groups of people, but never undertaken. For the stage to be stormed it would have meant a self-appointed vanguard taking an action and the mass of people accepting the consequences without any say. The many busts, and heavy legal chais which follow would all have been for .edia impact, it wouldn't have altered the basic experience. Discussions resulted in no clear recolution. Most people believe that we aic entering a new and more serious stage of struggle. Elitist relationships, and swaggering macho leadership, have to give way to deeper bonds of friendship and collective trust, if we are going to survive. National actions such as the smoke-in only present part of the problem, beca use most people must fight in harder day-to-day ways on their home turf. In local situations with limited numbers, the operation and trust between affinity groups, collectives, communes and families is crucial. Progress of people toward honest and closert relationships has been enormous since the spring, largely because of the questicns raised by women's hberation. And we are still too consumed by our ego competitive death-culture conditioning to choose leaders who we can trust and bolster, rather than undercut and make weak through petty jealousy and infighting. We have just approached the point when people begin to lose their selfishness and individualism, and learn to work together. We have not reached the necessary stage where people can be chosen for positions of responsibility and leadership and noUffe cut down. For the smoke-in tafhave been a complete success, wneeded to have reached that stage