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Joan Baez-from Hanoi To Buenos Aires Fighting With Non-violence

Joan Baez-from Hanoi To Buenos Aires Fighting With Non-violence image Joan Baez-from Hanoi To Buenos Aires Fighting With Non-violence image
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Who is Joan Baez? "l've just realized that people don't really know much about me," she said. 'Tve got a weird image. On one side, Ym seen as a Vietcong flag-waver, screaming chauvinist pig while wearing spurred boots and stamping on men. The right wing thinks l'm left. "And the left wing thinks Tm a namby-pamby pacifist. The picture 1 have of it is me in a dress with peace symbols t all over it, sitting in the middle of a railway track waiting for the train with a bucket of organic honey. "The fact is," she went on, "It's hard to get people to understand there are infinite numbers of things to do between those two. The thing l've spent my life trying to do is create something other than being either completely passive or pointing a gun at somebody." SAVE THE WHALES? Joan Baez is most of all a storyteller, weaving pictures in song and prose to explain her philosophy of non-violence. Appearing in Ann Arbor last week, she enchanted the small crowd at Crisler Arena with nostalgie ballads from the long -gone coffee house days, interspersed with her own newer works. Most of her raps between songs were of the political scène in South America, where She had just completed a two-week concert tour. The Ann Arbor concert was billed as a "Save the Whales" special, but Baez surprised the audience by saying litllc about the giant mammals on the verge of extinction. Nor did she once mention the international boycott of Sony products protesting Japan's unwillingness to termínate its whaling industry. '■"ni very sympathetic, but l've done no work at all," Baez told reporters after the concert. "I didn't come here to save the whales. It was advertised in such a way that it looks like I was right in there swimming with them. Now TH get 400 letters from every dolphin club and every save the whales outfit in the country., which is not fair to them or me. There's no way I could be more sympathetic because it's a terribly tragic situation. On the other hand, my life has to be one of priorities." After two years of doing benefit concerts, a benefit record, and two poor selhng albums, including her most recent, of Spanish songs. Baez has run low on funds. "Someone said 'you mean you're doing this for money?'," she commented. "I said, 'you bet your ass.' " But even though she was specifically trying to get together enougli money to spend some time at home with her son, the Crisler Concert followed the Baez tradition of a single, lowprice general admission. All the tickets ran S3.50-none of that S7.50, $6.50, S5.5O stuff for Joan. WINDS OF THE OLD DAYS Opening with Kris Kristoferson's "Help Me Make It Through The Night," Baez. moved back and forth between music expressing her uwn tliouglits and audience requests of old favorites. She told of her flrst public appearance at age thirteen, and repeated the two songs she did then. ""Eartli Angel," and "Honey Love." The audience was kept amused with impressions of Lily Tomlin's Edith Ann, and later, a Bob üylan imitation during the Dylan tune, "Love Is Just A Four-Letter Word." Bob Dylan was the subject of a new song written as a comnient on his recent national tour. Baez referred to him as a "singer-saviour" in her "Winds Of The Old Days." The song recalls their past friendship and Dylan's role in leading a generation of marchers . . . it doesn't take much to remember lliose eloquent songs from the good old days that set us to marching with bannen ablaze But reporters, there's no tense in crying Our blue-eyed son 's been denying The truths that are locked in a mystery The Sixties are over so set him free. LOVE AND LOVERS While her love for people carne across strong, lier thoughts on lovers in general were less positive. She did the oíd bailad, "Silver Dagger," ending with the disenchanted maiden vowing to sleep alone, which she admitted was once a favorite. Even more melancholy was another new, original piece, "Love Song To A Stranger, Part 2," which finishes, concluded my thouglits on the past That love is a pain in the ass. She talked later of sexuality and women's liberation, saying. "I lived the life of a liberated woman whether I was one or not." For her, interest in the women's movement came late, and her greatest concern is for human liberation from sex roles. She mentioned her statement of several years ago that she was bisexual, but admitted she did not like the publicity em it brought. "When bodies stop floating down the Mekong River," she stated, "then I'll talk about my personal sex life." INTERNATIONAL N0N-V10LENCE j I Her visit to Hanoi in late 1972, and the continuing war in Indochina were the subject of much talk Friday night. She told of Vietnamese children. who often knew only three English words j -Johnson, Nixon, and Kissinger. They shoirtéd these as a warning to each other, Á meaning head for the gf bomb shelters because of J approaching aircraft. borne tnend oí mine mentioned he thouglit Vietnam had brutalized us to the point where it was even harder to see past our own selfish needs and desires," she said over the apathy in the U.S. on the continuing war. "You've seen the pictures of My Lai and little babies with blood all over them. What's left after that? What the heil can shock us anymore?" A After seeing the horrors of the war firsthand, she found m ple had an even harder time understanding her stance of W violence. Slie described a bombed out village, with craters 9 full of bone frágments everywhere. An old woman was ing on tne eartn. row. For Baez, ed the A war and jW M flp pounding the gfound in I the peasant's grief reaffirm lessness and tragedy of L violence. k violence-it's really exL ary what happens to k me. Each time I'm k tested in a i L tion where I think :ome out thinking my non-violence must go down the drain, it ends up a bit k stronger." It may be that in my lítenme, WM people will refuse to see, refuse to JÊ make that other way, refuse to S take the chance that involves that other way, especially since that othi er way is different in every case," i she went on. k continued on page 18 Joan Baez continued f rom page 13 "But I'm still convinced, because Tve seen it work in different situations and I have a kind of faith. And because the 6,000 years stacked up in back of us prove that if we keep using violence, we're going to extermínate ourselves." AMNESTY, INTERNATIONAL She told of the increasing violence in South America, where every morning in the newspapers "you would read about another politica! assassination and two more kidnappings." "Whenever I would have the time to spend a while with somebody," she said of her South American tour, "they would say, 'Look, we don't like violence. We know it isn't working. Our people are getting killed, but there's no other way.' " The Latin American audiences did not always appreciate Baez's political philosophy. A very "left" audience in Buenos Aires hissed a comment that "we must find a way to fight so at the end of the day we have more than just corpses because you can't teil a right-wing corpse from a left-wing corpse." Generally, however, Joan Baez was well received and respected, even though few agreed with her on non-violence. "I went into a prison and visited several guerilla leaders. I know they haven't exactly been in the same style politics I have but they wrote me a beautiful note. They said 'we respect you for what you do.' It was very touching. I feit they were my brothers and I was their sister." She also met two men recently released from Chilean prisons who-had been tortured by the military regime. She commented that there was a look in the eyes of someone who has been tortured 'Vhich never goes away." These men had been out of jail only ten days, following an international campaign to f ree them. "One of the reasons Fve chosen to work with Amnesty International over the last year and a half," she said of her most recent cause, "may be because once in a while you get a desert of seeing someone you've helped. I think these particular men would have been killed, had it not been for the groups all over the world who sent their disapproval to the Chilean junta. The junta is forced to listen when enough pressure comes from different places." Amnesty International is a group attempting to free political prisoners around the world, and is also involved in a campaign to abolish torture. Their efforts have succeeded in the release of over ten thousand prisoners in the past twelve years. Baez told the audience that interested people could find out more about the group by writing Box 1001, Palo Alto, California. Despite the work she has put into Amnesty International recently, she feelsher real "home" is non-violence. The Institute for the Study of Non-violence, another of her projects, has recently reorganized and is again conducting lectures and seminars. She mentioned how few people were aware of the organizing tactics of Indira Gandhi, or Cesar Chavez or Daniel laDulce (who struggled with the poor in Sicily against the Mafia and the Italian government). "Non-violence has proved to be one of the greatest flops in the world," Baez siad. "The only greater flop is violence. ... And it may simply be that I'm nuts. or it may be that they're nuts, you know." The visión of a world without violence liaunts each of us, whether we can accept her fïght as our own or not. And as she ended her concert, with John Lennon's "Imagine": Imagine all the people Sharing all the world I You may say I 'm a dreamer But I'm not the only one hope some day you lljoin us And the world will be as one.