Even Then

It was 1970. My first year at university. I was in the honors program and living in a sorority. My parents thought it was all good. But I was beginning to listen to the social justice and anti-war messages from that radical campus organization, the judith-1971YWCA. Messages that would change me. Messages that would lead me to be president of the YWCA, a student member of the all-university senate, and a leader in the anti-war movement on campus. 

Did they see this coming? I have no idea. But my parents thought that an experience in civics might be a good thing, so they arranged for me to spend the following summer back in Washington DC working for a Democratic congressman. It didn’t go as planned. I saw my first production of Hair. I bought my first pair of buffalo sandals…perhaps you had to be a child of the 60s. And I volunteered to participate in a health care initiative in some of DC’s poorest neighborhoods.

For the congressman I was, among other administrative tasks, responsible to compile the results of a survey on the Vietnam war he had sent to his largely Republican district. The will of the people was absolutely clear. Over three quarters of the responses wanted us to get out. If not immediately, soon. The other quarter wanted us to ‘bomb the hell out of Hanoi.’

But the will of the people didn’t match the will of hawkish Senator HM Jackson and so when the vote came before the House this congressman voted to continue the war. It wasn’t even that he agreed with Jackson. It was all about currying favor with this powerful individual to strengthen and sustain his own congressional job. It was a summer of critical thinking and radical ideas and if I had any idealistic illusions about how government works, they were fading fast.

Dennis and I have been talking about faith in government. Faith that, for some, seems to manifest in petitions to current elected officials, especially Republicans, hoping that they will do the right thing around issues of health care and confirmations. Faith that folks are tenaciously clinging to in a belief that this system of governance can and will work. Dennis and I have faith in a lot of things, but we don’t have much faith in this. For me, that faith was called into question decades ago. Even then I knew it was a faith that would be sorely tested.

Beannacht,
Judith – judith@stonefires.com

14 thoughts on “Even Then

  1. O.K. here I go again….you may think this is off subject but to me it is not. Let me tell a story from the early 1970’s. I was a drug counselor (age 21) for a community agency. I was part of a team of counselors who were going to set up the first drug treatment program at McNeil Island Federal Prison. We were so full of ourselves, being pioneers and serving the down trodden. So we boarded the prison boat and went to the island to save the poor addicts. I was escorted (alone) to a room with about 12 adult males all black… can I still use that noun…so picture this little white dude with a beard and shoulder length hair sitting in a room with a dozen (really big) black guys explaining the services (treatment program_ we wanted to put into place in the prison to address their addiction issues and to seek feedback on what they thought would be most helpful for them. As the meeting unfolded this really big guy mumbled “fuck you”. Me being me…fearful of nothing (without good cause) challenged this man to explain his comment. His response went something like this: I grew up in the ghetto of L.A. In my neighborhood there was nothing but poverty, whores and drugs. No hope for ever getting out. A crappy education and nothing to look forward to. Look around this room….that’s where we all came from. You come in here talking about helping us deal with our addictions and go home to a nice house and opportunity. I will do my time here and get a bus ticket back to my neighborhood. With no hope of getting out. No hope of having a better life. No skills. So just what the fuck do you think I will do when I get back to that hell-hole. I will use and sell drugs and rob and steal. I will survive. If you want to help us give us a way out. Give me a way to make a good living…you offer nothing…so fuck you and fuck your drug treatment.”

    The boat ride back to the mainland was painful as this man had opened my eyes to a different world which I had no idea how to deal with. So, here we are….addiction and violence at an all time high (at least it seems), Here are the stats for gun violence in Chicago.

    Jan. 1, 2017 – Jan. 7, 2017
    661
    shooting victims
    Jan. 1, 2016 – Dec. 31, 2016
    4,368
    shooting victims

    And people are worried about terrorists. We are killing ourselves…drug overdoses at an all time high and still we are worried about terrorists. They are here and they are not ISIS. They are us!

    • Well, not off subject at all. In fact spot on. We are in the world of white privilege. The sooner more folks recognize that the better. The change that is calling is pretty broad…and pretty deep. It will get personal.

  2. Oh, my sister! I just had a conversation with my 29 year old daughter. She described a conversation she had with someone in their 50’s. He was saying he liked Trump because he wants to make America great again. Jessica ask him to say when he thought the country was greatest and he replied in the 1950’s. God bless my daughter and her response. It went something like this…”yeah sure the 50’s were great, if you were white and middle class and a man. You went to work and your wife stayed home and did all the cooking and cleaning and child care. It was great! But if you were a women, poor, black or Hispanic life was not so good. Yeah the 50’s were just great!”

    I don’t think we were ever supposed to have faith in government. That’s why there are multiple checks and balances. It is people we need to have faith in not a government. According to recent news, in 1968, President Johnson was brokering a deal to end the Vietnam war and Nixon sabotaged it. Proof is just now coming out. But the changes in this country during the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s came about through the sacrifice and hard work of thousands of average people not having faith in the government but rather by them poking the bear.

    Maybe we should be thankful for Trump, as he has exposed the underbelly of a beast that had been lying dormant, and or working undercover, for a long time. Three wars and no draft, WTF. No media coverage of dead and bloody children and women. No photos of mass graves. Comfort and ignorance makes most people complacent. Just like most of us did in the 80’s and beyond. I hope the beast coming out has awaked enough of us to return to defiance, disruption and positive social action. I have faith in the idea that there are enough of us to fight a good fight and make America Great for the first time.

    So have faith sister…heed the call to arms and continue to be the leader I have always known you to be.

    • Wow. Thanks, Jim. Honored. And actually I am grateful for Trump. He and those around him are making this so horrendous that I have to believe many will wake up…and stay awake. They seem determined to piss off just about everyone. And that will work to our advantage. Heeding the call, my brother. Heeding the call. And loving you!!!

  3. This feels like a turning point in our country. Will we live up to its ideals or will we build ourselves an island of privilege on the backs of the poor, the immigrant, and other marginalized groups?
    I don’t like where this appears to be heading.

    • That already happened…first natives, then blacks, Hispanics Most of us just turned our backs after the 1970’s and enjoyed the benefits thinking we had already done our job

    • I completely agree my friend. We are at a turning point if we allow the incoming regime to rule completely….and at a crossroads if we don’t. I choose crossroads.

    • Yes. It was an intense time. At that meeting of the ASWSU Student Assembly I was introducing two bills about the war. The first to send a telegram (that was a while back) to all WA state congress folks to cut off funds for the war. The second bill was to send money to Medical Aid Indochina as reparation for the damage we were causing. The first bill was sent to second hearing. The second to committee. Neither eventually passed.

  4. Me too. I’m very cynical that our current ways of politicians can or do get much of anything really meaningful done.
    I prefer to spend my energy visualizing energy moving toward those ideals that promote health and healing and having faith the universe will sort out the “how” to get it done. Since I have no clue, except to offer energy that way.

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    • The Universe will not sort this out. It will show us a path but we must fuel the mission with action

    • I agree, obviously, that our current political system will not get anything of meaning…for the people..done at all. It will take focus and visualization….and energy. I happen to believe the Universe will support us…but it is up to us.

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