Special Convention Fever Issue -- Chicago '68
by Martin Murie
(Swans - June 2, 2008) I did not go to the Chicago convention in 1968 because we were already dealing with the wholesale arrest of activist students in Cincinnati. The community was in quite an uproar, town and gown both. One eyewitness described a cop dragging a student, the student's head bouncing on the steps.
John White, earth sciences, and I, biology, decided we had to be on hand at "home base," as stand-by help. Later, a biology major told me a cop chased him. When he sought refuge in an open manhole the cop beat him on his hands. "Turned me radical," he said.
Looking back, and forward, we see that in '68 there were vibrant youth rebellions, civil rights upheavals, and feminist actions intersecting the antiwar movement. Experimental activism of all sorts; that's the way movements are made, learn as we go. Today, as we approach the Democrats' Convention, the contrasts with '68 are enormous. I don't have to go into that; we all know the trends, the awesome facts.
However, after the '68 Convention the war in Vietnam continued, and became even more murderous and toxic. Today, approaching another convention, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue, becoming more murderous and toxic. In both eras we were, and are, driven into box canyons by the electoral system and by the weakness of those we elected to represent us at the center.
We are reduced, once more, to choosing the lesser of evils. Suppose we, for once, abandon that counsel of despair. One way out of a box canyon is to find ledges and handholds and footholds: People Power, the Art of the Politically Impossible. Let's do it, build a movement that can act like a pry bar at the convention, and in November. Then, let's keep it going through the dark days of December and on into 2009, gathering as we go.
Footholds, handholds, ledges. These can be nation-saving structures; they can be reconsiderations of everything we once thought a firm grounding for a life philosophy. I don't mean the infantile calls for "change" spouted by the presidential candidates and the media hangers-on. What we urgently require, each of us, in her or his own way, of course, is a grounding on actual "dark earth." From there we can look across barbed wire barriers topped with razor wire that binds us.
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