GARY GORDON PRODUCTIONS

[Take me to Cindy Varela Henderson for State Senate!]
[Take me to The Fictional Times!]




...on the land and in the band...
 
...welcoming the crowd and performing at the Peace & Freedom Party fundraiser, Powerhouse Theatre, Aug. 5, 2007...

Gary Gordon
Novelist, Screenwriter, Musician, Songwriter, Travel writer, playwright, humorist, columnist

Updated 5/9/10


NEW CLIPS OF SONGS AND IMPROVISATIONAL COMMENTARIES, AND FROM THE 1995 PLAY, "THE SMOKING GUN CAFE"

Click to watch clip from Gordon's piece on "Beyond Darwin", Voice In The Well show, Warszawa, 2009 (Eric Vollmer, Producer)

Click to watch "Democratic Candidate Paul Simon's Lament" to the tune of songwriter Paul Simon's "The Boxer", from Gordon's satirical play "Primary Colors" produced in March, 1988; song parody lyrics by Steve Goodie, performed by Ira Luft.

Click to watch Gordon on the CIA and Crack at Creativity, 1996

Click to watch Gordon on 1964, The Beatles and Mario Savio, at Creativity, 1996

Click to watch The Gary Gordon Band, March 2001 on the Santa Monica 3rd St. Promenade: "Stuck In Traffic"

Click to watch Gordon, original song "By My Side", performed at the Hippodrome Coffee House June 1986
(songwriters circle with Ric Kaestner, Ed Gwaltney, and Paul Wales

Click to watch Gordon on conspiracies and related topics, Creativity, 1996

Click to watch Gordon, original song "Sittin' On The Edge Of The Moon", performed at the Thomas Center, Gainesville, Oct. 1986

Click to watch Gordon, original song "I Do Not Have The Blues", performed as part of his one-person show, "The Seven Warning Signs of Life", Hippodrome Theater, Gainesville, circa 1987

Click to watch Gordon, original song, "Do The Jim and Tammy Bakker", performed at Catch A Rising Star, Cambridge, Fall 1987

Click to watch Gary Gordon Band, Gordon original song "Atlanta", circa 2001
band includes Leon Rubenhold on lead guitar, Reseda Mickey on keyboards, Jace Kent on harp and percussion, Shannon Leggette on drums, Steve Goodie on bass, and Deanna Hurst on vocals


The clip below is from Gordon's play "The Smoking Gun Cafe", performed at LA (The Bookstore) in the fall of 1995. The play starred Russel Starlin, Daniel Pruitt, Tim Van Deusen, Lisa Dawn Sterling, and Gordon, all in multiple roles. In this scene, the various conspirators and hitmen who reside at the Smoking Gun Cafe put on a skit pondering and answering the question, "What if Anita Hill had been white?" Starlin plays the Democratic chair of the committee, Van Deusen is Arlen Specter, Lisa is Anita Bryant, Gordon and Pruitt are Republican senators.
Click to watch A scene from The Smoking Gun Cafe: What if it was Anita Bryant instead of Anita Hill?


The Kent State Massacre at Forty
by Gary Gordon, May 4, 2010

     A few years ago I saw Thomas E. Ricks, the Washington Post reporter, at a Barnes & Noble in Santa Monica promoting his new book about the Iraq War, “Fiasco”. After a brief introduction he read from the beginning of his book, describing the debacle and, in general, the people, forces, institutions and agencies within and outside the government that contributed to the debacle. Of the media, his home institution, he said there was an “inability of the media to find and present sources of alternate information.”
     Read that again: Of the media, he said there was an “inability of the media to find and present sources of alternate information.”
     You will not be able to grasp the thrust of this essay if you do not ponder the magnitude of his statement.
     He wrote this, and read this to us, as if the Vietnam War never happened.
     He wrote it, and read it, as if the government had never lied before about reasons for going to war, or how the war was going.
     He wrote this as if alternate information was hard to find, even for a professional journalist.
     He wrote this as if there actually was an “inability” of the media to do its job.
     During the q. & a. following his presentation, I noted there were plenty of alternate sources of information about Iraq and U.S. relations with Iraq, not to mention a periodic history of the media questioning authority, questioning the official line, and actively seeking the truth, especially in regard to war. (David Halberstam, Morley Safer, Peter Arnett and Seymour Hersh of the Vietnam era come to mind.) I suggested, as a question, of course, that the media willingly ignored the alternate sources of information, the alternate information, and willingly climbed aboard the Bush bandwagon, became a cheerleader for war, and that he should take some responsibility for that.
     He briefly disagreed, insisted the media had done its best, having an inability to find alternate sources—blah, blah, blah.
     It was crap. And I’ve grown up with this crap. I know it when I hear it; I know it when I read it. It smells. It is sickening. It’s crap.
     I’ll say again, he wrote this and read this to us as if the Vietnam War never happened.

     Forty years ago I came home from high school and watched the network evening news to see more about Nixon’s invasion of Cambodia. I learned U.S. forces had invaded Ohio and shot thirteen students, killing four of them at Kent State University.
     Within forty-eight hours I created an editorial cartoon and submitted it to the UF campus newspaper; it was published the next day—the first piece I’d had published beyond my high school. It was a map of Vietnam and Cambodia, with Ohio tucked in north of Cambodia. Two arrows indicated U.S. troops movements from Vietnam into Cambodia, a third arrow swept from Vietnam to Ohio. The caption, in italics, read: “U.S. forces attacked on three fronts today.”
     At 57, it is hard to remember the rage I felt, and felt for several years, 40 years ago—a lifetime ago. Now there is the remainder of rage, an overwhelming sense of tragedy—but not just about Kent State, and an overwhelming sadness.
     Not only is it hard to feel what I felt forty years ago—unless I dwell on it at length, it is also hard to imagine how little I knew about the United States as I was on the verge of graduating from high school.
     When I was in 12th grade, as I recall, I had not been introduced to the idea that the United States was an imperial power, was imperialistic. I was of course familiar with the wars against the Indians—not yet called Native Americans, but the narrative that civilization, that the progress of civilization was necessary, important, justified was so strong that I had no idea that there were alternate sources to investigate. The Alamo and the subsequent war with Mexico were not presented with any imperialist overtones, nor was the desire to expand slavery on the part of many of the men involved ever mentioned or emphasized. Custer was a reckless but glorious hero. And all I knew about the Spanish-American war was that “they blew up our ship so we declared war.”
     And I supposedly had a good education. I
     t was not until a few years later that I began to pull together enough pieces to begin an investigation in which I could at least become familiar with alternate narratives.
     In May 1970 I did not know the history of the central state’s violent response to protest. The Whiskey Rebellion, with President George Washington putting down an insurrection, was never taught as anything other than another in a long line of Washington’s heroic achievements. We did not learn about the Alien & Sedition Acts. I did not know about the Red Scare, I did not know about the U.S. Army attack on the Bonus Army, I thought the injustice dealt to Sacco and Vanzetti was an isolated incident, I did not know the story behind what occurred against the labor movement as it sought to organize, the strike in Flint, the IWW, the deportation of Emma Goldman, the jailing of Eugene Debs, the cancerous impact of McCarthyism and how its tentacles reached far beyond the government and Hollywood and media and into the universities. Although I was against the Vietnam War, I had not yet equated that war with the wars against the Native Americans. Even though I knew about the Wounded Knee Massacre, I didn’t initially equate it to the My Lai Massacre. As I recall, I equated the Kent State Massacre with the British firing on the rebels at Lexington and Concord. The U.S. government and National Guard were not acting like Americans, they were acting like the British, putting down the American rebellion.
     But… they were acting like Americans. Violence against protest is as American as buying shit from China.
     Oddly, in retrospect, the fury of my generation about Jim Crow and Vietnam, the fury about Selma and My Lai was based in part—maybe to a great extent—on the very ignorance I achieved in high school: that is, it struck us as an aberration, as un-American. With such a great history, with such noble ideals, how could this—segregation, carpet bombing—how could this be? The America we grew up with, the one we learned about, the one reinforced in classrooms, by parents, and in countless TV shows and movies, was a good country, the best, with a rich tradition of fine ideals and of accomplishing those ideals. We won the revolution, giving power to the people, removing the King; we beat the British again in 1812 when they harassed our shipping and seized our sailors, we defeated the rebellious south as it attempted to maintain and expand slavery, and we ended slavery; we beat the Japanese, who started their war against us with a sneak attack, and who wanted to control Asia and we beat the Nazis who wanted to control the world. Against this narrative, the treatment of blacks in the South and the prosecution of the Vietnam War was clearly, starkly, in contrast to that proud history.
     Thus the fury.
     Is it possible that if we had known the narrative was pockmarked, filled with many injustices on behalf of the wealthy interests and land speculators, filled with enormous deeds of murder and incarceration generated by race hatred, that we would have been cynical instead of outraged? Reconciled instead of hopeful and energized? Is it possible we would not have been motivated to try to stop a war that was simply a continuation in our lifetime of what previous generations had done to numerous Native tribes?
     I don’t know.
     Growing up in the South when segregation was the law of the land, my first rage was stirred by the nonsense preached that people with dark skin were inferior, and by the second-class citizenship imposed on them. It didn’t take much for that rage to also target those who seemed sanguine, who suggested “that’s just the way it is.” Rage led quickly to political activity, as there were integrationist candidates seeking office to work for.
     I do observe there are many younger people now, many who grew up cynical, “practical”, whose motto is “whatever” or “it’s all good”, who weren’t compelled to meaningful action in the last thirty years (at least), as if Reagan was indeed a good guy, as if Bush was indeed good enough, as if Clinton was actually on our side, and effective—and I know there are members of my generation who, upon enduring Bush II’s arrogance, barbarism, and his administration’s kleptocracy and oligarchy, actually opined that we were better off under Reagan or Nixon—“Remember when we used to think Nixon was bad?”
     Of course Nixon was bad. And he and Reagan and Clinton and the Bushes merely carried water for the ruling class, picking up where the gilded age tycoons left off after rudely being interrupted (though not destroyed) by Teddy, FDR and LBJ.
     It is hard to reckon with alternate sources of information that suggest the official narrative is incorrect. It’s much easier, as Ricks does, to maintain there was an “inability” to find those sources. But the truth is the alternate information, information that challenges, that undermines, that provokes—it’s always there.
     In college at Emory University I wrote a paper on American attitudes toward the Native American as represented in a variety of newspapers and magazines between 1850 and 1920. Emory had a fantastic collection of newspapers and magazines from those years in its Stacks. My research revealed numerous attitudes and numerous shifts in attitudes toward the Native Americans during those years, ranging from descriptions of them as savages to recognition of their humanity to suggestions that civilizing them or Christianizing them was called for to a notion that their cultures should be preserved: the emerging attitudes in the 1970s, a re-appreciation of the Native American and support for Native American rights and the American Indian Movement were nothing new.
     The My Lai Massacre should have been no surprise, would not have been a surprise to a public adequately educated about the nature of war and previous events in wartime. (Mark Twain on U.S. involvement in the Philippines comes to mind.) But the emphasis on the progress of civilization is strong, and atrocities, when mentioned, are taught as the exception. I never read a war-story comic book wherein American soldiers shot civilians in a ditch. But the news did surprise the public, and triggered immediate rationalizations and justifications—rationalizations and justifications similar to the ones I encountered when arguing with fellow students in the days following the Kent State Massacre as classmates insisted the wounded and dead students deserved it.
     It is hard to oppose teachers, to oppose parents and relatives, especially parents and relatives who, in the words of my Dad when we once argued about WWII, “were there”; especially parents who fought and/or had relatives or friends die. It is why I’ll reconsider what I was taught about almost every war except World War II. Despite the insistence of the John Reed character, as played by Warren Beatty in “Reds”, who declares the reason for war is “profits”, and despite its horrors and injustices, it’s hard for me to place WWII in the same column as the Mexican War, WWI, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
     Kent State was a moment that contributed to my growth, my radicalization, to my self-definition for many years, as I was aware that I could very well end up in a protest that would be fired upon. But to my shame I learned that it was not a singular moment. Far from it.
     Today, on its fortieth anniversary, we seem to live at the confluence of incomplete knowledge and attitudes that reinforce the narrative and dismiss the alternate information or challenge some aspects of the narrative based on apparent ignorance—this would be the teabaggers-- or that embrace the alternative but choose cynicism, opinionism or do-nothingism as the appropriate course of action. Mixing with these slipstreams is the mainstream which has embraced Obama as the light at the end of the tunnel—an embrace that must pretend alternate narratives don’t exist in order to sustain its construction.
     The pretenses, the false premises that are practiced require an immense amount of energy to sustain. At last three years ago, as a function of my day job, I was at a Santa Monica “State of the City” luncheon produced by the Chamber of Commerce. At the head table sat a variety of City Councilmembers and top city management staff. I was in the audience seated between a local newspaper publisher and one of the City Councilmembers. The subject of the presentation was not just the state of the City, it was how about how the economic downturn (it was not yet a collapse) was going to affect the city. The keynote speaker was Senator Dianne Feinstein. As coming difficult times were discussed, one fact struck me: no one mentioned the wars or the cost of the wars or the impact on the economy of the wars. It was obvious the official narrative had no room for the war; the cost of the war was not to be connected to economic troubles at home, even by a U.S. Senator.
     (My comment about this to the newspaper publisher led to him writing this in his paper: “The major guest speaker was California’s U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. It was an honor that she attended and addressed this local business crowd, but I did find it odd that her major theme was on global warming and not on the economy, which is beginning to worry people. Also noted by a civic leader was the fact that during Feinstein’s speech and the concern of others regarding the state budget and the possible shortfall of money, the issue of the cost of the war in Iraq was never brought up. The cost of the war is now reported to be over One Trillion Dollars and is costing $8-10 billion a month to maintain. Ouch, that would buy a lot of teachers, clean power plants, and health care.”)
     There was no inability to find and present alternate information. Instead, there was a willingness to avoid it.
     Now, today, when I think about Kent State, as I sit here at this coffeehouse and write this, I look around at the men and women nearby who appear to be around 58 or 60 years old, and I think of Allison Krause and the others who were killed— Jeffrey Miller, Sandy Scheuer, and William Schroeder-- who was just walking across campus, not even part of the protest-- and the nine others who were wounded.
     What would Allison Krause be doing today? Would she be a Democrat, happy or annoyed with Obama? Would she be a Green. Would she have burned out and turned off and be apathetic, or worse, would she have fallen prey to Ron Paul or the teabaggers?
     I am a member of the Peace & Freedom Party here in California. I am working for three candidates, running for office now in 2010. One is Richard Castaldo, the P&F candidate for U.S. Congress, running against the pro-war Democrat Henry Waxman. There is no anti-war Democrat or Green in the race. There will be a pro-war Republican.
     I attended a meeting of the Topanga Peace Alliance a few months ago in an effort to get support for Richard. Organizationally, they’re a non-profit 501c3 so they do not endorse candidates: individually most of them are “progressive Democrats” or they are registered Decline to State—the California equivalent of Independent. I failed to get anyone in the Peace Alliance to commit to working for the anti-war candidate.
     Richard was shot when he was in high school, not at a protest. A couple of classmates came to school one day and opened fire. You may have read about it. It happened at Columbine, in Colorado.
     He was in Michael Moore’s documentary, and plans to seek Moore’s endorsement. Moore though, is so hesitant to break with the Democrats, I have my doubts as to whether he will endorse someone who opposes Waxman, even though Waxman is pro-war.
     Oh, here’s the other thing I do remember about 1970: people who were against the war were against the war. They sought out and voted for anti-war candidates, initially few and far between as the number of those willing to enter an establishment arena was small.
     Nixon called the student activists “bums”, a foreshadowing of those politicians and pundits now who urge reaction against a variety of liberal, progressive, and leftist activists, who suggest, between the lines, that bringing harm to those activists is acceptable.
     Though Ricks writes as if the Vietnam War didn’t happen, that there wasn’t alternate information available, that it wasn’t sought out and used, that war did happen and people, informed and otherwise, opposed it. As Abbie Hoffman said, “We were young, reckless, arrogant, silly, headstrong, and we were right!”
     Today the Iraq War and Afghanistan War—or more appropriately, the United States’ war in Iraq and Afghanistan, are happening: alternate information is available, and some of it is being used. But for the most part these wars are being ignored.
     If I was writing a short story or a screenplay, Allison Krause would rise from the grave and, wearing the bloody clothes she wore when she was shot, would call upon everyone who is against the war to behave like it. And she would shame us. And it would work.

From Davy Crockett to Pakistan
by Gary Gordon, Mar. 26, 2010

Fess Parker, Peter Graves and Robert Culp weren’t just actors, they were part of the story of America, part of the furthering of the American myth, part of the story of how we got here, where we are today.

     A story is a powerful thing.
     Here’s a story: Once upon a time there was a man who believed in truth and justice and democracy. He was a tall man with a strong jaw, an easy disposition when he wasn’t riled, possessing a witty, down-home sense of humor, unflinching eyes that flashed with determination; he was a crack shot, strong as a bear, quick and agile as a deer. He fought Indians in a war, but he did not hate them. He admired them, lived among them at times, and when he was in Congress he fought against the President to protect them from the President’s policies. When he left Congress he moved to Mexico and joined with others in a fight against the tyrant who ruled an area known as Texas, to free Texas from Mexico, to create Republic of Texas. He died in that fight, valiantly defending a small outpost against overwhelming enemy forces. But in death, he and his comrades unknowingly became martyrs, generating a battle cry that led to victory against the tyrant, and the Republic of Texas was born.
     Here’s another story: Once upon a time there was a team of men and women, especially trained and talented, whose job it was to work undercover against the enemies of truth and justice and democracy. Each was a great actor, an Imposter, a poser, able to assume numerous identities necessary to carry out elaborate cons, fooling enemies around the world, tripping them up, forcing them to reveal themselves or betray allies or turn over documents, undermining the plans of enemy agents with countless clever ruses and subterfuges. The team included a strong man, an expert in electronics, an expert in disguises, a beautiful woman unsurpassed in the arts of seduction, and a tall leader; a man with a strong jaw, an easy disposition when he wasn’t riled, with unflinching eyes that flashed with determination. And every week he would receive orders so secret they would be destroyed after he got them with the caveat that “The Secretary would disavow any knowledge” of the team, the operation, if they were caught. And he would assemble the team, and each week the Secretary would not be called upon to disavow anything, because they never failed: they would do their job and leave as if they had never been there, disappearing into the twilight until they were assembled again for the next mission.
     These two stories, with similar variations, permeated my formative years. Forget Jesus, who was never part of my heritage, or Moses, whose exploits thousands of years ago had nothing to do with being a young American in the 50s and 60s and who needed God instead of a Kentucky rifle or a secret plan to part the Red Sea. The operant conditioning that triggered my saliva was the story of Davy Crockett, and later, the adventures of the spies and secret agents like those of the Impossible Missions Force.
     I was only two years old when Walt Disney’s adventures of Davy Crockett first aired on TV, so I was not part of the initial coonskin cap boom. But when it re-aired a few years later I was ready and willing to become a fearless fan. I did not question the story, as presented by Disney, even though it portrayed Andrew Jackson, another hero of mine, as a bad guy for wanting to remove the Cherokee from Georgia. I can’t tell you how I reconciled that—at the time it was possible to hold contradictory beliefs. At the time Robert E. Lee was also a hero of mine, even though I was not at all interested in favoring slavery: if it was wrong for the Pharaoh to enslave the Hebrews, it was wrong for the Confederates to enslave Negroes. Crockett, Andrew Jackson, Lee—such was the power of their stories as presented on TV and in history books and novels geared for kids my age.
     I turned against Jackson in fifth grade, when Osceola, a Seminole chief, became a hero of mine and I learned how Jackson ignored a flag of truce and imprisoned Osceola in St. Augustine, at a fort two hours from my hometown.
     Then came James Bond, then Napoleon Solo and his counterpart, Maxwell Smart—it was also in 5th grade that I began reading Mad Magazine and irreverancy entered my bloodstream: it became possible to celebrate an idea and make fun of it, a cognitive dissonance that would later increase critical thinking.
     Before the Impossible Missions Force, there was “I Spy”, with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. It was the tongue-in-cheek version of James Bond as filtered through the template of the classic television western: as Davy Crockett had a sidekick (Georgie Russell) and as so many other western heroes of the small screen had sidekicks, so Culp had a sidekick in Cosby. They were dashing and expert, but they were also humorous, compelling, and entertaining as they carried out their orders from the Pentagon.
     Culp died last week, the third in that magic number three: first was Fess Parker who played Disney’s Davy Crockett and later Daniel Boone, second was Peter Graves, who, as Jim Phelps, headed the Impossible Missions Force (after Steven Hill left for religious reasons).
     I liked Culp, having been a fan of Trackdown, the TV western he starred in before “I Spy”, and I really liked Cosby, who was one of my favorite comedians with his routines on Noah and Chickenheart. But what I remember most about the show was that we couldn’t watch it every week. Often, during that hour, the reception on our TV was terrible. (This was back in the days before cable TV when everything was broadcast “over the air”.) The word was that the Klan was jamming the signal because they hated the idea of a black man co-starring with a white man on a major network television show. I never knew if the story was true, but the reception was always fine before and after that hour, so it’s reasonable to suspect something was going on.
     Culp’s death, along with Parker’s prompted me to revisit the land of television in the late 50s through the mid-60s. It was a land dominated for many years by the Western. I read once there were 48 prime time westerns in 1958. From memory: The Lone Ranger, Roy Rogers and Gene Autry had been joined by Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Johnny Ringo, The Adventures of Jim Bowie, The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok, The Restless Gun, The Californians, Death Valley Days, Boots & Saddles, Wells Fargo, Colt .45, The Iron Horse, Lawman, Wanted Dead or Alive (with Steve McQueen), the aforementioned Trackdown with Culp, The Rebel (with Nick Adams), The Man Without A Gun, The Deputy (with Henry Fonda), Branded, Laredo, Laramie, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, Bronco, Riverboat, Yancy Derringer, The Outcasts, Two Faces West, Alias Smith & Jones, The Dakotas, The Outlaws, The Big Valley, The Virginian, Paladin, Cimarron Strip, Rawhide (with a young Clint Eastwood), and the indomitable trio: Wagon Train, Bonanza, and Gunsmoke—to name a few.
     Talk about tall men with strong jaws, easy dispositions when they weren’t riled, possessing witty, down-home senses of humor, unflinching eyes that flashed with determination, and crack shots-- all except Maverick-- motivated by truth, justice and democracy…
     Except for some scripts probably written by leftists working in plotlines that had to do with recognition of and justice for Indians and other minorities, many of the stories were good vs. bad with gunplay necessary to achieve the satisfactory ending. But back to those leftists: there were stories of crooked sheriffs, evil bankers, land wars where the wealthy rancher was the bad guy—not, of course, on the Ponderosa. As America left the 50s and entered the 60s even the TV stories reflected an additional complexity of human relations, history and human rights. But they did not stray too far, if at all, from American fundamentals. The individual rancher or banker might be evil, a particular sheriff or trail boss might be racist, but the system wasn’t corrupt, the country wasn’t racist, and square-jawed, unflinching individuals ferreting out the few rotten apples would make it all right for the rest of us, usually within an hour, though occasionally it would take ninety minutes.
     It is not easy, even for one who becomes somewhat irreverent, to stray from the mainstream, to break with the fundamental narrative, to ditch the origin myth.
     It is a complex trip, and not an easily understood thru-line as one moves from embracing stories to re-evaluating stories to rejecting stories. It can take years, maybe even a lifetime. And it requires education, time to process what is learned, life experiences, and friends to point out what may not have been obvious. Some people reject the stories they are told define them or rebel against origin myths only to return to them in later years or during times of stress, pain, trauma or grief. Some reject stories only to wander in search of something to fill that void, something that gives meaning. And some find meaning in stories as simple, as one-sided, as vacuous and wanting as the ones they rejected. It is easier, easiest, to stick with the story you’re given, although it can lead to confusion or worse when events transpire that don’t fit the story.
     Events like Wounded Knee or My Lai, or the heartless drones dropping bombs in Pakistan.
     I moved from a position of supporting the Vietnam War to opposition as I moved through junior high and high school. The cynical might suspect this path was eased as I approached draft age, but for some reason I was not worried about the draft—as in other aspects of life, I had a strong feeling that it didn’t apply to me. My opposition came from reading and watching TV news and dialogue with friends, especially two Quakers who kept after me.
     But unlike the Socialist Workers Party members and Trots I met when I was in college, my opposition to the Vietnam War did not immediately meld into opposition to all American foreign policy. It took me awhile to equate what we were doing to the Vietnamese with what we had done and were doing to the Native Americans. I have generally rejected universal interpretations for complex activities, and history is nothing if not complex.
     Oddly enough, it wasn’t until I heard Tom Hayden speak sometime around 1973 that I thought about the impact of the Mission Impossible TV show on the culture. I say oddly because Hayden is usually as inept at pop cultural references as he is brilliant at foreign and domestic policy analysis. But he mentioned, almost casually, that Kissinger was the Secretary who would disavow knowledge and that American were trained to accept that because of the popular TV show, portraying those who carried out the secret missions as heroes.
     It was not hard to re-imagine the Watergate break-in as an IMF mission we would’ve never heard about had they succeeded instead of getting caught. But they got caught, everyone disavowed them, and the ensuing scandal brought down the Administration. Subsequently there were those who wrote conspiracy theories arguing that the burglars were set up such that Nixon’s administration would tumble, suggesting that the inept break-in was indeed part of a mission not unlike those conducted by the IMF.
     In his book The Strawberry Statement, which I read in my senior year of high school, James Simon Kunen suggested Disney, a rabid right-winger, inadvertently contributed to the radicalization of many of the boomer youth, reminding readers of Crockett’s alleged motto: “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.” I agreed with Kunen and took it further: it was through Disney that I became acquainted with Johnny Tremain, the Sons of Liberty, and The Swamp Fox—rebels all. They inspired me, along with the modern rebels like Hayden, Abbie Hoffman, Ralph Nader, Bobby Seale and others, to value dissent and revolution as an American value. At the time I did not have the information to know that the right wing embraced certain aspects of rebellion, and that many on the left wing rejected the interpretation that the American Revolution was indeed a revolution—a notion I suspect that would bewilder Ho Chi Minh, who modeled his declaration of independence after the one Jefferson wrote and the Continental Congress adopted, immediately casting its signers as treasonous in the eyes of the British Crown. And I didn’t know at the time that Frances Marion was a slave-owner, or that the politics of the American Revolution in South Carolina were among the most complicated of that entire war.
     Growing up, there was a world of heroes, real and fictional, there to inform and inspire. Crockett, Adams, Hancock, Revere, The Swamp Fox, Nathan Hale, Daniel Boone, Franklin, Paine, John Paul Jones, Lewis & Clark, Lee, Grant, Kit Carson, Custer, Sitting Bull, Crazy Horse, Geronimo, Jackson, Lafitte, Mosby, Andrews’ Raiders, Wyatt Earp, The Texas Rangers, The Rough Riders, Alvin York, Audie Murphy—
     The Mercury Seven Astronauts were marketed as heroes but as much as I liked the space programs, their heroics didn’t work for me. I didn’t see them as bold fighters for important ideals.
     Later, modern-day heroes and their predecessors in the history of the American Left began to arise. But that was when my separation from the American mainstream was already underway. For the mainstream, Vietnam produced no heroes. (For those opposed, activists and journalists became heroes.) Neither did the Gulf War of ’91, although an attempt was made with generals Schwarzkopf and Powell. But they were not Patton or Bradley or Ike. And they were not the everyday hero like York or Murphy.
     Attempts were made to produce a hero for the Iraq War. First there was Jessica Lynch, the female soldier captured then rescued, but much of that story turned out to be false. Then there was Pat Tillman, who may have been inspired by some of the same American hero stories that once inspired me, but it turned out he was killed by friendly fire and the Army tried to cover it up. He did not die like Davy Crockett or Custer or Nathan Hale.
     There were and still are attempts to ascribe heroship to everyone in uniform, every soldier, cop and fireman, but despite Oliver Stone’s misguided paean to the rescue workers in New York in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, no true hero like Crockett emerged.
     Perhaps the Vietnam Syndrome, coupled with the cynicism of the Post-Watergate era continues, even though discussion of both has faded from the texts. Perhaps those who argue against the so-called “Great Man” theory of history have won, and there are no heroes because they are not necessary or because they never really existed. It is not Great Men nor is it collective movements that will make history from now on: it is the nameless, faceless, heartless drones. Disney’s Davy Crockett will not be the cipher through which history is revealed and interpreted, standing on the barricade swinging his rifle at dozens of Mexican soldiers; instead there will be a noiseless drone flying overhead.
     All of which leads back to a further examination of the seminal hero, Davy Crockett. Crockett was not just a fictional character-turned-cultural-icon created by Walt Disney. Unlike Jim Phelps and the rest of the Impossible Missions Force, or James Bond or the other spies who permeated the movie and TV screens, Crockett was a real person, an historic figure, and second to Benjamin Franklin, one of the most well-known American figures of his time, celebrated in song, books and on stage. To call him an Indian-fighter would be the equivalent of calling a Vietnam Veteran a Viet Cong-fighter or an Iraq War veteran an Iraqi-fighter, something we generally don’t do as we are inclined to want to support the troops even as we oppose the wars. Crockett’s service in the war against the Creeks was brief and was not a career he pursued.
     Crockett was a U.S. Congressman from Tennessee who spent much of his time in Congress unsuccessfully fighting for poor people and for Indians. Originally aided by the Jackson machine, who thought he would be a perfect backwoods-hero-flunky, he became their enemy when he tried to help the Cherokee, and Jackson and his men did everything they could to defeat Crockett and make life too difficult for him to stay in Tennessee.
     There are mixed stories about his move to Texas, but there is no doubt he fought at the Alamo. There is doubt whether he died fighting or was part of a group that surrendered and was later executed by Santa Ana. He did die at the Alamo, but it may have been after the battle.
     As for the notion that he fought for truth, justice and democracy… there is little doubt that many involved in the Texas rebellion and the establishment of the Republic of Texas were keen on expanding slavery. James Bowie, one of the leaders of the men at the Alamo, had been a slave trader. On the other hand, Sam Houston, the general who won the battle of San Jacinto and defeated Santa Ana as his men cried “Remember the Alamo!” and became Texas’s first president was against Texas joining the Confederacy.
     So the story is not as clean-cut as Disney presents it. But in its murkiness, it’s also not clean cut from the other side: Santa Ana was indeed a dictator, Mexico was an amalgamation of populations and interests, certainly as genocidal toward the Apache and Navajo as U.S. forces subsequently were; was not a country to be celebrated or especially embraced even if one denounces the Texians, the Confederacy or the United States.
     It may be that while the seminal story for me was Disney’s Crockett and various dramatic representations of the American Revolution, the critical moment in my education may have been learning what Jackson did to Osceola, because it was possibly that moment that opened the door, opened my mind to the notion that stories must be questioned, even the seminal stories, even the origin myths, even what some people consider the sacred or gospel truths, and it was that value that led me to hear about My Lai and see the parallel to Wounded Knee, and to see that Crockett, while heroic in his defense of the Cherokee, may have been a fool in Texas, and that the Alamo, instead of being a clash between the forces of democracy and tyranny, may have been just a battle for turf in the war of empires with neither side caring much for truth, justice, or democracy.
     It is too much to ask, especially in our current world, for the deaths of Parker/Crockett, Graves/Phelps, and Culp/I Spy to lead to a reconsideration of the history of American expansion and foreign policy, covert actions, imperialism and empire. They were only actors, and the stories they played in were only stories.
     But a story is a powerful thing.

On MLK Day, These Thoughts...
by Gary Gordon, Jan. 18, 2010

     I met Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Atlanta airport in 1964. He was standing by himself, my dad recognized him, asked if I knew who he was, and led me over to meet him. My dad spoke with him for a few minutes and I got his autograph. It might be a better story if, at 11 eleven years old, I really knew who King was, or if he had said something memorable to me, or if I was able to say with certainty something like “and that’s the day my life changed,” but frankly I was more interested in how the Baltimore Orioles were doing than how the Civil Rights struggle was proceeding, and the Orioles hadn’t yet added Frank Robinson to their line-up.
     I was aware my dad received racist, threatening phone calls for his work in the black community, registering voters and helping to increase their awareness of various assistance programs and education opportunities—my dad was a professor of education. I was on an extension and heard one of the calls when I was 11 or 12, and a police detective came to the house when I was 13 or so to investigate threats.
     In 1966 I worked in my first political campaign, Miami Mayor Robert King High’s campaign against the racist Florida Governor, Haydon Burns, a former mayor of Jacksonville. High, an integrationist, won the primary but lost to the Republican Claude Kirk by 160,000 votes, statewide. My memories center around handing out leaflets for High in front of J.M. Fields department store in Gainesville, and being called various ugly names by Burns supporters, then by Kirk supporters. Things were very ugly in the south during those years, and being a Jew who supported Civil Rights had its ramifications.
     I have a vague memory of the tragedy of the murders of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney, mostly because my parents’ reaction was one of horror and distress. And I remember watching the nightly news and seeing the marchers attacked by police with firehoses, dogs and clubs. The first demonstration I saw was a picket in front of a segregated restaurant; years later one of the picketers became the first black elected to the County Commission (Tom Coward), another became the first black elected to the School Board (Charles Chesnutt), and his wife became the first black woman elected to the City Commission and later to the state legislature (Cynthia Chesnutt).
     During my municipal political activity, running for and serving on the City Commission, I had the Chesnutt’s support, but Coward was on the other side as primary issues in the 80s had more to do with developers vs. environmentalists, controlled and uncontrolled growth, taxes and utility rates.
     In 1970 I went door-to-door in Atlanta for Andrew Young—he didn’t win. A few years later I did a little work for AIM; it should not be forgotten that the Wounded Knee confrontation grew out of an effort on the part of the native Americans who had no power to secure political power on the reservation.
     After some years of municipal politics and some years of relative inactivity I’m now in the Peace & Freedom Party, a ballot access leftist party in California.
     And we are in the midst of gathering signatures for candidates’ filing petitions, gearing up for the 2010 elections in what is a very longterm, difficult effort to gain political power.
     As part of this effort I went to a meeting of one of the area anti-war groups where I once again encountered what I think is the most frustrating obstacle to the goal of achieving political power: the failure to identify the acquisition of political power as a goal.
     Let me say that again: the most frustrating obstacle to the goal of achieving political power is the failure to identify the acquisition of political power as a goal.
     This failure is in part based on a series of errors of understanding, compounded daily, such that actions and lessons that were once clear are now clouded, confused, conflated and otherwise clusterf***ked.
     I related my brief history of southern politics for a reason. During the Civil Rights movement Whites were not scared of black people singing and marching and shouting and having ”wild” music: as far as racist whites were concerned, that’s what black people did. They were scared of them voting. They were scared of them having political power. They were scared of them getting educations that would lead to personal empowerment that would lead to political empowerment. It was all about the vote and for racist whites it was all about holding on to power.
     Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman were not killed because they were planning a march, they were killed because they were registering voters. The Mississippi Freedom Party was not a threat because they were going to have a march or a rally, the MFP was a threat because they were going to achieve political power at the expense of those who had it, relished it, and did not want to lose it.
     Martin Luther King Jr. did not give speeches for the sake of giving speeches, or lead marches for the sake of leading marches, he did it to raise awareness and call people to action and that action was the action of acquiring political power through the vote and the candidacies of those who would bring about the needed changes. It was about acquiring political power.
     Somehow the part about acquiring political power has been dropped from the equation. If marching is X and registering voters is Y and voting is Z and A is the achievement of political power, the equation should look like this: X + Y + Z = A. But we—the anti-war movement, the peace movement, the anti-imperialists—however you want to thumbnail it-- we don’t have that. Instead, we have X + X + X + X = ?, and that’s only if someone bothers to try to use an equal sign to indicate where any of this might lead.
     At the meeting of this anti-war organization that I attended last week, discussion at one point devolved into random thoughts about why the peace movement has failed (or if it has failed!) and whether or not demonstrations are effective and the split between the ANSWER group and the UFPJ group, all without any consideration of what actually occurs at demonstrations (the ones I’ve attended have always focused on “anti-imperialist” speakers at the expense of or to the detriment of efforts to identify and support political candidacies and ballot access parties), and what it all means to those in power. Demonstrations, marches, protests, in the last decade have rarely been about emphasizing the acquisition of political power. More often than not, in the words of my comrade Cindy, it is about “shouting at buildings”, not building a viable third party. Speakers condemn Halliburton, Bush, Israel; speakers celebrate unions and condemn union-busting corporations, speakers call on the G8 or WTO or (fill in the blank) to be accountable; speakers condemn this and celebrate that, but they don’t urge, even as a secondary or tertiary interest, voter registration, party affiliation, and party activism, and they don’t urge people to run for office or give meaningful support to those who do. They feature “celebrities” like Ron Kovic over candidates and tired, mind-numbing rhetoric over efforts to meaningfully organize. (At the ANSWER group’s anti-war demo last spring I had all of 3 minutes to pitch the Peace & Freedom Party and was the only speaker urging attendees to register, sign candidate petitions, run for office and/or get active in an anti-war third party.)
     (I have nothing against Kovic; he admirable and has been an important activist, but unless his testimony at rallies urges people to work to acquire political power, then he is mostly testifying to the congregation, maintaining the status quo, and therefore becomes part of the problem instead of part of the solution. And what is the problem? Failing to identify the acquisition of political power as the priority.)
     (Cindy Sheehan’s failure to choose to become a candidate against Nancy Pelosi offers a similar example of choosing “shouting at buildings” instead of building a political opposition to the Wall Street teams. Putting efforts into an International Declaration of whatever promoted in part on Facebook is not the same as directly challenging Pelosi—not even in the same universe. So what if everyone signs an international declaration of whatever? What’s that get you? It’s like when Werner Erhard wanted to end world hunger so he asked everyone to sign a pledge to “take responsibility” for ending world hunger. As my friend Joe would say, “How’s that workin’ for ya?” Sheehan is not the most astute political activist, but she is bright and, importantly, has gained name recognition: an activist with name recognition should run for office. Otherwise, X + X + X + X = 4X.)
     (The failure of people like Sheehan to run also leads to the 4 Cs—clouded thinking, confusion, conflation and clusterf**k—in that people like Ron Paul actually end up looking appealing to progressives and leftists who should know better but forget that Paul and those of similar ilk have no interest in society and only oppose foreign intervention as part of a philosophy that says “leave me alone”—but that’s another essay.)
     (The failure of Hayden and Kucinich and others to join and help build a third party is also part of the 4 Cs, but that, too, is another essay.)
     As I’ve noted before, the anti-war movement would be hard-pressed to identify any incumbents during the last ten years who felt threatened by any of the demonstrations, marches or protests. Why? Because they know X + X + X + X doesn’t equal anything other than 4X, and 4X does not equal A.
     One person at this anti-war meeting in L.A. said he thought the group should work to defeat (Henry) Waxman, at which point he was told the group couldn’t do that, it was prohibited from doing that because of its 501C(3) status. And therein lies another obstacle to effective political organizing, to the acquisition of political power. Massive energy by well-intentioned people—activists and others—is poured into non-profit corporations that are prohibited from using the necessary equation. If X is an information pamphlet that urges no political action because it must only be educational, then you have, on the part of the non-profits, X + X + X ad infinitum.
     Put another way, you have “War is bad, war is wrong war is bad, war is wrong” and when someone says “What can we do?” they’re told “contribute to our non-profit so we can produce more literature to continue to educate people that war is bad, war is wrong.”
     Okay, there are some good, worthy, productive non-profits; some of them working hard to provide the very information needed to be part of the organizing and registration and campaign efforts conducted by political parties. But even when that relationship is understood, the equation is still often misapplied in a backwards fashion: non-profits ask for the support of political parties (“endorse this, endorse that”) but do not contribute to building the party, and the party, fearful of losing some sort of status, complies and devolves into a group that spends an inordinate amount of time discussing and passing resolutions and endorsements ad nauseum.
     It is backwards in that energy should feed from non-profits and other activism in political organizing into the political party, and not vice versa. The goal should not be to take the organization focused on the acquisition of political power and have it divert itself into supporting the efforts of those who are prohibited from working on gaining political power, it should be the other way around. The 501C(3) status does prohibit or inhibit quite a bit, but many individuals choose to support the non-profits instead of the political party, or rank support for the non-profit above support for the political party. So the bulk of well-intentioned people, many of whom consider themselves activists, are fixated on non-profits and on demonstrations: lots of Xs, no Ys, no Zs, no A.
     Put another way, having energy run from the political party to the non-profit is like paying the state for the permit to protest against the state. On what planet would this lead to the acquisition of the political power necessary to achieve economic and social justice?
     All the while time and money and energy are squandered because of the failure to identify the acquisition of political power as the primary goal.
     At the end of the meeting, while seeking to register some of these anti-war people (including the one who wanted to defeat Waxman), I ran into what a lot of us in the Peace & Freedom Party have run into, and I suspect the Greens run into it, too: the preference of a person to remain “independent”, or as California puts it, “D/S” aka Decline to State.
     If there is anything that puts less fear into a sitting politician other than the apathy of the non-voter, it is the voter who identifies himself or herself as “independent”. The question must be asked, as I asked it of these folks that night, “Independent of what?” So-called independent voters as individuals stand for nothing because even if they stand for something there is no way to know what it is, other than that they reject all organized efforts at political change as expressed by the primary measure in our society, the voting booth. And so-called independent voters as a group stand for nothing as the only thing that unites them is their unwillingness to commit to a party—any party. Incumbents know most so-called independents have already washed themselves out of the equation; they’ll vote for one of the mainstream parties, some of them will vote third party, but with no way for it to be tracked, monitored, accounted for, the vote is simply a one-time hash mark, impossible to analyze and therefore meaningless. A so-called independent may make the difference in an election, but neither winner nor loser can really know. It is extremely self-indulgent and a waste.
     Now, back to the four Cs (clouded, confused, conflated and otherwise clusterf***ked), there is always someone who will read this kind of analysis and argue marches are good; Martin Luther King led marches, or “what about the march on the Pentagon?” or they’ll cite some singular experience where they insist the demonstration or rally made a difference, and I’m not prepared to argue with that. I think the anti-WTO marches, rallies and actions in Seattle made a difference. It’s quite possible that the huge immigration rally a few years ago in L.A. had an impact on political organizing and legislation, and it’s possible that Sheehan’s spontaneous protest in Crawford inspired some people to become active. Those were singular, exceptional, and no one—no one—can reasonably argue they are the norm.
     But was the inspired activity productive? Did it become part of the X + Y + Z = A equation? Was the X designed to lead to the Y and Z so that it would lead to the A? Was the march geared to political organization, registration, candidate support, voting or was it just a march?
     Do not confuse the Civil Rights and anti-war demonstrations, marches and protests that occurred in the 60s with the ones organized in the last decade. Many of those earlier demonstrations and protests had power because they carried with them the threat that people would either become ungovernable in a very organized way (draft resistance, civil disobedience, etc.) or that they would take power politically at the polls. Most demonstrations, marches and protests in this past decade had no such power, carried no such threat. Sound, without even much fury, signifying…
     Confusing the demonstrations of the last ten years with the demonstrations of the 60s is like confusing the union movement now with the union movement of the 20s and 30s. You wouldn’t do that with what’s become of most unions, so don’t do it with what’s become of demonstrations.
     Do not conflate stories (“Hey man, we fucking shut it down, man!”) with the acquisition of political power. And do not subscribe to the clouded thinking that police violence reveals to America the nature of the system. We condemn US foreign policy for placing a few soldiers someplace where they’re going to get shot, then sending more troops when the first troops get shot, then sending even more troops when the reinforcements get shot, and so on. Well, a protest where you know the cops are going to slug and gas protesters is the same damn thing. You put them there knowing they’ll get beat, they get beat, everyone videos and blogs about it and rails that the mainstream media doesn’t cover it. Well, that’s the script. No surprises there. And it doesn’t contribute to changing the script to re-enact the same script, and it doesn’t contribute directly to building an opposition political party because it becomes about discussing and “exposing” the mainstream media (as if their behavior is not already transparent) and not about what needs to be done to acquire power.
     It is one thing if one wants to take the more militant path (violent resistance, destructive civil disobedience, “smashing the state”) but even that is not achieved by paying the police for a permit to march on a street in order to chant “Whose streets? Our streets!” And that is not the subject of this essay, on this anniversary, it is not what I’m advocating.
     And do not accept the clouded thinking of the so-called independent. It is a call to diffused, irrelevant, meaningless, wasteful identification. The additional tragedy of the so-called independent voter, especially the progressive or leftist one, is that they’re glad there is a leftist third party to vote for in the general election, but in grasping tightly to their “independent” status, they do nothing to help anyone get on the ballot or to keep the party functioning so there can be an alternative to the war parties in the general election.
     Unless and until the acquisition of political power is the number one goal, the number one focus, the number one focal point for the use of activism energy in the anti-war, peace, economic and social justice movement, then accomplishing the end of the wars, the implementation of single-payer health care or the numerous other items on the agenda for economic and social justice will never be realized.
     Y + Z = A. Work must be done to get “independents” to commit to a party, voter registration, getting candidates on the ballot, getting the vote out—identifying the acquisition of political power as the primary goal, must be our work.
     It is hard enough to achieve even when the goal is properly identified and ranked; let’s not make it harder by failing to realize that we know what must be done and we know how to do it, and now it’s just a matter of doing it.

A Letter From Federal Prisoner Leonard Peltier,
Wrongly Convicted of Murdering Two FBI Agents on the Pine Ridge Reservation in 1975


     Note: Usually I post my own writing or music on this homepage, but it's important I think for this statement by Leonard Peltier to be circulated as much as possible in that it's one of the nexus points for any discussion of justice in this country. Most of us were brought up to believe the United States has always possessed the moral high ground; for many of us it was the Vietnam War that challenged that notion. A careful reading of American history reveals the Vietnam War wasn't an aberation. Now, as Obama leads us down the LBJ-Hawk path while at the same time rejecting the LBJ-domestic Dove path, as the legacies of the Bush Crime Family go unchallenged despite peoples' hopes and promises to institute "change we can believe in", it is important, I think, to remind ourselves of those nexus points that reveal our true nature and truly challenge us to do better.
     Peltier could have been pardoned by Clinton, but wasn't. (Clinton, of course, was the candidate for president in 1992 who took time off from his campaign to personally oversee the execution of a retarded man in Arkansas.) Peltier could be pardoned by Obama...
     Below is Peltier's recent statement upon once again being denied parole.
     For those who want to know more about Leonard Peltier, I recommend Peter Mathiessen's "In The Spirit of Crazy Horse" and the documentary "Incident at Oglala."

I Am Barack Obama's Political Prisoner Now
By LEONARD PELTIER


     The United States Department of Justice has once again made a mockery of its lofty and pretentious title.
     After releasing an original and continuing disciple of death cult leader Charles Manson who attempted to shoot President Gerald Ford, an admitted Croatian terrorist, and another attempted assassin of President Ford under the mandatory 30-year parole law, the U.S. Parole Commission deemed that my release would "promote disrespect for the law."
     If only the federal government would have respected its own laws, not to mention the treaties that are, under the U.S. Constitution, the supreme law of the land, I would never have been convicted nor forced to spend more than half my life in captivity. Not to mention the fact that every law in this country was created without the consent of Native peoples and is applied unequally at our expense. If nothing else, my experience should raise serious questions about the FBI's supposed jurisdiction in Indian Country.
     The parole commission's phrase was lifted from soon-to-be former U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley, who apparently hopes to ride with the FBI cavalry into the office of North Dakota governor. In this Wrigley is following in the footsteps of William Janklow, who built his political career on his reputation as an Indian fighter, moving on up from tribal attorney (and alleged rapist of a Native minor) to state attorney general, South Dakota governor, and U.S. Congressman. Some might recall that Janklow claimed responsibility for dissuading President Clinton from pardoning me before he was convicted of manslaughter. Janklow's historical predecessor, George Armstrong Custer, similarly hoped that a glorious massacre of the Sioux would propel him to the White House, and we all know what happened to him.
     Unlike the barbarians that bay for my blood in the corridors of power, however, Native people are true humanitarians who pray for our enemies. Yet we must be realistic enough to organize for our own freedom and equality as nations. We constitute 5% of the population of North Dakota and 10% of South Dakota and we could utilize that influence to promote our own power on the reservations, where our focus should be. If we organized as a voting bloc, we could defeat the entire premise of the competition between the Dakotas as to which is the most racist. In the 1970s we were forced to take up arms to affirm our right to survival and self-defense, but today the war is one of ideas. We must now stand up to armed oppression and colonization with our bodies and our minds. International law is on our side.
     Given the complexion of the three recent federal parolees, it might seem that my greatest crime was being Indian. But the truth is that my gravest offense is my innocence. In Iran, political prisoners are occasionally released if they confess to the ridiculous charges on which they are dragged into court, in order to discredit and intimidate them and other like-minded citizens. The FBI and its mouthpieces have suggested the same, as did the parole commission in 1993, when it ruled that my refusal to confess was grounds for denial of parole.
     To claim innocence is to suggest that the government is wrong, if not guilty itself. The American judicial system is set up so that the defendant is not punished for the crime itself, but for refusing to accept whatever plea arrangement is offered and for daring to compel the judicial system to grant the accused the right to right to rebut the charges leveled by the state in an actual trial. Such insolence is punished invariably with prosecution requests for the steepest possible sentence, if not an upward departure from sentencing guidelines that are being gradually discarded, along with the possibility of parole.
     As much as non-Natives might hate Indians, we are all in the same boat. To attempt to emulate this system in tribal government is pitiful, to say the least.
     It was only this year, in the Troy Davis, case, that the U.S. Supreme Court recognized innocence as a legitimate legal defense. Like the witnesses that were coerced into testifying against me, those that testified against Davis renounced their statements, yet Davis was very nearly put to death. I might have been executed myself by now, had not the government of Canada required a waiver of the death penalty as a condition of extradition.
     The old order is aptly represented by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who stated in his dissenting opinion in the Davis case, "This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is `actually' innocent. Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged `actual innocence' is constitutionally cognizable."
     The esteemed Senator from North Dakota, Byron Dorgan, who is now the chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, used much the same reasoning in writing that "our legal system has found Leonard Peltier guilty of the crime for which he was charged. I have reviewed the material from the trial, and I believe the verdict was fair and just."
     It is a bizarre and incomprehensible statement to Natives, as well it should be, that innocence and guilt is a mere legal status, not necessarily rooted in material fact. It is a truism that all political prisoners were convicted of the crimes for which they were charged.
     The truth is the government wants me to falsely confess in order to validate a rather sloppy frame-up operation, one whose exposure would open the door to an investigation of the United States' role in training and equipping goon squads to suppress a grassroots movement on Pine Ridge against a puppet dictatorship.
     In America, there can by definition be no political prisoners, only those duly judged guilty in a court of law. It is deemed too controversial to even publicly contemplate that the federal government might fabricate and suppress evidence to defeat those deemed political enemies. But it is a demonstrable fact at every stage of my case.
     I am Barack Obama's political prisoner now, and I hope and pray that he will adhere to the ideals that impelled him to run for president. But as Obama himself would acknowledge, if we are expecting him to solve our problems, we missed the point of his campaign. Only by organizing in our own communities and pressuring our supposed leaders can we bring about the changes that we all so desperately need. Please support the Leonard Peltier Defense Offense Committee in our effort to hold the United States government to its own words.
     I thank you all who have stood by me all these years, but to name anyone would be to exclude many more. We must never lose hope in our struggle for freedom.
     In the Spirit of Crazy Horse,
Leonard Peltier
Leonard Peltier #89637-132
USP-Lewisburg
US Penitentiary
PO Box 1000
Lewisburg, PA 17837

On An Island Three Miles Long, Long Ago:
A Memory of the Three-Mile Island Nuclear Accident & Its Reverberations
by Gary Gordon, 3/29/09

     Thirty years ago, March 28, 1979, I didn’t turn on the morning TV or radio news so I didn’t know about the nuclear accident at Three-Mile Island near Harrisburg, PA until I arrived at the Catfish Alliance information table in the Plaza of the Americas near the edge of the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, Florida.
     I was on the steering committee of the anti-nuke organization, having become involved the previous December, and I’d stopped by to see how the promotion for our upcoming three-day teach-in was going.
     Howard Nelson, a UF pre-law student and fellow member of the steering committee announced the accident in his inevitable exaggerated way: “Hey, did you hear? Pennsylvania almost got blown off the map. Yeah, the whole northeast of the United States. Boom! Gone!”
     In the ensuing conversation I got some of the details, but to me at that moment most of the details were irrelevant. I knew this was going to be front page news for a few days, and our teach-in was scheduled on campus for the following week, with numerous workshops in numerous classrooms, hoping that some people would come. Now I knew more people than we’d hoped for would come, and we didn’t have enough materials.
     Stepping back, for a moment, to give some time and place context to this story: 1979 was a long time ago. Imagine, if you can, a world without cell phones, personal computers, the internet; imagine a primitive off-campus copying industry, and the regular use of and dependence on mimeograph machines. (I’m sure there must be a page on mimeograph machines on Wikipedia; suffice to say it was then somewhat state of the art and now would seem worse than cave drawings in France.)
     Twenty-four hour news stations did not exist. News came on some radio stations every hour, and on TV in the morning, at noon, and in the evening and just before Johnny Carson. Gainesville had a daily paper that came out in the afternoon; the UF had a daily that came out in the morning. Outside of the mainstream media, the only way to get the story was to use a telephone (land line only) and call someone in Harrisburg.
     We started cranking on the mimeograph machine we had in our downtown office, cranking out thousands of pages to create hundreds of booklets to hand out to people who would come to the workshops.
     The Catfish Alliance was a fledgling organization when I joined in December, 1978. Mark Davis was the nominal leader. Mac & Kathy Steen, two Gainesville citizens, also were involved. Mac had been a Captain of the UF Fightin’ Gators years before, and his involvement lent some credibility to the organization. Jeff Gerlach, head of the UF student Environmental Action Group (EAG) was also involved. Other UF students included Mike Givel, Grady Burch, Susan Braxton, Elizabeth Stevenson, Patty Everett, Carol Davis—there were a few more and I’ve forgotten their names. (Eventually Pam Smith, Gil Marshal and Jackie Betz also became very active, but I don’t remember exactly when.)
     When I say it was fledgling, as I experienced it, no one involved had much of a background in student organizing, community organizing, political organizing. They were young, eager, ready to devote time. I had a background from anti-war activity in all kinds of organizing—everything except labor organizing. I had little knowledge of nuclear power, so it was my organizing skills that I brought to the table. And some connections beyond the UF campus.
     Because I’d been a somewhat prominent musician in the Archer Road Band, and had just left the band in November 1978, I had a lot of musician and nightclub connections. My first tangible contribution to the group was to organize a music benefit, which was held in early March at Alan’s Cubana, where I was gigging regularly. And I guess because I was who I was, I was approached by two people; one was a local activist attorney, Clyde Ellis, who had an office space to rent and offered it at a nominal amount; the other was someone who offered to pay the rent on the office. So we had an office, a phone, and a music featuring local singer-songwriters and entertainers Jim Connor, Jane Yii, Nancy Cook, Barry Sides, Charlie Hyde, myself, and the band Palmetto Bluff.
     The campus TV station, WUFT Channel 5 came out and taped a lot of the event, and did an interview with me; when they aired it more people showed up, including Michelle Hartley, who volunteered to pay for the mimeograph machine.
     With an office address came mail and one day a letter from an anti-nuke outfit in Boston arrived, calling on everyone around the country to have anti-nuke and safe energy teach-ins April 2 - 4. It seemed like a good idea to me. I brought it to the newly formed steering committee and everyone agreed.
     Jeff made a lot of the on-campus arrangements since the EAG had an office there and was allowed to reserve rooms. At the next general meeting of the group people took assignments to write one or two pages about various aspects of nuclear power and safe energy, with Mac volunteering to lead a workshop on how nuclear plants were designed to work. (The workshop titles included Intro to the Nuclear Issue, Regulations & Worker Safety, Corporate Structure, History & Morality of the Anti-Nuclear Movement, Crystal River Reactor, The UF Reactor, Nuclear Weapons, and Alternative Energy.) And several of us began familiarizing ourselves with what was known in the industry as the Greybook—the regular reports issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on the performance of commercial nuclear reactors.
     Our focus in addition to the industry as a whole and safe energy as an alternative was Crystal River #3, the nuclear plant only 55 miles from Gainesville. The Greybook on CR3 made for some unsettling reading.
     The timing of the Three-Mile Island accident wasn’t the only thing that boosted interest in nuclear power; the people who booked movies for the UF campus theatre had already booked “The China Syndrome” for a couple of nights before our teach-in. It was, of course, the perfect leafleting opportunity.
     Between the accident, the movie, our arrangements and our promotion, the teach-in drew a mass of people, and active membership in the organization jumped from around fifteen to around fifty.
     After the teach-in, we participated in a statewide demonstration at CR3 and in the national demonstration in D.C., where a few hundred thousand anti-nuke and safe energy people marched and rallied, hearing speakers that included Ralph Nader and Tom Hayden, and musicians that included Jackson Browne.
     Shortly after, the organization threw what weight it had behind Jim Notestein’s campaign for City Commission. Notestein was already an anti-nuke, safe energy gardener and landscaping consultant and would’ve made an ideal commissioner, ready to push the local powers that be into a safer energy age. He lost.
     (Years later, after I was elected to the Gainesville City Commission, he was elected to the Alachua County Commission, and introduced some sanity that Penny Wheat was able to build on when she was elected a few years after that.)
     Unfortunately, along with the growth of the group came personality clashes and differences of opinion that were difficult to bridge. To thumbnail it, I was more interested in trying to change laws and policies at the local and state level through nuts and bolts lobbying and electoral activity; Nelson was more interested in demonstrations that included die-ins and other theatre that was known during the anti-war movement as guerilla theatre, and, in the right hands back then, had some impact.
     The demonstration at Barnwell, South Carolina in the fall of 1979 led to a permanent split in the group. Mac, Kathy and I formed Citizens for a Non-nuclear Future (not one of the best names) and I remained only a nominal member of the Catfish Alliance.
     My focus was on the transportation of nuclear waste through Gainesville, and we generated news coverage around that. We turned one reporter from the Jacksonville Times-Union who came to a press conference during which we called for public hearings on proposed DOT rules. He was convinced we were just complainers and exaggerators—when he called the guy at DOT in DC to get “the real story” the guy was so nasty the reporter became convinced we were right and gave us excellent coverage from then on.
     A meeting with Gainesville Mayor Mark Goldstein in January 1980 changed my path: Mike Givel and I met with Mark and Mark suggested I run for City Commission. The suggestion, coming as it did from whom it did, stayed lodged in my mind. (Mark also immediately wrote a letter to the DOT, including our input in the wording—a Mayor in action!)
     The meeting led to my work getting the city to form a citizen’s advisory committee on the transportation and storage of hazardous waste, which led to my meeting environmental activists Doug MacGregor, Doris Bardon, Francine Robinson and Ruth Van Doren, which led to my position on that advisory committee which led to my candidacy for City Commission in 1982 and a victorious campaign in 1983.
     On the broad fronts of safe energy, conservation, integrating energy planning, transportation planning, and land-use planning, Gainesville, thru Goldstein, myself, and Commissioners Beverly Hill and Mac McEachern finally began to turn some corners; the Alachua County Commission followed a little slower and later thru the efforts of Notestein and Wheat, and from what I understand, Mike Byerly.
     I never did accumulate a majority of votes to sell Gainesville’s interest in the CR3 plant. Nationally, the anti-nuke movement stopped the construction of nuclear plants for almost thirty years.
     Now nuclear power is on the table again and some environmentalists are arguing that it is safer than “clean” coal, safer than it used to be, and is part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Other activists, like Dan Hirsch of Committee to Bridge the Gap, a decades-old anti-nuke organization, still argue that the waste problem has yet to be solved and until it is there is no such thing as safe nuclear power.
     It can always appear to be self-serving to decide one’s place in history. Knowing what I know of Gainesville and Alachua politics, without the Three-Mile Island accident, I may not have risen to enough prominence to assist Goldstein and then take over leadership of the environmental movement as represented by elected officials. (I word it that way because there were many, many doers who weren’t elected, but most of them ultimately did not have the power to vote yay or nay.) And if I had not been elected, it’s unknown if Notestein, able to take advantage of the organization built around electing me, would’ve won, as that organization would not have existed, and all that would’ve made it more difficult for Penny Wheat, who once told me she was inspired by Goldstein and me to undertake running and then working to become the most prominent elected environmentalist in Alachua County. Put another way, when I ran in ’82 and won in ’83 the opposition was opposed to Goldstein and opposed to pushing forward on most pro-environment policies—there was also no one else willing to run who could win in my absence. The same is true for Notestein and Wheat. Without them, many of the efforts undertaken by Goldstein then me would’ve ended at the city limits and would’ve been negated by county laissez-faire development rules. The one nominal environmentalist on the County Commission was that in name only; she was part of the “half-a-tree” approach, all too willing to compromise such that she would win half a tree, which, of course, is no tree at all.
     I think Three-Mile Island changed the lives of many Gainesvillians, and helped change the political map of the city, even if its role wasn’t evident at the time. But that may just be self-serving, and everyone is invited to criticize my history and write their own.
     Nationally, the nuclear accident at Three-Mile Island put the stop on the growth of the nuclear industry for at least 30 years. What it means for the future—well, as Mort Sahl once observed: “The future lies ahead.”

Mudcrutch, From Gatorville to Santa Barbara in 35 Years
by Gary Gordon, April, 2008

     There was a time when Benmont Tench was the name of the kid in Golf View who played piano and might be a good addition to a band. Around then, the number one band in Gainesville was The Maundy Quintet, with a drummer known as Boomer, who later went on to be a star DJ on WGGG—it was the rock station, before FM existed. Tom Petty worked at Lipham’s Music when it was in the Gainesville Shopping Center on 10th and Main, and was in a band with Tom Leadon called The Epics, who played for the P.K. Yonge homecoming dance at the gym for $80.00.
     No, it wasn’t when Lincoln was president, but it was a long strange trip of a lifetime ago. Before the mainstream media covered rock and roll, before Rolling Stone was a slick national magazine, way before MTV, VHS, CDs, DVDs, IPODs—back when rock n roll was still somewhat revolutionary, feared and frowned upon, when any kind of racial integration was still an uphill battle, when the draft breathed down our necks, when Dylan, the Byrds, Townshend, Hendrix, Clapton, the Beatles, the Stones and scores of others broke new ground, creating sounds, songs, beats, and lyrics that drew us to a new world.
     The Mudcrutch concert at the beautiful Arlington theatre in Santa Barbara, California the other night compelled these memories and more as the improbable unfolded before a standing room only audience. Improbable: a high school band recreated over thirty years later, organized by one of the leading rock stars and songwriters of our time, bookended by two of his successful and talented bandmates and completed with the addition of two musicians who were cut from the band decades ago only to be plucked from their daily routines to rejoin former colleagues and play in the spotlight, almost as if the intervening decades hadn’t occurred.
     The operative word is Play. Although Petty’s choice to reassemble the band did pose risks—you have to live out here to fully appreciate how carefully the most famous musicians, actors, and comics step, always fearful of a wrong choice that will expose their flaws and send their bankability into the toilet—Petty’s shrewd and the band is talented. So instead of having to measure every step, every choice, every lick, every nuance, they just got together to play. And if the Santa Barbara show is representative of this mini-tour, the play is a joyful celebration of good-time fun covers like “Six Days On The Road” and Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women 12 & 35”, exhilarating dueling guitars, soaring harmonies; penetrating, insightful and revealing lyrics (as we’ve come to expect from Petty), built on the foundation of solid bass and drums and painted and decorated with taste and enthusiasm by keyboardist Tench.
     Although for many in the audience the trip was to see Tom Petty, Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench and a couple of guys who were in the Bogdanovich documentary who used to play with Tom (and one o f them is one of Bernie Leadon’s younger brothers), the trip for me was to see a band I hadn’t seen since ’70 or ’71 when they played at the University of Florida Auditorium along with Tower and RGF, and especially to see Tom Leadon, who I played with a few times in pick-up bands and on jam nights at Richenbacher’s in the late 80’s. So it was impossible to watch the show without recalling Tom and Tom at the P.K. Yonge gym (for some reason I was the one who booked them for the school to play that gig), and recalling the times I’d seen Leadon with his band at Richenbacher’s (Kenny Shore on bass, Bruce Shepard on sax), and had worked with him, recalling Leadon’s strict approach to his diet and the precision of his guitar-playing.
     From the opening song, “Shady Grove”, thru the Grateful Dead-like jam on “Crystal River”, thru the dueling guitars on “Bootleg Flyer”, you hear right away this is not the Heartbreakers; Campbell is fully unleashed and both he and Leadon wail on the bluegrass tunes and rock jams, Leadon and Tench each take a turn singing lead, and best of all, you don’t know what will happen next. Even if you’ve heard some of the album, much of what comes is a wonderful surprise. There is the genuine sense that the band is discovering the music at the same time as the audience, and in that way it is more similar to those long ago days when rock n roll was a voyage of discovery and not the all-too-often presentation of canned goods.
     It is, of course, Petty, who grounds the enterprise, centers the band, and it is his lyrics that contribute to the memories of this concert and truly separate this Mudcrutch from the band of long ago.
     “My mother loves me but my daddy don’t, I try to work it out but I probably won’t, there’s a woman waiting at the top of the stairs, it’s the wrong thing to do but I don’t… care,” Petty sings on “The Wrong Thing To Do”.
     There’s the mournful, hopeful “Orphan of the Storm” about the Katrina hurricane and subsequent tragedies (“Lord send me down a fallen angel, there’s a miracle to perform, and I ain’t the kind who gives up, but I’m so tired of rain, Lord I’m just an orphan of the storm”).
     There’s Petty’s classic defiance (“My love’s an ocean, you better not cross it,” and his classic confession (“I’m a loser at the top of my game… I’ve got a sin I never confessed”), he sings in “Scare Easy”.
     Underlying the whole evening, if you are to join the band on this trip, is the question of who we were and who we are. It was a minute ago. It was a lifetime ago. It was choices made, roads taken and not taken, possibilities of celebration and regrets, joy and bitterness. For the SRO crowd, it was a joy, it was a good choice Petty and his fellow musicians made, and wonderfully enough, no one in the crowd called out for a Heartbreakers song, as if everyone knew this was a different adventure and they were glad to be on it.
===

Gary Gordon played in numerous bands in Gainesville in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, served on the City Commission ’83-86, and lives in Culver City, California.

How The Anti-War Movement Lost The Peace
by Gary Gordon, 3/31/07
A shorter version of this was published in the L.A. Free Press

     The emails these days include many writers and activists who've concluded the reason for the current Congressional debate about setting a deadline to withdraw from Iraq is that the anti-war demonstrations have been effective.
     And the readers of this piece may agree with that conclusion.
     But should they?
     It is not cynical to point out that a huge additional pot of money to support the war was just agreed to by the Senate and the House, and that the language concerning withdrawal still lives in that gray area within the new instrument of government, the non-binding resolution.
     Let's turn back a few pages to Oct. 10 and 11, 2002, when both the Senate and House passed a binding resolution: the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution. On October 10, 133 members of the US House of Representatives voted against that resolution, losing to the 296 who supported it. The next day, 23 Senators voted against the resolution, defeated by the 77 who supported it.
     Put another way, almost a quarter of the Senate and over a quarter of the House voted against the war. This was a significant improvement over the vote that took place in 1964 when Johnson wanted to pursue his war in Vietnam. Then, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution garnered unanimous support in the House and only two Senators voted against it.
     What does this mean? In part, it means that in 2002 the peace movement, the anti-war movement was already in the Senate and House, not solely in the streets.
     What has happened since 2002? Books have already been written that describe the calamity that the Iraq war quickly became. Everyone but the beneficiaries of government no-bid contracts has lost: lost lives, relatives, friends, homes, cities, funding, business, rights, freedoms, opportunities—the losses here and there are too great to calculate.
     We all know the mainstream press was complicit. All of us can go to nationalpriorities.org and learn how many schools or hospitals could've been built for what has been spent on bombs, guns, ammo, armor, camo and MREs—a comparison that rarely makes it into mainstream press analysis. And all of us have seen the 10- to 30-second clips of anti-war demonstrations on mainstream TV "news".
     Yet we all know what has been going on, whether through the internet, or various shows on C-SPAN (and BookTV); Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, Steven Colbert and Keith Olbermann; or thru the documentaries by Robert Greenwald and others, or by hearing speakers at community meetings and universities, or by reading the now numerous books.
     And we all know that, except for the price of gas, which may or may not be a by-product of the war, that the war has actually not impacted us very much, other than to offend our sensibilities, to outrage us, to cause us to walk through city blocks chanting, or in the words of my comrade, to "shout at buildings".
     The irony and shame that must be reckoned with at the moment—well, there are many ironies and many shames, but I'll start with this one: as the protestors march, many of them are either recalling their anti-war demonstration activities during the Vietnam War, or, if they're not old enough, then they're thinking, vicariously, that this is what was done and what ended the Vietnam War.
     There are many things that contributed to the end of the Vietnam War, and I submit that decreasing numbers of anti-war demonstrators was not one of them. During that war the opposition increased and the number of demonstrators increased. To draw five or six thousand people in a city the size of Los Angeles would've been thought of as pathetic. And it is pathetic.
     But it is not pathetic because so few people show up to the almost monthly ANSWER "Coalition" demos. It is pathetic because the anti-war movement, such as it is, has been reduced to thinking that marching through a few city blocks and shouting at buildings is actually the way to end the war. It is pathetic because otherwise rational and well-intentioned people actually think that standing on a curb or traffic circle in a clump of three or four or even ten and holding signs saying "End the War" is what has worked in the past and is working now.
     But even though the numbers of those who opposed the Vietnam War visibly increased as the war continued, it was not only the number that was significant. It was the behavior. It doesn't take much memory or research to recall or learn that most of those demonstrations represented a threat to the powers that were. Why? Because at the edge of those primarily peaceful marches lived those who were engaged in making the society ungovernable.
     Ungovernable.
     There are two ways for the people to end a war: they must either make the society ungovernable, or they must change the make-up of those in power.
     Since 2002 the anti-war movement has done neither.
     So what do we have? We have an anti-war movement that won't take the action necessary to be effective and instead hopes that its' meager actions will cause those in power to shake in fear.
     Does anyone actually believe that Bush, Rove, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, or any of the other instigators and perpetrators of this war and any of the back-channel beneficiaries of the no-bid contracts has, for even one moment, been shaken by any of the demonstrations? Johnson was shaken in '67 and '68; Nixon was shaken for most of his occupation of the White House. Just read the books, read the transcripts, listen to the tapes: they thought the society was on the verge of collapse or revolution or anarchy. And if you take the time to remember or do the research, you'll see why someone who grew up in WWII and began their political career in the "Leave It To Beaver" '50s might've thought so. Demonstrators were demanding, unruly, uppity, troublesome, clever, unpredictable, fearless, lawbreaking and—here's the punchline: dangerous.
     Contrast that to the narrowly scripted ANSWER "Coalition" fundraising events that pass for demonstrations these days. First, the power structure is paid a fee for a permit so the march can occur. It's remindful of the line in Oliver Twist when the starving youth holds out his empty bowl and pleads: "Please sir, can I have some more food?"
     Second, the "coalition" (in L.A., really an elite, top-down, exclusionary organization) lines up speakers. Is the first or second speaker or the majority of speakers from either the Green or Peace & Freedom Party, the two anti-war parties on the ballot? Does the "coalition" support these parties by providing a platform for genuine electoral action? No. Instead there is the usual rhetoric that passes for analysis, most of which has been heard before by the marchers, who are already in agreement with most of the speakers, punctuated with various chants like "Dump Bush" and "Stop the War Machine" or "End Imperialism" as if chanting makes it so. (Did the people who responded to King, Gandhi, Malcolm etc. merely chant?)
     Third, any organization wanting to set up an information table has to pay the "coalition", thus begging the question, what happened to free speech? The "coalition" insists it must be paid because these demos cost money. (I've heard the figure $20,000.)
     So let's recap: a demonstration that must be bought from the power structure and has no possible chance of throwing any fear into the power structure and that does not give an ample and abundant platform to support the electoral alternatives to the power structure is what passes for an anti-war movement.
     That is pathetic.
     And what of resistance, the step beyond demonstration?
     During the Vietnam War there was actual resistance. Draft evasion. Draft-card burning. Peaceful civil disobedience and a variety of other activities that did not please the law and order crowd who elected Nixon to "bring us together" occurred with varying degrees of impact and alarm. Now resistance, for the most part, takes the form of calling for a national no-shopping day, as if this could possibly have any impact that matters to anyone but those who call for this nonsense. Break it down: if all of us don't buy toothpaste and groceries and gas etc. on a particular day, there's a one hundred percent chance that we'll buy that stuff within the week if not the next day.
     This is going to end the war?
     I realize that of those of you who may still be reading this, many of you may be furious with my thesis, or offended at my willingness to negate many of your activities over the last 5 years.
     And some of you may be getting set to argue that there is forward motion on ending the war, as evidenced by the 2006 mid-term elections.
     So let me ask: how many of you have studied those elections closely, district by district, to discover exactly how many real anti-war candidates were elected? Do not victimize yourself by hearing what you want to believe, reading what you want to believe, concluding what you want to believe. Belief has nothing to do with it. Feelings have nothing to do with it. Ending the war is about facts and acts, not beliefs and feelings. Feeling or believing a particular candidate will do a certain thing is the weakest reason someone can have for supporting a candidate.
     In the California 36th congressional district that includes Venice, California, represented by the wealthy pro-war, pro-patriot act, pro-torture Democrat Jane Harmon, an anti-war Democrat (Marcy Winograd) challenged her in the primary, garnered eighteen thousand votes (37.5%), but lost. The Peace and Freedom Party candidate did substantially worse in the general election (forty-five hundred votes), as most of the anti-war voters who supported Winograd let their anti-war sentiments take a back seat to supporting a Democrat over a Republican.
     How often did this happen?
     Even without doing the research, the evidence is clear: it happened enough so that, along with continuing funding for the war, we now have the possibility of a non-binding resolution that might end the US occupation of Iraq in 2008. Not 2007. 2008. But just the possibility. This is an anti-war Congress?
     The investment of votes and hopes by the anti-war movement in the Democratic Party has yielded mush. The door prize might be that Attorney General Gonzales resigns. Whoopee.
     Meanwhile, the war continues, and although Republican pundits Tony Blankley and Robert Novak write that Bush is in trouble, the people who are really in trouble are those at the terminus of the bombs, and those of us back in the States who would prefer universal health insurance, more schools, more hospitals, fewer prisons, and an end to the war.
     Again, glancing quickly at the past, in 1972 the Democrats actually nominated an anti-war candidate who won 39% of the national vote. Continued investment in the Democrats means one must ask if Hillary or Barack is genuinely against the war. The prognosis is not good. Put another way, the only hope we have to fear is pointless hope.
     The 1972 Democratic Party candidate, Sen. George McGovern, returned to D.C. in December to offer his plan for a withdrawal within six months and a reparations program for Iraq, a plan detailed in the October 2006 Harper's Magazine article and in his book Out of Iraq. Some in the Congress appreciated and supported his plan, but most Democrats, along with the Republicans, ignored him. Had this Congress been truly anti-war, the plan would’ve been adopted in January and the war would be over in three months.
     The sad truth is that in all likelihood the anti-war movement will not end this war. Eventually the mainstream politicians at various levels of government will become so strapped for cash that they will insist the war be ended. The part of the power structure that wasn't cut in on the Haliburton/KGR skim will declare that stability is better than instability and further involvement in the war will create too much destabilization. The funding of the war itself will make the country ungovernable because it will tie up too much money.
     The exception to this sad truth would be if the anti-war movement participates in making the society ungovernable faster than the money drain makes it ungovernable.
     Meanwhile, there is the big picture, the long run. What can be done to prevent future wars like this? This is the relevance of the two anti-war parties in California: the Greens and the Peace & Freedom Party. I don't think anyone in either of these parties is under the illusion that they will win significant power in the foreseeable future to change the paradigm, retract the empire, and get back to the job of creating a just society. The people in these parties are engaged not in making the society ungovernable, but in the other option: electoral power. True, many of these activists have chosen to victimize themselves by being distracted into practicing the pointless tactic of demonstrations and shouting at buildings. The hope is that they will return to their actual purpose: they are political parties, their job is not to plead with and try to influence those in power, their job is to gain power.
     At this point I have either convinced some of you, or failed. Some of you will still insist that demonstrations have a place, and I would agree with you under certain conditions. Spontaneous demonstrations are effective. Demonstrations that contain an unexpected turnout, like the immigration demonstrations last year, or unexpected fervor, fury, militancy, and organization, like the anti-WTO demonstrations in Seattle several years ago, were very effective, in part because they reflected power and in part because they were threatening to those in power. But the success or failure of a demonstration ultimately has to be measured in whether or not in genuinely forwards the agenda and that means: does it lead to gaining power?
     When Bush was re-selected in 2004, I suggested the following plan: 1) cease all demonstrations, 2) put all energy that was going into demonstrations into working door-to-door, neighborhood-to-neighborhood, to build as large and organized constituency as possible, 3) return to demonstrations only after number two had been worked for at least a year if not two years, and 4) when returning to demonstrations, do not get permits. Along with this, people would choose whether they would prefer to contribute to making the society ungovernable, or work in the electoral realm as offered the Peace & Freedom Party and the Greens. Further, all demonstrations would be geared to one tactic or the other, and not to endless rhetorical speeches.
     Obviously, this did not occur. But it's not too late to adopt the strategy.
     To those of you who disagree with this thinking, I would urge you to study the civil rights and anti-war movements of the 60s, study the make-up of the current and prospective Congress, and think about the best use of your time. Demonstrations then were qualitatively different, a tactic that offered and secured results, and I submit that having house parties, inviting friends, neighbors and co-workers, educating them with documentaries and discussions, and urging them to get involved in the same way with their friends, neighbors and co-workers will yield more anti-war volunteers than endless ANSWER "Coalition" marches ever will, and that those volunteers, if they're wise, will reflect the kind of power that ultimately shakes the power structure.
     To those of you who agree with what I've written here, please register Peace & Freedom or Green (one is Socialist, the other isn't; both are anti-war). If you're already registered then it's time for you to consider being on a steering committee or central committee, or running for office.
     In this way, eventually, the anti-war movement can win the peace.



Here's some books I recommend:
  • The Unknown American Revolution by Gary Nash
  • The Godless Constitution by Issace Kraminick and R. Laurence Moore
  • A Well-Regulated Militia by Saul Cornell
  • The End of Faith by Sam Harris
  • Confessions of An Economic Hit Man by John Perkins
  • When Corporations Rule the World by David Korten
  • Paris 1919 by Margaret MacMillan
  • Mapping Human History by Steve Olson
  • The Closing of the Western Mind by Charles Freeman
  • How Mumbo Jumbo Conquered The World by Francis Wheen
  • Fog Facts by Larry Beinhart
  • Deliver The Vote by Tracy Campbell
  • Colossus by Niall Ferguson
  • Endgame by Derrick Jenson
    and dozens or hundreds more.

    Gary excerpted a piece of Larry Beinhart's novel American Hero for a reading. This was the book on which the movie Wag The Dog was based. To read the excerpt and/or order the book from Amazon:
    American Hero, by Larry Beinhart



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