Call out the instigator
Because there's something in the air
We've got to get together sooner or later
Because the revolution's here
And you know it's right
And you know that it's right
- From ‘Something in the Air’ by Thunderclap Newman
I really didn’t know what I was doing or why I was there or who I was politically or what it was all about. I knew that it was the cool thing to do the right thing to do -- somehow I was sure -- and we were good and they were wrong and power to the people right on. Then from a helicopter flying above us came the tear gas. Clouds of it. On us. From above. Courtesy of the government.
I knew at the moment that I would never forget this as long as I lived. So far I was right.
There were gasps of disbelief incredulity shock and wonder and anger and fear and so we ran and ran.
Now I knew. Now I fucking well knew what I was doing and why I was there and who I was politically and what it was all about. I was a radical protesting US involvement in Vietnam and that the draft was wrong and that I had a duty as a citizen to protest though I hardly would ever again think of myself as an American. My supposed government had attacked me and others as we congregated on the University of California, Berkeley campus to protest the war and the ongoing ROTC program.
There was a lot to follow in the Sixties what with Vietnam and Civil Rights and then Black Power and the emerging women’s movement along with events in Europe and Africa and other parts of the Far East and the whole cold war and a new breed of politicians and politics sneaking into movies TV and especially music. Oh yeah the music. All these anthems to what we were doing and how we were feeling. It was being voiced by diverse styles from groups and people like Hendrix and the Buffalo Springfield and Neil Young and the Stones and Joan Baez and the Doors and of course The Beatles. Always The Beatles. The music confirmed the rightness of our vision and the importance of our mission and how it was all wrapped up in the cool of culture and the colorful. This was no black and white Eisenhower dark suited America. This was a tie dye spirited righteous hip Amerika. Right on!
Once I walked towards Sproul Plaza on the Cal campus for a demonstration and on the path saw Blue Meanies actually trying to hide behind little bushes. The Blue Meanies were what we called the tac squad officers who were bright blue uniforms. I also saw dozens of police at the track stadium evidently coordinating for the days activities. I later ran as the police charged us and saw a tear gas canister hurtling down in front of me. It was as if I was the wide receiver going out for a deep pass and the canister was the ball that was being thrown just out of my reach. It landed a few feet in front of me and I got a good full dosage in the face. I stumbled to the ground by Strawberry Creek and kneeled there. Someone came from behind me and pulled me up by the scruff of the neck. Fortunately it was not a cop. Whoever it was said “come on man you gotta keep going.” I did and eventually my vision came back. As I fled the campus that day there were cops spread out every twenty feet or so and they were grabbing protestors as they ran by. I waited until two had just nabbed someone and ran through the breach and didn’t stop until I was back in my afternoon class at Berkeley High.
I saw the national guard on street corners. I saw the national guard bivouacked at the park across the street from my high school. I saw people throwing rocks at cops. I saw people getting clubbed by night sticks.
I saw the best minds of my generation....
A spirit of rebellion and I was all about it. We were going to change the world for the better bringing peace love and justice. We represented the oppressed everywhere. Our enemies were the rich and powerful. Whether the police in riot gear or the dark suited short haired guys wearing sun glasses who were taking our pictures. Nixon symbolized the enemy perfectly as the squarest man in Amerika with his stupid short hair cut and awkwardness. Ronald Reagan then the governor of California was another hated enemy. He spoke his animus towards us in no uncertain terms the slimy greasy haired crypto fascist. We had heroes like the musicians and Mario Savio and Angela Davis and Jerry Rubin and other hip smart progressives. We were cool.
I believed in our cause. It was about youth and hair love and peace. Make love not war. Meanwhile I was getting stoned and playing soccer and following sports and watching stupid sit coms and arguing with dad about how long I could grow my hair. Oh yeah and I was also taking a real strong interest in girls. They were soft and pretty and had nice smiles and cute voices and their bodies moved in different ways when they walked. I was ridiculously shy especially because -- maybe -- some girls told me how cute I was and that felt really good but scared me and the first time I made out with a girl it was like a trip to the moon. Swoon.