Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I Move Forward with the Conscious Intention of Healing

A friend turned me onto these dream card oracles. I had already had one of the most profound tarrot readings this morning around what I need to do to prepare for my bus trip across amerika. The question I held when drawing this dream card was how do I bring healing into this journey. Here it is:


Your choice is to protect yourself and others or risk all.

Why create anew when you might better protect what you have developed?

To protect what we have or to let it go and pursue the new is always a major choice. Extremes open us to possibilities. Centering and structure create the necessary ground for creation. Playing it safe in life causes insecurity. Risking takes us to where we are meant to be.


Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I Don't Understand Why We the People Keep Making the Same Mistakes.

As I get ready to launch off across the country I am putting into perspective what I know and what I don't about the psyche of our people. Howard Zinn is one of the most important figures in america today in the realm of American history.

America's Blinders

By Howard Zinn, Published on Tuesday, March 21, 2006 by the Progressive

Now that most Americans no longer believe in the war, now that they no longer trust Bush and his Administration, now that the evidence of deception has become overwhelming (so overwhelming that even the major media, always late, have begun to register indignation), we might ask: How come so many people were so easily fooled?

The question is important because it might help us understand why Americans-members of the media as well as the ordinary citizen-rushed to declare their support as the President was sending troops halfway around the world to Iraq.

A small example of the innocence (or obsequiousness, to be more exact) of the press is the way it reacted to Colin Powell's presentation in February 2003 to the Security Council, a month before the invasion, a speech which may have set a record for the number of falsehoods told in one talk. In it, Powell confidently rattled off his "evidence": satellite photographs, audio records, reports from informants, with precise statistics on how many gallons of this and that existed for chemical warfare. The New York Times was breathless with admiration. The Washington Post editorial was titled "Irrefutable" and declared that after Powell's talk "it is hard to imagine how anyone could doubt that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction."

It seems to me there are two reasons, which go deep into our national culture, and which help explain the vulnerability of the press and of the citizenry to outrageous lies whose consequences bring death to tens of thousands of people. If we can understand those reasons, we can guard ourselves better against being deceived.

One is in the dimension of time, that is, an absence of historical perspective. The other is in the dimension of space, that is, an inability to think outside the boundaries of nationalism. We are penned in by the arrogant idea that this country is the center of the universe, exceptionally virtuous, admirable, superior.

If we don't know history, then we are ready meat for carnivorous politicians and the intellectuals and journalists who supply the carving knives. I am not speaking of the history we learned in school, a history subservient to our political leaders, from the much-admired Founding Fathers to the Presidents of recent years. I mean a history which is honest about the past. If we don't know that history, then any President can stand up to the battery of microphones, declare that we must go to war, and we will have no basis for challenging him. He will say that the nation is in danger, that democracy and liberty are at stake, and that we must therefore send ships and planes to destroy our new enemy, and we will have no reason to disbelieve him.

But if we know some history, if we know how many times Presidents have made similar declarations to the country, and how they turned out to be lies, we will not be fooled. Although some of us may pride ourselves that we were never fooled, we still might accept as our civic duty the responsibility to buttress our fellow citizens against the mendacity of our high officials.

We would remind whoever we can that President Polk lied to the nation about the reason for going to war with Mexico in 1846. It wasn't that Mexico "shed American blood upon the American soil," but that Polk, and the slave-owning aristocracy, coveted half of Mexico.

We would point out that President McKinley lied in 1898 about the reason for invading Cuba, saying we wanted to liberate the Cubans from Spanish control, but the truth is that we really wanted Spain out of Cuba so that the island could be open to United Fruit and other American corporations. He also lied about the reasons for our war in the Philippines, claiming we only wanted to "civilize" the Filipinos, while the real reason was to own a valuable piece of real estate in the far Pacific, even if we had to kill hundreds of thousands of Filipinos to accomplish that.

President Woodrow Wilson-so often characterized in our history books as an "idealist"-lied about the reasons for entering the First World War, saying it was a war to "make the world safe for democracy," when it was really a war to make the world safe for the Western imperial powers.

Harry Truman lied when he said the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima because it was "a military target."

Everyone lied about Vietnam-Kennedy about the extent of our involvement, Johnson about the Gulf of Tonkin, Nixon about the secret bombing of Cambodia, all of them claiming it was to keep South Vietnam free of communism, but really wanting to keep South Vietnam as an American outpost at the edge of the Asian continent.

Reagan lied about the invasion of Grenada, claiming falsely that it was a threat to the United States.

The elder Bush lied about the invasion of Panama, leading to the death of thousands of ordinary citizens in that country.

And he lied again about the reason for attacking Iraq in 1991—hardly to defend the integrity of Kuwait (can one imagine Bush heartstricken over Iraq's taking of Kuwait?), rather to assert U.S. power in the oil-rich Middle East.

Given the overwhelming record of lies told to justify wars, how could anyone listening to the younger Bush believe him as he laid out the reasons for invading Iraq? Would we not instinctively rebel against the sacrifice of lives for oil?

A careful reading of history might give us another safeguard against being deceived. It would make clear that there has always been, and is today, a profound conflict of interest between the government and the people of the United States. This thought startles most people, because it goes against everything we have been taught.

We have been led to believe that, from the beginning, as our Founding Fathers put it in the Preamble to the Constitution, it was "we the people" who established the new government after the Revolution. When the eminent historian Charles Beard suggested, a hundred years ago, that the Constitution represented not the working people, not the slaves, but the slaveholders, the merchants, the bondholders, he became the object of an indignant editorial in The New York Times.

Our culture demands, in its very language, that we accept a commonality of interest binding all of us to one another. We mustn't talk about classes. Only Marxists do that, although James Madison, "Father of the Constitution," said, thirty years before Marx was born that there was an inevitable conflict in society between those who had property and those who did not.

Our present leaders are not so candid. They bombard us with phrases like "national interest," "national security," and "national defense" as if all of these concepts applied equally to all of us, colored or white, rich or poor, as if General Motors and Halliburton have the same interests as the rest of us, as if George Bush has the same interest as the young man or woman he sends to war.

Surely, in the history of lies told to the population, this is the biggest lie. In the history of secrets, withheld from the American people, this is the biggest secret: that there are classes with different interests in this country. To ignore that-not to know that the history of our country is a history of slaveowner against slave, landlord against tenant, corporation against worker, rich against poor-is to render us helpless before all the lesser lies told to us by people in power.

If we as citizens start out with an understanding that these people up there-the President, the Congress, the Supreme Court, all those institutions pretending to be "checks and balances"-do not have our interests at heart, we are on a course towards the truth. Not to know that is to make us helpless before determined liars.

The deeply ingrained belief-no, not from birth but from the educational system and from our culture in general-that the United States is an especially virtuous nation makes us especially vulnerable to government deception. It starts early, in the first grade, when we are compelled to "pledge allegiance" (before we even know what that means), forced to proclaim that we are a nation with "liberty and justice for all."

And then come the countless ceremonies, whether at the ballpark or elsewhere, where we are expected to stand and bow our heads during the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner," announcing that we are "the land of the free and the home of the brave." There is also the unofficial national anthem "God Bless America," and you are looked on with suspicion if you ask why we would expect God to single out this one nation-just 5 percent of the world's population—for his or her blessing.

If your starting point for evaluating the world around you is the firm belief that this nation is somehow endowed by Providence with unique qualities that make it morally superior to every other nation on Earth, then you are not likely to question the President when he says we are sending our troops here or there, or bombing this or that, in order to spread our values-democracy, liberty, and let's not forget free enterprise-to some God-forsaken (literally) place in the world.

It becomes necessary then, if we are going to protect ourselves and our fellow citizens against policies that will be disastrous not only for other people but for Americans too, that we face some facts that disturb the idea of a uniquely virtuous nation.

These facts are embarrassing, but must be faced if we are to be honest. We must face our long history of ethnic cleansing, in which millions of Indians were driven off their land by means of massacres and forced evacuations. And our long history, still not behind us, of slavery, segregation, and racism. We must face our record of imperial conquest, in the Caribbean and in the Pacific, our shameful wars against small countries a tenth our size: Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, Iraq. And the lingering memory of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It is not a history of which we can be proud.

Our leaders have taken it for granted, and planted that belief in the minds of many people, that we are entitled, because of our moral superiority, to dominate the world. At the end of World War II, Henry Luce, with an arrogance appropriate to the owner of Time, Life, and Fortune, pronounced this "the American century," saying that victory in the war gave the United States the right "to exert upon the world the full impact of our influence, for such purposes as we see fit and by such means as we see fit."

Both the Republican and Democratic parties have embraced this notion. George Bush, in his Inaugural Address on January 20, 2005, said that spreading liberty around the world was "the calling of our time." Years before that, in 1993, President Bill Clinton, speaking at a West Point commencement, declared: "The values you learned here . . . will be able to spread throughout this country and throughout the world and give other people the opportunity to live as you have lived, to fulfill your God-given capacities."

What is the idea of our moral superiority based on? Surely not on our behavior toward people in other parts of the world. Is it based on how well people in the United States live? The World Health Organization in 2000 ranked countries in terms of overall health performance, and the United States was thirty-seventh on the list, though it spends more per capita for health care than any other nation. One of five children in this, the richest country in the world, is born in poverty. There are more than forty countries that have better records on infant mortality. Cuba does better. And there is a sure sign of sickness in society when we lead the world in the number of people in prison—more than two million.

A more honest estimate of ourselves as a nation would prepare us all for the next barrage of lies that will accompany the next proposal to inflict our power on some other part of the world. It might also inspire us to create a different history for ourselves, by taking our country away from the liars and killers who govern it, and by rejecting nationalist arrogance, so that we can join the rest of the human race in the common cause of peace and justice.

Howard Zinn is the co-author, with Anthony Arnove, of "Voices of a People's History of the United States."

2006 the Progressive

Saturday, May 27, 2006

What's Living in the Middle of America ?

I'm about to embark on a 30 day bus trip to Ohio and elsewhere back towards the right side of Amerika. I used to hitch around the country back in the late 60's and early 70's. I've been in California most of the time since 1976. I'm going off to discover the current state of Amerika, from the perspective of my hippie roots and my anarchist-Christian perspective. I will be reporting here and at I just discovered this Hippie Memorial in Illinois. It seems like a good omen.

Peace to All,


The Hippie Memorial


Arcola, Illinois

While he was alive, Bob Moomaw was Arcola’s town crank. Not crazy-crank. Not village idiot-crank. A crank like Thomas Paine, Captain Nitwit, or Ski Demski: a patriotic thorn in the side of the powers that be. A guy who would defend with his life your right to flip him off, as well as his own right to paint incendiary slogans on his building located right on Main Street (which is why you flipped him off to begin with). A populist defending a populace that would just as soon he defend them from twenty miles down the road.

Bob Moomaw was also the creator of the world’s only Hippie Memorial, an artwork some sixty-two feet long. Moomaw has been dead since 1998, but the Memorial still graces downtown Arcola.

Arcola is a mixing pot of Roadside Quikcrete. A few miles away is Rockome Gardens, the Amish Amusement Park, known for its Haunted Barn and buildings made from empty bottles of caffeine-free 7-Up and Fresca. It was the birthplace of Johnny Gruelle, creator of Raggedy Ann and Andy. A local museum, monument and yearly festival honors them. Arcola is the "Broomcorn Capital of the World." There is a gourmet French restaurant in a bowling alley (June 2005 - Oops, reported moved out of the bowling alley). This, in a town of 2,700 some forty miles from Champaign.

For many decades, Bob Moomaw lived and worked here. He served as a tax assessor and railroad clerk. He didn’t like either job. His joy and duty was painting messages of alert on the side of a building that he owned. According to a Chicago Tribune story from 1993, the messages included: “America you're turning into a nation of minimum-wage hamburger flippers. Rebel. Think for yourself. It works!” And “Oh wretched world, more rank each day, and ruled by lunatics, the heroes have all gone away!” The messages changed several times a week, much like those on the outdoor signs of quirky motels, dry cleaners and churches.

He told the Tribune reporter: “My life has been the opposite of an adventure, it's been one long dental appointment broken up by episodes of nothing happening.” Moomaw lost a leg to cancer in the late 80s and had bypass surgery just before starting the Hippie Memorial in 1992. In April 1998, Moomaw died of a heart attack, bequeathing the memorial to Gus Kelsey, a former Arcola hippie who had moved out of state. Kelsey refurbished it, and the city allowed it to be placed downtown, near the old railroad depot.

The artwork is 62 feet long, with each foot representing one year of Bob Moomaw’s life. The first 26 feet include The Great Depression, World War II and 1950s hypocrisy. "The idea is that as my life passed through time, other people's junk stuck to me and made me what I am - the product of leftovers from a previous existence," Moomaw said.

The middle section is higher and more colorful, representing the Kennedy years and the coming of the hippies. It salutes their influence on freedom of expression and dissent. One of the metal pieces during this period is a personalized license plate reading "WOODSTC." Other scraps are brightly painted with many of the classic peace symbols, including the Vulcan double-fingered greeting from Star Trek. This colorful period runs some twenty feet, from 1960-1980, and presumably also includes Nixon, Viet Nam, Stagflation, the bear market of '74-75, and avocado green station wagons.

Small mindedness returned in 1980 with the election of Illinois native Ronald Reagan, and the last 18 feet are embedded with plain rusted scrap.

The work was dedicated at the first (and apparently only) Hippie Memorial Festival in June 1999. Plans to add a hippie movement flag, Volkswagen Beetle and a “twirling, three-sided neon peace sign” never got together, man.

Sharon Moomaw, Bob’s wife, described the work in her dedication speech. It is reprinted on a large sign next to the memorial. This is good, because without it, a new visitor has no idea what is going on. For example, since his life post-hippie was nearly as long as his life pre-hippie, the higher, more colorful center section looks like a simple bow to symmetry -- a concept we would think foreign to Moomaw.

The speech also makes it clear that he was a pot-stirrer, not a pot-smoker. (Well, maybe he was that, too, but you know what we mean) "Was Bob Moomaw a hippie? NO. He did have a beard and a ponytail while attending the university. He was THERE at the same TIME and PLACE as the hippies were, but he was raising his children then…to his shame, he was no hippie."

Since he passed away, Moomaw’s America has become a different place, as shown by a new memorial in Arcola. The Hippie Memorial is on Oak Street. Just over the railroad tracks on Chestnut Street is a big marble monument urging remembrance.

Dedicated on Memorial Day, 2002, a black marble globe sits on top. Below it are chiseled quotes from Generals Patton and MacArthur, the Bible, Walt Whitman and George Bush, cheering fighting men and women. On both sides is a photo-etched American flag, with "Arcola, Illinois" and the zip code beneath in big letters. A time capsule is buried, to be opened on Memorial Day, 2052. At the far end of the little park are two small benches. One reads "Always Remember Dec. 7, 1941," and the other reads "Always Remember Sept. 11, 2001."

Bob Moomaw might have hated this park, but he would have defended its creators. They, in turn, have defended his Memorial in his absence. Which makes for a cranks’ gnash equilibrium — and another reason to visit Arcola.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What's the Meaning of All This

Af-flu-en-za n. 1. The bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Joneses. 2. An epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream. 3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth. 4. A television program that could change your life.

Affluenza is a one-hour television special that explores the high social and environmental costs of materialism and overconsumption. Here you can learn more about the show, get an Affluenza diagnosis and check out resources for treatment. Don't miss our Teacher's Guide, available only on this Web site.

Escape from Affluenza is the solution-oriented sequel to Affluenza. Hosted by Wanda Urbanska, co-author of Simple Living, Escape picks up where Affluenza left off by profiling people and organizations that are reducing consumption and waste, choosing work that reflects their values and working to live in better balance with the environment.

Affluenza is a production of KCTS/Seattle and Oregon Public Broadcasting and was made possible by a grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts.

The Show Diagnosis Treatment Escape Site Map
KCTS/Seattle Oregon Public Broadcasting

Monday, May 22, 2006

Knotts and Pryor Still Cracken-em-up From the Other Side

Don Knotts, Richard Pryor Team Up For Madcap Haunting

May 19, 2006 Issue 42•21 of The Onion

ESCONDIDO, CA—The ghosts of comedy legends Don Knotts and Richard Pryor were embroiled in a madcap misadventure Monday, which involved crooks, a missing diamond, and an old fixer-upper mansion haunted by the late actors.

The escapade, characterized by the ectoplasmic pair as "cockamamie" and "crazy-ass bullshit," began early last month, when the spirits of Knotts and Pryor separately took up residence at the old Mayweather place, a 20-room mansion that sits atop a hill on the edge of town. After a long and protracted episode in which the easily frightened ghosts circled the dining room, continually missing each other by a split-second, they finally came face-to-face, only to mutually scream in horror.

"I yelled out, 'A spook! A spook!'" the ghost of Knotts said. "And Richard said, 'Who you callin' a spook, honky?' So I said, 'But—but—but look at you, you're as pale as a ghost!' And Richard said, 'Now I'm pale? Make up your mind, whitey!'"

Knotts' ghost added: "It went on like that for a while, until I learned not to say things that Richard interpreted as racist."

Over the next several days, the unlikely duo were scared by such innocuous things as shadows cast by coatracks, a billowing curtain, and a mouse.

In mid-April, the Patterson family of Van Nuys, CA, moved into the Mayweather Mansion. Don Patterson, who had inherited the forgotten property from an eccentric and wealthy great-aunt, said that he thought it would be exciting to live in a big house, but soon regretted his decision to move when he saw its dilapidated condition.

"Ever since we moved into this crazy old shack, all kinds of fishy things have been happening," said Patterson, 47, a gruff, pragmatic certified public accountant. "Like the other day, I could have sworn I set a bucket of whitewash on the floor of the parlor, but when I opened the door, the dang thing spilled all over my head. But I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation for all of this."

Besides their mischevious antics, the two specters have also had a positive impact. Besides helping Duncan, the bowl-cut-wearing 7-year-old son come out of his shell, they also devised a lighthearted scheme to help daughter Marley, 15, get on the high-school cheerleading squad.

And, most astonishingly, while the terrified Knotts was running from a raccoon through the house's walls, he stumbled upon a glittering, 150-carat stone: the famed Starbright Diamond.

"I tried to grab the diamond, but my hand just went through it," the Ghost of Pryor said. "A brother can't even get ahold of some bread when he's dead!"

Early Monday morning, accused serial burglars Hugo Gross and Bobby Lee Shively, who had the only map detailing the diamond's location, invaded the home to retrieve the precious jewel. Young Duncan happened upon the burglars and was bound and gagged. The Ghosts of Knotts and Pryor, who were awakened by Duncan's muffled screams, snuck up on the criminals and scared them into giving up the diamond.

"One fell right through that trapdoor the father kept forgetting about and falling through earlier, and another one backed up into a hot stove, among numerous other shenanigans," the Ghost of Knotts said.

Finally, a sagging piece of roof caved in and knocked the robbers unconscious, and Escondido police officers soon arrived and arrested them.

The Patterson family now owns the Starbright Diamond, and plans to use money from its sale to renovate the mansion. Yet Patterson refused to believe that ghosts were responsible for stopping the caper.

"I tell you, there's no such thing as ghosts," Patterson said. "And the idea of a dead African-American comedian influencing my behavior is absolutely ridiculous. Why, I probably acquired my new swagger and improved lovemaking abilities from watching the MTV with my daughter."

The Knotts and Pryor Ghosts said they will continue haunting the Mayweather Mansion, and plan to follow up the daffy caper with a sequel, unless their old comedy partners, Tim Conway and Gene Wilder, become ghosts themselves first.

© Copyright 2006, Onion, Inc. All rights reserved.The Onion is not intended for readers under 18 years of age.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A Response to a Friend

I wrote this in response to the email of a friend. It was maybe more valuable to me to put some of these thoughts about how I face the darkness that pervades the planet. I thought I would share it with you.

It's been a long, long time since I've partied in Central Park (try 1969). Spent the night there on acid, bonfire in the trash can, after Procol Harem and Ainsley Dunbar at the Fillmore East. Some of Ainsley Dunbar were there. We found nothing but love and peace there at that time.

My take on spirituality: Confrontation and force will only cause more destruction. The militarists have armed the planet to the teeth. I blow you up, you blow me up, I blow more of you up, you blow more of me up and on and on.

Ekhart Tolle points out that the growing force of love and light is just as active as the growing forces of darkness. The darkness is just "louder". I believe that the only solution lies in our personal spiritual development. As I become more en-light-end, I have an effect on those I meet and stimulate them to further growth, and they effect the ones they meet and so on and so on. The quantum physicists point out that the speed and intensity with which activity is increasing can only lead to annihilation or a quantum shift in global consciousness. Others look at critical mass. As more and more are en-light-end and develop mindfulness, compassion and the capacity to love, that a point will be reached where the numbers of those in the light will catalyze a shift. As one of my teachers points out, this does not mean sitting around in bliss waiting for this to happen. When we see injustice, we should respond. Being of service to en-light-enment requires compassionate action, both inner and outer.

I can't drink one drink to relax because I have the disease of alcoholism. If I have a drink an obsession kicks in for more. We like to put it this way, "One drink is too many and 1,000 drinks is not enough." "Normal" drinkers can apparently do as you said, have a drink to relax at the end of the day then get on with their life. I would suggest to anyone a better alternative to relax: find someone, look into each others eyes, let the picture form in your mind of who you imagine this person to be, then hit the mental "erase" button and let go of that picture. Then look deep into each others eyes and see each other fresh, new and reborn. Try it you'll be amazed.

Love is powerful. It just doesn't get experienced by enough people often enough.

You got me going. Thanks, I needed to hear myself and I hope it gives you something.

Peace Brother.


Friday, May 19, 2006

We Know Somethin' You Don't Know

Ritual, dance, prayer and celebration of life comes in many sizes shapes and colors. We fearful humans tend to get attached to our forms, especially when the other forms seem so strange. What is different in the ritual dance in this video and the ones in the Native American Pow Wow, the Suffi dances and the Christian Praise dancing. The only difference I detect is a different culture and different environment, but the same compassion, the same Love. God doesn't care about appearance and form, (s)he only cares about the heart that motivates the action.

One Love, One God.



Sir Jello at "Lost and Clowned"

Here are pics of my clown, Sir Jello, at last weekends performance of "Lost and Clowned". Sir Jello is the one in Black with the hat.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Happy Birthday Wavy (3 days late)

A Quick Sketch of My Thumbnail

From "Something Good For A Change"

by Wavy Gravy

Born: Hugh Romney, May 15, 1936, East Greenbush, New York.
Sign: Slippery when wet.

Education: P.S. 16, Albany, New York. William Hall High School, West Hartford, Connecticut. Volunteered for the military draft in the fall of '54 and was honorably discharged after twenty-two months of service in the United States Army. (I am in no way recommending the military as a career choice. The Korean War had just wound down and I figured it was a reasonable assumption that I could slip in and out before the next little war rolled around. It was a dumb decision on my part but it helped pay for my college education.)

1957: Entered Boston University Theater Department under the Korean G.I. Bill. Started jazz and poetry on the east coast at Pat's Pebble in the Rock on Huntington Avenue in Boston. After a year and a half, defected to the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater in New York City. Graduated in 1961.

1958-1962: Attended Neighborhood Playhouse by day, served by night as poetry and entertainment director (with John Brent) at the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village. (I went from being a published teen-aged beatnik poet to hip comic tongue dancer right before my very eyes.) Was married to Elizabeth by a blind Harlem Street singer and preacher named Reverend Gary Davis in the Gaslight.

1962: Moved to California at the request of Lenny Bruce, who became my part-time manager. Recorded "Hugh Romney, Third Stream Humor" for World Pacific Records. (I recorded this live when I was the opening act for Thelonious Monk on the night the great Club Renaissance closed its doors forever.)

1963: Joined the Committee, an improvisational theater company in San Francisco. Daughter Sabrina born. Purchased a condo in Marin City and a Packard Caribbean convertible in Hollywood. Tuned in, turned on, and dropped out -- way out. Entered deep space. Left wife, daughter, and stuff and journeyed to northern Arizona to join up with Hopi Indians and await the coming global cataclysm. (The Hopis said I was early but let me hang out anyway and regroup my head.) Connected with interconnectedness of everything and surrendered to Law of Sacred Coincidence.
Returned to Los Angeles and regrouped life. Divorced wife, gave away stuff, and began to float aimlessly on the ocean of one thing after another.

1964: Financed free-floating lifestyle through sale of single ounces of marijuana packaged in decorator bags and containing tiny toys. (The dubious apex of this short-lived profession was when I scored a kilo for the Beatles.) Met Bonnie Jean Beecher at her restaurant, the Fred C. Dobbs. She put peanuts in my hamburger. Together we survived L.A. Acid Tests and in 1965 we married each other. We also married the Hog Farm. The Hog Farm is the name still associated with our expanded family. We acquired it while living rent free on a mountaintop in Sunland, California, in exchange for the caretaking of forty actual hogs. Within a year of moving there, the people engaged in our bizarre communal experiment began to outnumber the pigs. At first we all had separate jobs. I had a grant to teach brain-damaged children improvisation while teaching a similar class to contract players at Columbia Pictures. Harrison Ford was one of my students. My wife Bonnie was a successful television actress. Joining the scene were musicians, a computer programmer, a race-car driver, a telephone company executive, a cinematographer, several mechanics, and a heap of hippies.

1966: We performed light shows and energy games at the Shrine Exposition Hall in Los Angeles with Cream, Jimi Hendrix, the Jefferson Airplane, and the Grateful Dead. The Shrine holds ten thousand people. On Sunday afternoons we had free happenings on our mountaintop. Maybe a hundred people in open celebration.

1967: We scored a couple of old school buses with funds earned as extras in Otto Preminger's movie, Skidoo, and outfitted them for our exodus. I underwent my first spinal surgery and joined the caravan of Hog Farmers in New Mexico.

1968: Summer Solstice. Accompanying our extensive entourage was Pigasus Pig, the first female black-and-white hog candidate for president. We debuted our traveling road show at the Los Alamos proving grounds and set off cross-country to share our open celebration with the rest of the free world. (Driver! The United State of America! And step on it!) We were a light show, a rock band, a painting, a poem, an anti-war rally, an anthem for freedom and change. Mostly we were a palette for the audience to blast off from, and the audience was also the spaceship and the star. Bought twelve-acre farm in Llano, New Mexico.

1969: Served as chief of the Please Force at the Woodstock music festival, where the Hog Farm administered the free kitchen and bad-trip/freak-out tent. Was captured in the movie "Woodstock" and propelled into the world press. Became good-humored peacemaker and purveyor of life support at major rock festivals and political demonstrations of the sixties and seventies. Changed name to Wavy Gravy at the Texas Pop Festival. Experienced spinal fusion and acquired all-star cast.

1970: Helped initiate an experiment of buying back the earth and deeding it back to itself. Purchased 590 acres in northern Vermont and called it Earth People's Park. Made a movie, Medicine Ball Caravan, for Warner Brothers, which ended up in England.

1971: Journeyed with two buses filled with food, medical supplies, and forty-two people from seventeen countries, to Pakistan and the Himalayas. Returned to United States and captured record for having the largest number of active diseases in a single human being at Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. Upon my release, I dictated my book The Hog Farm and Friends and traveled to the west coast.

1972: Third and final spinal fusion. The surgery left me in my cast of thousands, firmly ensconced at Pacific High School in the Santa Cruz mountains. This is a center for alternative education rented by David Crosby for me to recuperate at with the whole Hog Farm. Bonnie Jean gave birth to 'Howdy Do-Good Gravy Tomahawk truckstop Romney' at the Tomahawk Truckstop in Boulder, Colorado. (he has since simplified the name to: Jordan Romney). We helped the Zippies run a rock for president and a roll for vice president (so you can always eat the vice president); I lose the rock in a New York taxicab. We traveled to Sweden for the United Nations Conference on HumanEnvironment with a contingent of eco-freaks, indigenous Americans, poets, scientists, and Margaret Mead.

1973: Blanko.

1974: The largest teaching hospital in Southeast Asia was destroyed by U. S. bombers on Christmas Day. I joined others in effort to rebuild Bach Mai hospital. Camp Winnarainbow founded in the Mendocino woodlands.

1975: Woolsey Street house purchased by the Hog Farm, followed soon thereafter by the founding of the Babylon Telephone Answering Service on the front porch. I attended the World Survival Symposium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and started a new world religion in San Francisco called The First Church of Fun. Wife Bonnie Jean takes Sufi name, "Jahanara."

1976: American bicentennial and birth of the Birthday Party, which nominated Nobody for president. I journeyed to Kansas and the Republican convention, where I was advised by state and federal agents, "Get out of here. You're too weird to arrest." Tenth wedding anniversary. Bill Graham produces The Last Waltz. I told him, "Bill, you shouldn't have."

1977: More blanko.

1978: Temporarily died in Berkeley and was later resurrected in Boulder Creek and Boston.

1979: Purchased the Henry Street house and sold Woolsey Street house, with the exception of the front porch, where we continued to maintain our answering service. The Seva Foundation founded in Heartlands, Michigan.

1980: "Nobody for President" tours cross-country in the family Greyhound, which is temporarily dubbed "The Nobody One."

1982: Began purchase of land in Laytonville, California, called Black Oak Ranch.

1983: Moved Camp Winnarainbow to Laytonville.

l984: Toured in Greyhound bus with Unreal Band for Nobody. Seva "Sing Out for Sight" concert held outside Toronto with The Band and the Grateful Dead.

1986: Turn fifty. Had mind blown publicly by family and friends at massive Berkeley benefit.

1987: Jerry Garcia, with acoustic and electric bands, inaugurated our annual fundraiser to help pay for Black Oak Ranch. Produced in cahoots with Bill Graham, it is called "Electric on the Eel."

1988: Nobody IV tour, with the rock band Vicious Hippies. We went from sea to shining sea. Busted with the homeless in Washington, D.C. Help produce Home Aid Concert for The Seva Foundation in New York City at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine.

1989: Woodstock twenty-year anniversary.

1990: Hog Farm twenty-five-year reunion. Ran for Berkeley City Council with slogan "Let's elect a real clown for a change." Lost election, but kept marbles, mind, mittens, and sense of humor.

1992: Became ice-cream flavor for Ben & Jerry's.

1994: Master of Ceremonies at Woodstock 2.

For Booking information Contact Double M Productions
©Copyright 2002 Spiral Design

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Hard Swallow

It's hot already here in Sacramento and I'm thirsty. We have a rocket testing plant just up the American River that polluted a large area of ground water years ago. Some of the chemicals have leached into the river at times which is where our water comes from. Probably more important than who controls oil is who controls water. It is already being privatized in many areas. I believe the key concept being missed by all, conservative and liberal and some progressives is the concept of the commons. Natural resources and necessities like food, water and air belong to everyone and it our duty to preserve theses resources for the benefit of all (The Commons). Here is a glimpse at part of the problem:

Water shortages leave rural America high and dry

May 11, 2006 By Bennett Gordon,

Spring is here, a time when many American suburbanites pull out their sprinklers and douse their lawns with clean, potable water. But in much of the world, drinking water shortages are reaching critical proportions. Seed reports that one out of every five people live on less water per day than it takes to flush a toilet. Scientists are predicting that a worldwide water crisis will come very soon, but for some Americans, it's already here.

In East Texas, along County Road 329, residents were told back in 2003 that the water from their local wells was unsafe for consumption. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been delivering water rations to the area since last year, but according to Lisa Sorg of The San Antonio Current, many believe this situation is unsustainable.

The African-American residential area of CR 329 exists in a veritable no-man's land for state water suppliers. "CR 329 is in the middle of two public water suppliers," says the Rev. David Hudson, "but we can't get service from either." Water wells were the primary source of water for the area, but studies detected unsafe levels of hazardous chemicals such as benzene, barium, and petroleum hydrocarbons making the water unsuitable to drink or even bathe in. "When I take a bath in it, it burns," says resident Earnestene Roberson.

Hudson and other local activists believe that neighboring oil facilities are polluting the water. Crude oil extraction creates a noxious saltwater by-product that oil companies often dispose of in special wells. In many states, such as Louisiana, there are regulations prohibiting having these saltwater-disposal wells within 500 feet of residential areas. Sorg reports that no such regulations exist in Texas. According to Hudson, "They can't put this stuff in Louisiana so they bring it over here."

Excessively polluted drinking water is becoming a problem for rural areas across the United States, but rather than going through the costly procedures of cleaning up the water, the EPA is now trying to change the regulations. According to the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the EPA ignored its own expert panel's suggestions on how to clean up many of the toxins found in rural drinking water. Instead, under intense pressure from the Bush administration, the EPA has proposed a policy change to allow up to three times the current levels of acceptable toxins in the tap water flowing through rural areas and small towns. The NRDC believes this would create a "two-tiered drinking water system in America," robbing potable water from people who cannot pay for it. The NRDC is calling for help petitioning representatives to reject these measures, and a decision is expected by the end of May. In the meantime, the NRDC's sentiments have echoed the words of CR 329 resident David Hudson. "Clean drinking water," he says, "should be a human right."

Go there >> Not A Drop To Drink
Go there too >> Don't Let the Bush Administration Allow More Toxins in Our Drinking Water

Related Links:
Troubled Water
Water Wars: Privatization, Pollution, and Profit
Related Links from the Utne Archive:
Pandora's Bottle
Getting Soaked

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Monday, May 15, 2006

Principles of Spiritual Activism

I got this from a group posted by Allan Butcher. It is such a clear presentation of the primary principals for the activist as we enter this active period of Summer.

Principles of Spiritual Activism

The following principles emerged from several years' work with social
change leaders in Satyana's Leading with Spirit program. We offer
these not as definitive truths, but rather as key learnings and
guidelines that, taken together, comprise a useful framework for
"spiritual activism."

1 Transformation of motivation from anger/fear/despair to
compassion/love/purpose. This is a vital challenge for today's social
change movement. This is not to deny the noble emotion of appropriate
anger or outrage in the face of social injustice. Rather, this entails
a crucial shift from fighting against evil to working for love, and
the long-term results are very different, even if the outer activities
appear virtually identical. Action follows Being, as the Sufi saying
goes. Thus "a positive future cannot emerge from the mind of anger and
despair" (Dalai Lama).

2 Non-attachment to outcome. This is difficult to put into practice,
yet to the extent that we are attached to the results of our work, we
rise and fall with our successes and failures ­a sure path to burnout.
Hold a clear intention, and let go of the outcome ­recognizing that a
larger wisdom is always operating. As Gandhi said, "the victory is in
the doing," not the results. Also, remain flexible in the face of
changing circumstances: "Planning is invaluable, but plans are

3 Integrity is your protection. If your work has integrity, this will
tend to protect you from negative energy and circumstances. You can
often sidestep negative energy from others by becoming "transparent"
to it, allowing it to pass through you with no adverse effect upon
you. This is a consciousness practice that might be called "psychic

4 Integrity in means and ends. Integrity in means cultivates integrity
in the fruit of one's work. A noble goal cannot be achieved utilizing
ignoble means.

5 Don't demonize your adversaries. It makes them more defensive and
less receptive to your views. People respond to arrogance with their
own arrogance, creating rigid polarization. Be a perpetual learner,
and constantly challenge your own views.

6 You are unique. Find and fulfill your true calling. "It is better to
tread your own path, however humbly, than that of another, however
successfully." (Bhagavad Gita)

7 Love thy enemy. Or at least, have compassion for them. This is a
vital challenge for our times. This does not mean indulging falsehood
or corruption. It means moving from "us/them" thinking to "we"
consciousness, from separation to cooperation, recognizing that we
human beings are ultimately far more alike than we are different. This
is challenging in situations with people whose views are radically
opposed to yours. Be hard on the issues, soft on the people.

8 Your work is for the world, not for you. In doing service work, you
are working for others. The full harvest of your work may not take
place in your lifetime, yet your efforts now are making possible a
better life for future generations. Let your fulfillment come in
gratitude for being called to do this work, and from doing it with as
much compassion, authenticity, fortitude, and forgiveness as you can

9 Selfless service is a myth. In serving others, we serve our true
selves. "It is in giving that we receive." We are sustained by those
we serve, just as we are blessed when we forgive others. As Gandhi
says, the practice of satyagraha ("clinging to truth") confers a
"matchless and universal power" upon those who practice it. Service
work is enlightened self-interest, because it cultivates an expanded
sense of self that includes all others.

10 Do not insulate yourself from the pain of the world. Shielding
yourself from heartbreak prevents transformation. Let your heart break
open, and learn to move in the world with a broken heart. As Gibran
says, "Your pain is the medicine by which the physician within heals
thyself." When we open ourselves to the pain of the world, we become
the medicine that heals the world. This is what Gandhi understood so
deeply in his principles of ahimsa and satyagraha. A broken heart
becomes an open heart, and genuine transformation begins.

11 What you attend to, you become. Your essence is pliable, and
ultimately you become that which you most deeply focus your attention
upon. You reap what you sow, so choose your actions carefully. If you
constantly engage in battles, you become embattled yourself. If you
constantly give love, you become love itself.

12 Rely on faith, and let go of having to figure it all out. There are
larger 'divine' forces at work that we can trust completely without
knowing their precise workings or agendas. Faith means trusting the
unknown, and offering yourself as a vehicle for the intrinsic
benevolence of the cosmos. "The first step to wisdom is silence. The
second is listening." If you genuinely ask inwardly and listen for
guidance, and then follow it carefully­you are working in accord with
these larger forces, and you become the instrument for their music.

13 Love creates the form. Not the other way around. The heart crosses
the abyss that the mind creates, and operates at depths unknown to the
mind. Don't get trapped by "pessimism concerning human nature that is
not balanced by an optimism concerning divine nature, or you will
overlook the cure of grace." (Martin Luther King) Let your heart's
love infuse your work and you cannot fail, though your dreams may
manifest in ways different from what you imagine.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

All I Want to Know is Are You Kind?

I just spent most of the week living on Fillmore just off of Haight. Spent an afternoon in the East end of Golden Gate Park and West end of Haight. I met some pretty incredible people. There is so much creativity alive and flourishing in San Francisco. I just wanted to share some of the vibe with this old Grateful Dead Video.



Saturday, May 13, 2006

I'm Still Alive

If you have checked in the last few days and wondered, "Where did Alan go?

I've been in San Francisco and haven't had internet access. We had the first performance of our clown show, "Lost and Clowned" last night and have our final performance this time around tonight. I hope to see some of you there tonight. I was so happy to see Judith and Lia there last night.

I'll be getting back home tonight and post about this journey.

Let your fool out to play today.

Peace and Joy,


Monday, May 08, 2006

I Missed the Day - May 4 But This is a Very Important Date

Why Kent State is important today
By Michael Corcoran | May 4, 2006

THIRTY-SIX years ago today, Ohio National Guardsmen shot 13 college students at Kent State University who were protesting US incursions into Cambodia as part of the Vietnam War. Nine victims survived, including one who is confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Four students -- Jeffrey Miller, Allison Krause, Bill Schroeder, and Sandy Scheuer -- were killed.

The students were unarmed, and the closest was more than 60 feet away from the Guard at the time of the shooting. There was no warning shot; the National Guard never issued an apology; and no one ever spent a day in jail for the killings despite the fact that the President's Commission on Campus Unrest, appointed by President Nixon in 1970, found the shootings to be ''unwarranted and inexcusable."

Yearly, since the tragedy, Kent State students, alumni, and others have met on the anniversary of the shooting to reflect and remember. Alan Canfora, who was shot by the Guard, says, ''The students today act as the conscience of the college, and the country . . . just like the students did in 1970."

This year's memorial will come, as the last three have, in the midst of a war that has become increasingly divisive. While the memory of Kent State and other violent clashes from that time between protesters and authorities did not deter the incumbent president from leading the country into another unpopular war, it is important to honor Kent State's spirit of dissent and what it taught about the bloody consequences of intense division.

Halfway across the country, the lessons of Kent State are taught each semester in debate classes at Emerson College. J. Gregory Payne, associate professor of organizational and political communication and a Kent State historian, has been teaching students about history, advocacy, and rhetoric through the lens of Kent State for decades.

According to Payne, remembering this tragedy is important because ''Kent State is not about the past -- it's about the future."

Consider the similarities: In 1970, just as today, we had an unpopular president carrying out an unpopular war for questionable reasons.

Richard Nixon and George W. Bush embody many of the same divisive characteristics. Bush tells the world: ''You are with us or you are with the terrorists." Nixon's public statement after the shootings blamed the students: ''When dissent turns to violence it invites tragedy."

Again our civil liberties are being threatened. Bush has ordered the wiretapping of US citizens without a warrant and holds detainees indefinitely without trial; Nixon was spying on student activists and what he called ''domestic radicals."

But, perhaps the most telling comparison is the sharp division within the nation, both then and now. Americans are now, as we were then, split to the core on matters of war and peace, life and death, and cultural values. The President's Commission concluded it was ''the most divisive time in American history since the civil war." Bill Schroeder's parents received signed letters after the shooting saying, among other things, that their ''riot-making, communist son" deserved to die.

Today antiwar protesters are unfairly discredited by the administration as they were in 1970. When Cindy Sheehan took antiwar positions after her 24-year-old son, Casey Sheehan, died in Iraq, she was smeared by pundits like Bill O'Reilly, who said she was a pawn of ''far-left elements that are using her" and that Sheehan was ''dumb" enough to let them do it.

Of course, the absence of a draft now and its presence then may explain why the antiwar movement during the Vietnam War had a greater intensity then it does now. Still, as the protests in New York City last week indicate, the longer the war in Iraq drags on, the more vehement the opposition seems to get.

Musicians, once again, are singing songs of dissent. Last Friday Neil Young, who in 1970 wrote ''Ohio" in reaction to the shootings, began streaming a new antiwar album ''Living with War" for free on his website. Days later, Pearl Jam also released an album made up entirely of protest music.

My generation can't ignore the lessons of Kent State. The same mindset and failure in leadership that led National Guardsmen to fire at students of the same age and from the same Ohio hometowns is similar to what led US soldiers to torture detainees in Iraq.

Kent State should remind us of what happens when a grossly misguided war divides a country. If we can speak candidly and openly about our history and our present -- even the worst elements of it -- then we can ensure that the lives lost on May 4, 1970, were not in vain.

Michael Corcoran is a journalism major at Emerson College.

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

People's Art

I miss the old psychedelic art of the 60's

But, I love what street artists are doing today in the present context. Following are some examples:

Here is a beautiful spray can mural............

Here is a piece involving stencil Art.....

Then there is this wonderful spray can mural done by Blocked Nozzle Crew from London.....

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Comedy is a Powerful Tool

If you haven't seen it, please follow this link to see Stephen Colbert, of the "Daily Show", satirizing the Bush administration, the mainstream media and the rest of the Washington establishment while they all sit in the audience of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner.

It is pure genius and balls.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Killer Sound

Colombian musicians turn guns into guitars to make music - as well as a point.
By Kevin Sites, Mon Apr 24, 1:55 PM ET
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BOGOTA, Colombia - It's not long after you enter the world of Cesar Lopez that you realize he doesn't color inside the lines.

He is a classically-trained musician and composer who studied at Colombia's best conservatory. But instead of concert hall performances he chooses to play his music on the streets of Bogota. He writes all of his songs on air-sickness bags he collects during his travels.

"It's appropriate," he says, "because I feel I'm vomiting up what I have inside me."

But despite the description, the music he composes and plays is haunting and beautiful — hardly repulsive.

His comfortable Bogota apartment is filled with the tools of his trade, a baby-grand piano, guitars, amps — as well as the evidence that his subversively creative mind has few boundaries.

Near the piano, on a black stand that resembles a bipod, sits a Winchester lever action rifle. On its polished barrel are four hash marks, representing, says Lopez, the four people killed by it.

But there's much more to the gun than its history: six metal guitar strings stretch from the mid-point of its wooden stock, across the loading chamber, past the fret board threaded over the weapon's barrel, ending at a guitar neck flaring past the muzzle.

It's part of project in which Lopez transforms weapons of war into instruments of killer sound, using them in a kind of political performance art.

"What we want to create is an invitation to an attitude of change," he says. "It says a lot of different things — but the main idea is that weapons can be changed from an object of destructiveness to an object of constructiveness."

When he says we, he means the other 100 or so members of a group calling themselves the Battalion of Immediate Artistic Reaction — musicians and political activists, tired of Colombia's four-decade old war of attrition, committed not only to making music, but also making a point.

Using Internet meet-ups, the battalion mobilizes every time there is some kind of guerrilla attack in Bogota, heading out into the streets to serenade the victims with soothing music.

It was during the 2003 bombing of the El Nogal nightclub which killed 36 people in the capital's trendy Zona Rosa district that Lopez got the idea for turning guns into guitars.

"We were playing our music on the streets near the club," he says, "when I noticed that a soldier was holding his rifle the same way I was holding my guitar."

The prototype hangs on Lopez's wall, but the design has evolved.

"In the first one," he says, pointing out the strings suspended above the gunstock, "the guitar isn't well integrated with the gun. But it's better now. The gun is in service to the guitar, which is the idea."

Lopez says he gets the guns through an anti-land mine group connected to Colombia's peace commissioner's office. Most of the firing components are removed so it can no longer be fired.

Then a guitar maker adds the fretboard, strings and neck as well as an input for the electric amp.

"Violence fears love because it is stronger," Lopez says, strumming the gun guitar on a hammock strung between two walls of his living room. "Violence fears my voice because it goes beyond death."

Only a few dozen of the guitar guns have been manufactured so far, most being used by members of the Battalion when they respond to attacks.

But I wonder if those who just suffered from violence would really want to be serenaded by musicians playing guns.

"The attitude of most people is very good, except at airports," he laughs. But there are definitely critics.

"It's been very difficult to explain to the military the reason for a campaign like this," he says. "They don't really understand how a gun can be turned into a guitar."

And is there the potential that one of Colombia's many armed groups could use the gun guitar concept as a kind of Trojan horse — pretend they are a member of Lopez's Battalion of Immediate Artistic Reaction — but arrive in public wielding real guns instead of decommissioned ones?

Lopez nods his head. It's a question he's considered many times before.

"This is my nightmare," he says, "that's why we've been very careful to make sure the weapons are decommissioned and who we give them to. But yes, people could be killed."

Regardless, he believes real change requires risk. And this cause, he says — ending Colombia's cycle of gun-related violence — is worth it.

Besides, the transformation isn't just for show. The gun guitars truly have a killer sound, according to Lopez, ranging from ballads to, appropriately enough, heavy metal.

He and singer Adriana Luce demonstrate by performing in his living room — an untitled, ethereal work which belies the guitar's vestiges of its past.

Lopez says he just received a dozen AK-47 assault rifles, the world's most ubiquitous automatic weapon, from the peace commissioner's office, and is having them made into guitars.

When they're completed he plans to give them to high profiles musicians such as Shakira, Santana, Paul McCartney and Carlos Vivas, as well as some political and religious leaders like the Dali Lama.

However, Lopez says his recently received a letter in an incredulous tone from a member of the Dali Lama's staff, wondering why anyone would want to give the Buddhist leader a gun — regardless of what's attached to it.

Lopez says he'll try to make the explanation clearer.

In the meantime, he's also at work on another project, putting together what he calling the Experimental Reconciliation Group — a band made up of seven musicians from ex-members of Colombia's left wing guerrilla groups, right wing paramilitaries and even city gangs.

"The idea is to show that people of different political beliefs and backgrounds can work together," he says. "But they'll only be allowed to discuss music."

Optimistically, Lopez says the band will be ready to perform by Aug. 5, even though he hasn't even identified all the members yet.

All of this, he says, is about making positive changes for Colombia, reducing the violence, and teaching people to live together — an ambitious program for someone who could be filling concert halls with enchanting music.

"That's my big question right now," he says, "why I went this route. It's a gamble and I wonder if it will actually end up serving other people."

Listen to or download tracks from Lopez's "Alas de Prueba II" album:"Sin Respuesta""Eterna Presencia""Para Cristina"
To download the entire album directly to your computer's music player, click here.
To learn more about Cesar Lopez and the Battalion of Immediate Artistic Reaction, and to hear more music, visit

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Roots of May Day

Today's marchers are liberals' best hope.

By Nelson Lichtenstein

Posted Monday, May 1, 2006, at 4:10 PM ET

Today's May Day marches are putting millions on the street and have politicized more people than anything since the height of the civil rights movement. Like every other massive social protest in American history, the events have generated their share of fear. Democrats and some leaders of D.C.-based immigrant groups worry that the call to boycott work and shut down Latino-dependent businesses will generate a backlash. Republicans and nativists see them as un-American.

But all this is beside the point, a tiff that misses the marches' transformative impact. These May Day demonstrations and boycotts return the American protest tradition to its turn-of-the-20th-century ethnic proletarian origins—a time when, in the United States as well as in much of Europe, the quest for citizenship and equal rights was inherent in the fight for higher wages, stronger unions, and more political power for the working class.

Because today's marches are on a workday, they recall the mass strikes and marches that turned workers out of factories that convulsed America in the decades after the great railway strike of 1877, the first national work stoppage in the United States. Asserting their citizenship against the autocracy embodied by the big railroad corporations, the Irish and Germans of Baltimore and Pittsburgh burned roundhouses and fought off state militia in a revolt that frightened both the rail barons and the federal government. Hence the 19th-century construction of all those center-city National Guard armories, with rifle slits designed to target unruly crowds. The protesters wanted not only higher pay and a recognized trade union but a new birth of egalitarian freedom. Indeed, May Day itself, as an international workers holiday, arose out of a May 1, 1886, Chicago strike for the eight-hour workday. The fight for leisure—clearly lost today—was a great unifying aspiration of the immigrant workers movement a century ago with its slogan, "eight hours for work, eight hours for sleep, eight hours for what we will."

The largest mobilization of immigrant workers in U.S. history occurred in 1919, when President Woodrow Wilson's rhetorical celebration of self-determination and "industrial democracy," or self-rule at the workplace, echoed across steel districts from Homestead, Pa., to Gary, Ind. Strike organizers printed their handbills in 15 different languages. Immigrant churches and working-class lodge halls served as soup kitchens. The strikers called the mounted police "Cossacks." All these eruptions, which would successfully Americanize millions of immigrants in the 1930s, blended trade unionism, ethnic self-consciousness, and the demand for full citizenship. That unity proved essential for a long season of New Deal hegemony. And that's why this spring's awakening of a new generation of immigrant working-class half-citizens holds such promise for liberals.

The last of these great labor-strike demonstrations came in 1947. On an April workday, the United Automobile Workers flooded Detroit's Cadillac Square with more than a quarter million of its members to protest congressional enactment of the Taft-Hartley Act, which curbed union strike power and disqualified radicals from labor leadership. Most laborites called Taft-Hartley a "slave labor law." Then as now, the leaders of the demonstration were divided over tactics. The left, and not just those oriented toward the Communists, wanted to shut down the factories so that American unions could deploy, as one top UAW officer put it, "the kind of political power which is most effective in Europe." More cautious unionists, led by UAW President Walter Reuther, sought a huge demonstration but one that began only after workers clocked out for the day. Capitalizing on these internal divisions, and on the early Cold War hostility to labor radicalism and political insurgency, the auto companies took their pound of flesh. They fired key militants and cut off the tradition of white, working-class strike demonstrations in industrial cities for the rest of the 20th century.

For our generation, as for the one before it, the idea that we might change the conditions of work life and the structure of politics has seemed either radical fantasy or Parisian self-indulgence. Celebrations of May Day, the holiday that embodies that imagined link, have been consigned to the most self-conscious and marginal radicals. In 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower proclaimed May 1 "Law Day" so as to snuff out any proletarian embers that might have continued to smolder through the Cold War.

The 1960s civil rights and anti-war movements kept their distance from workplace actions, which became the province of an increasingly stolid and constrained trade unionism. The protests of that era were almost always held on weekends. The 1963 March on Washington, where Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech, took place on a sweltering Saturday afternoon. There were plenty of protest signs paid for by the union movement, but no factories shut down that day. The same is true of the big anti-war marches, and American feminists and gay-rights advocates have continued that tradition. The linkage between workplace protest and civil engagement has been broken—one reason that the boycotts and work stoppages today seem so novel and controversial.

When weekday work stoppages did take place, their marginality, and even alienation, from mainstream America was revealing. Arab workers put down their tools in June 1967 to protest U.S. support of Israel in the midst of the Six Day War. Millions of black workers left work when they learned of MLK's assassination on April 4, 1968, but black power efforts to use the strike to build a radical movement on the assembly lines largely failed in Detroit a year later. Today's marches and boycotts are restoring to May Day something of its old civic meaning and working-class glory. Even some of the most viciously anti-union employers of Latino labor, like Perdue, Cargill, and Tyson Foods, kept their factories closed. As in the crucial struggles that began more than a century ago, today's marches have forged a link among working-class aspiration, celebrations of ethnic identity, and insistence on full American citizenship. It's an explosive combination. And it could revive and reshape liberal politics in our time.

Nelson Lichtenstein is professor of history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he directs the Center for Work, Labor, and Democracy. He is the editor of Wal-Mart: The Face of Twenty-First-Century Capitalism.

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