American Consequences - September 2020

THE JOY OF RIOTING harder than writing a term paper, and that term paper was already overdue. We could have become politically engaged and volunteered to work on the campaigns of political candidates who also opposed the war. But this would have required setting down the bong, getting a haircut, and going door- to-door talking to squares. We did get tear-gassed. But that was mostly a good excuse to offer to help wash hippie chicks in the commune’s nude hot tub. We could have registered as conscientious objectors, but this would have entailed some kind of “alternative service”... and that would have meant (yikes!) getting a job. We could have gone to Canada. Canada? I mean, we were into all sorts of stuff that was far-out, but Canada ? So, instead, we rioted. We went out in our freak bouffants and bell-bottomed, tie-dyed, bead-bedecked, hippy-dippy getups and, thus dressed like clowns, ran around breaking things, burning flags and draft cards (mostly those that had 2-S student deferments), and screaming and yelling that war was a bummer. To riot is to let your inner toddler free. And, indeed – since most of our ‘60s anti- war protests were conducted on our own campuses – there was an element of teachers turning their backs and letting preschoolers do what they want.

Maybe the teachers didn’t mind. Most of them were anti-war. And when we “occupied” our colleges, fewer of us were skipping class than usual. Of course, sometimes we “took it to the streets.” That is, we went downtown or even to Washington, D.C., and annoyed the general public instead of interfering with good students trying to get to the library. Then there was the “delight of battle” that Tennyson speaks of in his poem Ulysses . (The admission that such a thing exists having gone out of fashion about the same time Tennyson did.) This love for a fight, with all its noble sentiments and high camaraderie, is particularly delightful when there’s not much fighting involved. (Excepting the oopsie at Kent State University where Ohio kids from modest backgrounds trying to stay out of Vietnam by going to college were shot by Ohio kids from modest backgrounds trying to stay out of Vietnam by joining the National Guard.) In general, our protest warfare tactics were to gather in a loud, noisy bunch that sometimes blocked traffic and occasionally threw things. Then the police would chase us.


September 2020

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