Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Back in 1968 I lived in Berkeley with a guy everybody called the Pookah. I used to know his real name, I think, but now I just remember the name Pookah. He and I did work at the Free Church, making sandwiches, coffee and such. That way I got to eat. It was a good arrangement and when I wasn't working there I was working at various places, doing odd jobs like cutting grass and washing windows. Once I moved rolls of carpet around a warehouse. I was supposed to be working with another kid, but he never showed. I did the work alone and the owner was impressed enough by my energy that he paid me twice as much. That was 1968 in the good weeks.

The socialists in the university and from outside had decided that they would get the students a street fair on Telegraph Avenue. The idea was to block off the street for a weekend and have bands show up like Country Joe and the Fish. Some fun. Reagan was governor and was visiting the city fathers when the request came thru. Somehow he got it in his head they were talking about blocking off the street for good and he didn't like that idea so the city fathers said "NO".

The socialists took to the streets in angry demonstrations. They had a flatbed truck and speakers and began expounding on the virtues of a free society and how the street was "ours" and we could do any damn thing we wanted. So the students and the street people and some locals hung out on the street blocking with their bodies and some garbage cans.

The day before I went up and down the street taking bottles out of the trash and hiding rocks big enough to throw. The idea was there was going to be a confrontation and I didn't want people hurt. Youth in denial. The day of the demonstration I was wandering the streets when the cops pulled up to the nearby parking garage. From my hidey hole I could see them laughing and strapping on tear gas canisters and singing "WE shall overcome!". I had the impression they were looking forward to some "stick time" as a friend of mine calls it. He's an Albany cop.

As the bands were playing the cops appeared at every street corner, armed, masked by their helmets and with most of their badges concealed in their shirt pockets. This insured their identity would not be known and they could do anything they felt like without fear. I saw a sea of round helmets and eyeless masks as the voices came out the bullhorns: "Disperse or we will use chemical agents to disperse you." Since they had the area surrounded there was nowhere to disperse without walking toward these preying mantis-like figures. No one wanted to do that so the tear gas got tossed in the middle and everybody dispersed.

When you are running at a cop he can feel threatened, even when he is armed, bulletproof and nameless. So he begins to hit people with his baton. What a pretty name: the baton. Like some high school cheerleader twirling and dancing. Then the club comes down with a thunk and a scream of pain. Young girls on the ground being hit. A priest, aged and crossed and collared.... thrown to the ground by four Oakland cops. They kick him in the head and chest and he rolls on the ground holding up his cross for them to see, like warding off vampires. It doesn't work and although I pull at the arms restraining me from our hide-out in the alley, the cops kick him into unconsciousness. A middle aged women with grocery bags steps out of the little neighborhood market and is thrown down, clubbed and kicked, her family's soup cans and fruit scattered on the sidewalk. I help her up and gather her food. She is bewildered and bleeding. I point her toward the first aid station in Cody's Books.

Students are throwing stones somehow at the bank building. I grab their arms and scream at them to stop, but they laugh, pull away and throw more stones and then run from the cops. I run from the cops, breathing tear gas and peppergas. The vasoline helps the tear gas from hurting my skin, but the peppergas digs in and burns. When I wash it off later the tear gas is reactivated and I gag and puke.

Later in the riot I see a Berkeley cop running and then a bottle is thrown and he is aflame.

Running past a barricade I notice a Berkeley cop standing, watching the crowd run by pursued by a mob of Oakland cops and Alameda County sheriffs. he waves at them as they approach and then, frightened, run with the students. We cheer.

At the free Church some kid is offering rifles to anyone who wants to kill pigs. Mad John is excited because of the blood streaming down his head. His eyes are wild as the Pookah comes up to him quietly and asks if he has any anti-tank guns. Mad John says "No, why?" and the Pookah explains that if anyone "kills pigs" the National Guard will come in, like in Kent State or Chicago and the tanks will roll down the street killing students. No one takes the rifles and I am impressed by the Pookah's ability to calm a situation.

Three days of rioting and I go back up the hill to watch buildings burn and people run. All because a senile old fool and some city fathers misunderstood a student request for a party. Later, of course, that fool become President and attacks a small island and kills a few people by proxy. Charles Manson never killed anyone, but sent in young idiots, blindly obedient to him, to kill innocent women and children. He is insane and babbles and screams and will never leave prison. Ronald Reagan is insane and doesn't know where he is most of the time and he sent in blindly obedient young men and women to kill women and children.

George Bush was a bully, a drunk and a Governor's son. Like most bullies he is a coward and when the draft looms up he has daddy fix a plush job for him in the Air National Guard of Texas. He gets to learn to fly and doesn't even have to show up for work. Later he has daddy and big brother Jeb fix an election so he can be President like his daddy was. He bankrupts a country, kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people and when he retires will have an income of nearly a quarter of a million dollars. He will have free housing and free bodyguards for the rest of his life. He will have so much more blood on his hands than Manson or Reagan and is just as insane. He never gets therapy, never goes to jail and never feels sorry for the dead babies in his dreams. They make him smile that crooked little smile that Mammy Condi likes so much.

Osama bin Laden sends blindly obedient young fools to blow themselves up and blow up train stations and hospitals and schools and everything else that stands above the ground. His smile is calm, like Reagan's. He speaks in vague terms of a life lived in the Word of God and looks forward to his death and resurrection in Paradise.

People listen to cowards and bullies because they want to be told what to do. They want to do the right thing. They want the power that comes from being part of a body of right thinking people. They like being just like Dirty Harry or Wyatt Earp, killing for the good of us all.

Thou shall not kill. Suffer not a witch to live. Murder in the first. The Purple Heart. Dozens of virgins in heaven, waiting for you. Collateral damage. If we required our military people to eat the hearts of their victims the cholesterol would give them heart attacks. That's called Celestrial Irony. Charlie Manson would understand it.

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