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Woodstock – An Accident That Defined A Generation

Woodstock – An Accident That Defined A Generation

by Larry Jackson

The Woodstock concert on Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York, the “Three Days of Peace and Music” now known simply as “Woodstock,” never expected to make history — musical, political or otherwise.  Like many great historical events, it developed from a series of unforeseen accidents.

Word of the Woodstock event spread at the grassroots level and drew far more people than ever remotely contemplated.  A shortage of food and facilities and an overabundance of rain could have led to social breakdown and even violence. Instead, peace broke out in the face of adversity.  An awareness of the larger movements in society led to an unprecedented attack of empathy, cooperation, and celebratory optimism among the crowd.

Woodstock PosterNews of Woodstock circulated like lightning through daily papers, nightly news, and colorful coverage in TIME and NEWSWEEK.  Youth culture’s grapevine took up the spirit of solidarity and challenged the political and social agenda of the Eisenhower/Nixon era  — especially the military draft that siphoned off the young men of the audience’s peer group to a war of naked imperialism in Vietnam.

The music at Woodstock 1969 rang with the sound of protest, reflecting anti-war sentiments and civil rights awareness.  The themes of socio political involvement –were commonly featured in the popular music of the era snd accordingly sharply focused in the massive concert.  For example: Richie Havens sang a pacifist anthem, then turned a single word – Freedom – into a passionate, driving musical demand; Crosby Stills and Nash created a horrific vision of post-apocalypse with “Wooden Ships,” followed by the anguish of “Find the Cost of Freedom;” and Canned Heat sang “going to someplace we never been before.”

Once again, America needs a young generation to be involved in the fight for the future. It may not face the draft today, but it faces the heat of global warming, the risk of insolvency resulting from the greed and the political manipulation of power brokers, and a future that may be far less comfortable than the decade that spawned it.

So what can we expect from Woodstock 2009 and the new generation of youth? On first impression, it would appear that social networking and “friend” lists are a distraction from the economic meltdowns and the two wars we are currently fighting. Considering that the draft threat in 1969 is not a threat today, that protest music has gone back underground, and that people gather less in person, spending more time in solo activity in the digital world, it is understandable that it would be more difficult nowadays to engender the kind of passion we saw flare up at Woodstock 69.

But on deeper examination, today’s instant nature of communication should be seen as an immensely powerful force in facilitating effective social change — one many times more effective than the physical amassing of bodies, as evidenced by Barack Obama’s election in 2008 and George McGovern’s defeat in 1972. And the younger generation has the mastery of its potential firmly in hand.

As we commemorate Woodstock 69, even more hangs in the balance for all of us on earth in 2009. So while there may be dissonance in the stature of Woodstock now as compared to Woodstock then, with committed action and the power of their e-communication weaponry, the new generations may ultimately be the ones to push the world in a better direction.

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Woodstock – Then and Now

Woodstock – Then and Now

by Dino Romano

Woodstock Poster

“Woodstock then and now”.   To its credit, Woodstock became a metaphor almost immediately.  But Woodstock has always meant different things to different people – then and now.

In John Lawrence Ré’s DOMINOES a blistering music track guides us, without narration, through mesmerizing film footage of an explosive decade (1965-1975).  DOMINOES is scheduled to be released on September 15, 2009. It can be pre-ordered starting August 18th, 2009, the day after Woodstock‘s 40th anniversary.

As Woodstock approaches middle age, I remember being fourteen and massive news coverage of 500,000 people descending on an Upstate New York dairy farm for a three day rock concert.  Woodstock defined a radical turning point in American history.  Revisiting Woodstock  has made me realize…the more things change the more they remain the same.

By August of 1969 even strident military hawks saw things going astray in Vietnam. Embedded reporters gathered daily footage of dead American soldiers.  Almost 50,000 American’s had been killed in this “military action” in Vietnam by the time the music started at Woodstock.

An unrepentant Nixon raged at anti-war protesters despite feeling the pressures of Vietnam.  Just weeks before Woodstock, he issued his “Nixon Doctrine.”  The South Vietnamese army was now responsible for tphysical fighting of the war; “Vietnamization.”

Nixon recoiled at the anger unleashed at him but resisted abandoning the “Domino Theory.” Control Communism in one place so neighboring countries would not fall.  He fulminated at the audacity of the protesters but knew he had to counter a new alliance of anti-war groups. The Vietnam Moratorium Committee had massive national protests planned for October 15 of 1969.  Nixon was proved right, as protests held that day gushed millions of people onto the streets, including masses of middle-class Americans.

Think tanks like The Hudson Institute bolstered Nixon and he began an effort to label the protesters as less masculine; unpatriotic.  In the face of pervasive U.S. history to the contrary, Nixon attempted to castrate the anti war movement by condemning it for using a lawful option: peaceful protest.

Nixon proposed to divide the U.S. into two philosophically camps; one a dangerous pot smoking, draft dodging gaggle of young anarchists, lead by a noisy cadre of effete intellectuals, the other he would eventually term “The Silent Majority,” the largely war-backing, middle-class.

This necessitated that Nixon wage war on marijuana.  By vilifying a drug that he could associate with the anti-war movement he could leverage national opinion against the protesters.  Directives issued to law enforcement to pummel marijuana also included a softening of directives aimed at a drug that would become synonymous with the 70’s and beyond – cocaine.   The think tanks advised Nixon on the cocaine for pot swap: marijuana made you think abstractly, cocaine physically.  Heavy cocaine use leads to delusions of grandeur and identification with the ruling class — traits incompatible with rebellion and anarchy.

Testimony from convicted cocaine king pins have chronicled the rise of cocaine with this new federal policy.  Cocaine soon become the most profitable industry on earth.

The cocaine connection to the Nixon White House was palpable as the notorious financial fugitive and drug smuggler Robert Vesco and Nixon’s best friend “Bebe” Rebozo often spent secluded time with Nixon on Rebozo’s boat at the Key Biscayne White House.

Nixon spokesmen’s predictions of anarchy at Woodstock proved futile.  It not only became an unwitting testament to the power of protest – peaceful protest. Woodstock resulted in no violent deaths and only a smattering of drug arrests.

Woodstock StageWoodstock emerged a tribute to the mood of the nation – PEACE NOW! It began the accelerated debate that continues today, as we attempt to emerge from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, ponder Wall Street fraud, repair a badly battered economy and wrench health care debate from the clutches of lobbyists.

After the 40th anniversary will the important discussions remain within the confines of the internet or spill again onto Main Street given the new information age?

The only given (then and now) is that we are indeed living in interesting times.

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Robert McNamara – American Face Of The Vietnam War

Robert McNamara – American Face Of The Vietnam War

by Stephen Glantz

Some images die hard. Robert McNamara as the American face of the Vietnam War, announcing troop escalations of 585,000 on June 10, 1968, selling the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to Congress, and offering his glib definition of success by body count is one of those. With his academician’s wire rimmed glasses and Brooks Brothers suits — Robert McNamara’s persona evoked American imperialism.

The images of the true architects of the Vietnam War, by contrast, are much more congenial, and one might argue that, because of these images, Kennedy with his gorgeous family and Lyndon Johnson pulling the ears of his beloved beagles, are regarded much more benignly in popular history. Robert McNamara was brought in to the Kennedy administration for his managerial abilities rather than his politics.  Robert McNamara would have much preferred to have been remembered as the numbers guy who made his life’s mission, as president of the Ford Motor Company, rubbing out the Edsel, than being remembered for being the spark that ignited an American disgrace.   But, because of that success at Ford, he was hired to be Secretary of Defense to modernize and streamline the Armed Forces and put the army more firmly under civilian control. Robert McNamara’s task was also to change the focus of our military response from Eisenhower’s policy of Massive Retaliation, to one of tactical non-nuclear flexibility and counter insurgency.

Robert McNamara’s re-organizational goals, however, were preempted by Vietnam and the Cuban Missile Crisis.  As someone who admitted how many of his decisions were affected by the Domino Theory, he was no longer an efficiency expert as the one so wonderfully portrayed by Spencer Tracy in DESK SET installing a room-sized computer at a television network.   Instead, he became the “technocrat” of the Vietnam War, as former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzenski has labeled him. McNamara looked at the war in terms of body bags counts, acceptable losses and victory by attrition. He was the first to bring the concept of Systems Analysis to the prosecution of war and into the mainstream of American thought and language.

Nevertheless, being a mere technocrat does not absolve one of responsibility. To the contrary, as the one assigned to the day to day prosecution of the war, McNamara, more than anyone, observed the consequences. And by consequences, I mean senseless death and destruction. As a captain in the Air Force, McNamara was one of those assigned to “vetting” the fire and nuclear bombings (which is technocrat for figuring out how much moral blowback will be generated by the deaths of millions).

So by the time of the Vietnam War, McNamara cannot say he was a stranger to carnage exported by the U.S.A.  However, by November of 1967, the technocrat in him realized the numbers didn’t add up.  He threw in the towel by recommending a freeze in troop levels; an end to bombing North Vietnam; and a transfer of war operations to the South Vietnamese Army and their cadre of corrupt generals. After the war, “Mac the Knife,” as he was often called derisively, visited Vietnam many times to help the country with reconstruction. Apologists cite those efforts to help and heal as evidence of his redemption.

On the other hand, one might wonder what would have happened if Robert McNamara, a man of massive intelligence and ability, would have applied the moral courage found in his frank analysis and admissions of guilt in the fire bombings of Tokyo and the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to the war in Vietnam much earlier than November of 1967? Would his resignation and public condemnation have made a difference? We’ll never know.

We do know, however, what happened when he kept silent and served his presidents. How ironic it is that, McNamara, the ultimate buttoned-down man, generated so much of the social unrest and change of the 60s. Take a look at the cogent and vividly ironic John Lawrence Ré documentary, aptly named DOMINOES, if you want to experience or re-experience McNamara’s world. Set to 60’s anthems, the film is a searing, heart breaking and incisive look at what happens when ideologues rule and technocrats serve.

Perhaps Robert McNamara would just refer to the decade of the 60s as collateral damage.

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American Financial Crisis

American Financial Crisis

by Dino Romano

The American Financial Crisis.  Toward the end of the film “DOMINOES” there is frightening apparition:  January 1972 – a man standing up in a white Cadillac convertible waves to the re-elected Nixon.  The man is Ronald Reagan and the brief scene shocked me to reality; to today, to the vicious battering of the economy and why it all started with then Governor Reagan and his rise to President eight years later.

If filmmaker John Lawrence Ré included the Reagan parade route snippet to incite fear and loathing it worked.  The ingenious editing and arrangement of thousands of hours of archive footage makes for a hyper-emotional political history of the U.S. between 1965 and 1975.  But “DOMINOES” is more than just emotion, it an incredibly astute history of modern protest.

Richard Nixon (Dominoes – An Uncensored Portrait of The 60’s)You have been in a drug induced coma the past months if you know nothing about the near death blows the American financial system has suffered.  Theories about how we’ve come to this economic meltdown abound.  Wall Street economists are not only back peddling but predicting even more incorrect scenarios for the origin of the crisis and what to do about it.

My own training as an economists taught me to distrust anything they say regarding money and business.  They rank with most politicians as award winning, classic examples of the bromide: “opinions are like assholes, everybody has one, and they all stink.”

These same economists and politicians, often working hand in hand, have been getting it wrong for centuries all over the world.  It’s a testament to the Natural Laws of Supply and Demand that ANYTHING goes right in an economy given all the mismanagement and misadventure that can occur.  We’ll get to the misadventure shortly.

Before you glaze over, here’s a very simplified view of the Natural Laws of Supply and Demand:  If there is a large supply of something that people want to buy, corn for example, the price tends to go DOWN.  If the supply of that corn that people want to buy goes down, then the price tends to go UP.  Not that complicated.  Nature has a way of balancing things and winning every time in the long run.  In the short run, humans can wreck havoc on that balance.

So WHY do I think RONALD REAGAN is the cause of the current economic tsunami?  Well, let me tell you a little story.

For a nation so deeply rooted in capitalism it is astonishing how low the average American’s business I.Q. is. They view Wall Street as a quasi-benevolent group of trustworthy, pinstripe suited bankers and money managers cautiously guarding the wealth of the nation as if it were their own.  Economic history shows that Wall Street DID view the nation’s wealth as their own – we’re just viewing them in the wrong pinstripes.  Prison pinstripes would be more appropriate.

Great Depression (Dominoes – An Uncensored Portrait of The 60’s)Leap back to 1890, just 39 years before the Great Depression of 1929, the year the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was adopted.  Wall Street had been functioning with virtually no regulation of any type for almost two hundred years.  More importantly, businessmen like John D. Rockefeller  (oil) and J. P. Morgan ($MONEY$, oil and steel) could do anything they pleased in the markets they controlled, most often aided by Congress and state legislatures.

Before that the great monopolist Robber Barons could charge whatever they wanted for goods and services even if doing so knowingly disrupted the entire U.S. economy and caused distress and destruction.  During this time the United States experienced some of the most extreme economic fluctuations – booms and busts – imaginable.  Akin to and surpassing the crisis of today.

Because these booms and busts severely disrupted profits in manufacturing and mining that the monopolists controlled they “unionized.”  To even out the effects of these roller coaster ups and downs many of them formed cartels to control the supply of manufactured and mined goods to ensure profits.   These cartels simply fixed prices and controlled supply. Is anyone familiar with O.P.E.C. cartel and the gas crisis of 1973?

Out of this was born the concept of trusts.  As a trust member you formally agreed to lower the supply of your product to raise prices to profitable levels, often obscenely profitable levels, and agreed to dump products at unprofitable prices to prevent anyone from trying to enter the business.

By the late 1880’s the public outcry against the abuses perpetrated by the trusts became too much for Congress to ignore and in 1890 they passed the comprehensive Sherman Anti-Trust Act by almost unanimous votes in both the House and Senate.

Teddy Roosevelt (Dominoes – An Uncensored Portrait of The 60’s)Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, a hero to many modern day Republicans, including Ronald Reagan, declared himself a trust buster.  His zealous prosecution of the new law in the early years of the 1900’s, eventually brought an end to trusts.

Congress went a step further in leveling the economic playing field in 1913.  They ratified the 16 th Amendment enacting a Federal Income Tax.  Income taxes eventually stemmed the huge pools of capital being horded by the Robber Barons and associates.  It also provided funding necessary for the rational growth of the nation’s infrastructure which had long been ignored except where monopoly interests were to be found.

Cut off from their debauched monopolistic freedom and saddled with paying taxes for the first time these wealth holders turned their full attention to Wall Street which would become instrumental to them in cashing out of these newly restricted companies.

Enormous waves of immigrants to the U.S. greeted rapid growth in the economy in the early part of the century.  People yearned to share in the growth and profits of these now publicly owned companies but Congress had yet to impose any type of substantive regulation on the buying and selling of corporate securities (stocks and bonds) or on what these companies had to tell their shareholders about their financial positions.  It was a perfect scenario for greed and lawlessness.

Over the next thirty years, into the Roaring 1920’s, countless working class Americans made and lost millions trading on Wall Street.  A hot stock tip was as valuable as one’s health.  Stories of shoe shine boys retiring at twenty were commonplace.  Stock manipulators selling “House Of Cards” penny stocks outnumbered legitimate brokers and middlemen ten to one.

It wasn’t long before even more polished manipulators, like Joseph Kennedy, Sr., saw the enormous pool of private working class capital as a means to a never ending source of wealth.  These educated and brilliant newcomers utilized the same shell games as the hustlers of old except they were able to legitimize their place in the financial world by aligning themselves with both politicians and the press.

Kennedy was born into an affluent and politically powerful Irish-American family and graduated from Harvard in 1912.  He started his own stock brokerage in 1923 in what was still a totally unregulated market.  Kennedy was skilled at techniques now patently illegal such as insider trading and controlling markets for a stock and became a multi-millionaire in the explosive bull market leading up to the crash of October 1929.

Kennedy not only controlled markets for individual stocks but the financial information about them.  He chose what data to disperse to investors.  No law dictated that the information be audited.  Kennedy and investment bankers like J.P. Morgan had a virtual monopoly on stock information which was almost impossible for the average investor to come by.

Any of this starting to sound familiar?  Does the term HEDGE FUND come to mind.

An anecdotal story that Kennedy never denied was that he made his decision to sell out all of his stock positions when he heard that his favorite shoe shine boy no longer worked at the stand because he had made so much money in the market.  “If my shoe shine boy could make those kinds of profits, it was time to get out,” is what Kennedy was purported to have said.

Public outcries forced Congress in 1934 to safeguard the economy and investors by creating the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to regulate the sale of stocks, prevent manipulation, and insure proper and adequate financial reporting by publically traded companies.

Ronad Reagan (Dominoes – An Uncensored Portrait of The 60’s)Once out of the ten year economic malaise of The Great Depression the U.S. economy began to grow and flourish virtually unabated for the next sixty years. But something happened in 1980 that would begin the unraveling of this growth and would precipitate our present economic emergency: the country elected Ronald Reagan President of the United States.

Reagan was elected after Carter’s presidency had endured the wrath of O.P.E.C., the oil cartel, which raised oil prices overnight and cut supply like the Robber Barons of old and created an economic crisis environment of both rapid inflation and a shrinking economy known as stagflation.

In addition, Muslim student radicals in Iran deposed the Shah ushering in an ultra conservative America bashing government headed not by elected officials but by religious extremists.  During the turmoil the Muslim radicals kidnapped 52 Americans and held them for 444 days.  Carter, unable to negotiate their release successfully was overrun by the tough talking Reagan in the election.  Many political insiders acknowledge that the hostage crisis was extended by negotiations between the Reagan campaign and the Muslim radicals to last through the 1979 election to insure his victory. They were released in January of 1980 after his election.

Reagan was swept into office promising across the board tax cuts, radically increased Defense spending, stern social spending cuts aimed at balancing the budget, and reduced regulation of business.  “Reaganomics,” and its theory that putting more money into the hands of investors and businesses would eventually “trickle down” into the hands of the working class became the national mantra.  His guide in all this?…Arthur Laffer an economist who’s track record has yet to include one correct economic prediction.

Reagan’s Secretary of the Treasury and later, chief of staff, Donald Regan (former Chairman of stock brokerage firm Merrill Lynch from 1971 to 1980) guided Reagan in the first step that would eventually result in the present crisis.  He convinced Reagan that stock brokerage firms should be allowed to act more like banks and insurance companies.  He had already succeeded in 1971 in crafting legislation that allowed stock brokerage firms to go public but with less government scrutiny than before, which Merrill, Lynch promptly did.

Next Reagan gave the go ahead to deregulate the nation’s Savings and Loan industry, once highly regulated and monitored.

Reagan’s economic plan produced not balanced budgets and increased economic activity, but enormous, record deficits, the failure of almost 800 Savings and Loan associations, and the stock market crash of 1987.  The Genie was out of the bottle.

Clinton was elected, in part, because of his more measured approach to the economy.  To his credit Clinton managed to balance the budget seven of eight years and the country saw some of the most unprecedented economic growth in the nation’s history.

Wall Street (Dominoes – An Uncensored Portrait of The 60’s)Enter Robert Rubin, first as a close economic advisor to Clinton from 1993 to 1995, then as Treasury Secretary from 1995 to 1999.  Rubin, a 26 year veteran of investment banking house Goldman Sachs sponsored and presided over new regulations that deregulated hedge funds making them free of any government oversight.

Hedge funds, enormous private pools of unregulated capital, along with their kissing cousins investment banking firms and stock brokerage companies experienced record profits during George Bush’s eight year presidency.  This broad freedom, harkening the days of the Robber Baron’s “trusts,” produced increasingly sophisticated financial dealings and instruments, all out of the range of government regulation.  The buzz word of the last five years?: DERIVATIVES.

Hedge funds began buying individual mortgages from banks (in retrospect mortgages that would never be paid off) and bundled them to resell as Mortgage Backed Securities. These were then sold again in secondary and third markets, namely derivatives.

AIG, an insurance company, was allowed to sell insurance that guaranteed the bonds of major U.S. corporations and financial institutions like investment banker Lehman Bros., a major trader in these “mortgage backed securities” and in their secondary or derivative market.  One morning in September of 2008 Lehman Bros. announced that, despite assets of almost $650 billion, they were bankrupt.  AIG, once headed a man to whom government assistance was anathema, announced it couldn’t possibly meet the demands of the guarantees they had made to the bondholders of Lehman Bros. and called for immediate government assistance.

Enter Henry “Hank” Paulson, Bush’s Treasury Secretary, another lifetime Goldman Sachs employee who left the firm after earning over $500 million dollars in compensation.  Lehman, a fierce competitor of Goldman Sachs was allowed to die on the vine and was absorbed by Barclay’s a British bank for pennies on the dollar.  Goldman Sachs, Paulson’s alma mater, became part of what is now known as the Bush bailout.

In eight years of Clinton we saw controlled growth, a balanced budget and the longest extended period of economic growth and prosperity  in modern U.S. history to Bush’s Reaganesque return to unrestrained, unregulated greed and profiteering, even bigger deficits, to trillions of tax dollars committed to salvaging and undoing the results of that deregulation.

How did we allow this to happen and WHY are we not demanding that those responsible be brought to light?  Why does no one tie the scofflaw tactics of Ronald Reagan to the present crisis?

“DOMINOES” sparked so many things in me it’s still difficult to define them all.  Extensive footage of protests, both peaceful and violent, brought to mind the recent intense protests at the various World Economic Summits of the world’s G-20 or largest economies.  Overlooked by most they have been the ONLY substantive organized protests in the Western world in decades.

While students in Iran risk their lives protesting in the streets to rid themselves of an oppressive regime WHY are Americans not taking to the streets to demand answers like we did in the 60s and 70s.  Your guess is as good as mine.

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Iran and War – Part 2

Iran and War – Part 2

by Dino Romano

I immigrated to the U.S. with my parents, two highly intelligent and politically aware escapees from a lifetime of fascism, feudalism and poverty.   My sisters and I were raised on a working vegetable and flower farm, which, as the crow flies, or as I prefer, “as the Eagle flies,” less than six miles outside of Harvard Square in “The People’s Republic” of Cambridge, Massachusetts. My childhood was an odd and rather intoxicating mix of the hyper mesmerizing American culture around me and a rich, closed pocket of immigrant culture. A slowly evaporating era and lifestyle conjoined at the hip with the sprawling metropolis and modernity.

My first job, age thirteen, was at a tacky but wildly popular ethnic restaurant a few blocks from Harvard Law School. It was owned by the son of a fellow immigrant who ignored the fact I had no work papers, paid you each night in cash, and drove you back home as we worked well past normal bus route hours. Harvard Square in 1967 was one of the epicenters of the snowballing national debate about Vietnam. We often stuck our necks out the back door to watch bearded protesters with placards. To this day I can’t drive through Harvard or Central Square without thinking of placards and peace signs. It’s still one of the only places in the country where you can see them on a regular basis. It would be another year though before I stuck my own toe into the waves of protests to come.

Firebomb in Vietnam (Dominoes – An Uncensored Portrait of The 60’s)When those protests came in 1968 I wasn’t ready by any means. Honestly, I didn’t know what the fuss was all about actually. My father’s nightly rants about the carnage in Vietnam just didn’t register. There were just too many girls in tight jeans and peasant tops to think about, parties to go to, farm work to do, homework to complete, horses to ride, pot to smoke.

It would be several years before he would explain his blind right eye, why you could not wake him without him jolting upright – screaming and making a grab for you, why the Fascist government hunted men from our village by day, so they slept and did their “work” at night, why his long musical career was supplanted by soldiering and farming, why he would cry suddenly, gushing tears, out of the clear blue; why he could go on, ad nauseam, about how dangerous an unrestrained government could be. Why?

Then it hit me. My older sister came home bawling one afternoon and searched out my father and me in a huge field of trellis tomatoes. We were pounding thick metal stakes into the earth. Her best friend’s brother had just been killed in Vietnam.

They lived up the street from us. I was too awed by his hipness to ever speak a word to him, but he’d been to our house many times to pick up his sister in his black Chevrolet. He’d tasted many of my mother’s special recipes waiting for his sister to pack her things. My mother would never think of allowing anyone to wait in the car. He’d ruffled my hair one time when I was ten or eleven and smiled kindly at me. He’d made polite conversation with my parents who could only respond in halting English. He was dead.

My sister and I waited in line at the funeral home for almost two hours before we were escorted to the closed coffin by a young military man in a dark blue outfit, shiny buttons, and blindingly white hat and gloves. The swanky parlor, replete with velvet drapes, ankle deep powder blue rugs, and antique furniture had been conducting funeral services for old stock Yankees and upper middle class suburbanites for generations. Our town was also a repository for Harvard and MIT professors and had the distinction at one point of being home to more Nobel Prize winners than any other place in the world. Farmers, starting in the early 1700’s, found its proximity to the city and rich soil a blessing. A title search on our farm recently indicated it has been in constant cultivation since 1736 and its original owner helped supply the Revolutionary Army with beef and vegetables. Builders began to savoir it in the late 60’s and today there are but two operating farms left.

Her friend sat in an oversized mahogany chair, tears streaming down her cheeks, her head on her mother’s shoulder, her father looking down at the floor zombie like; none of them aware of our presence. We walked away shaken. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen tears but it was only the second time I had been in the presence of genuine grief. The first was at age ten when my mother opened an air mail letter one day in our kitchen to discover her forty-two year old brother had died tragically. Her friend’s mother let out a groan as we rushed out the side exit. We ran an entire block to avoid cutting through the snakelike formation of waiting mourners. After that I began to understand.

Just a few months later my mother’s childhood friend lost a son to the same war. They had emigrated from the same ocean side island village as us. Her husband abandoned her in a tenement in Chelsea, Massachusetts a month later and she raised her son as best a single working seamstress mother could. I remembered him only because he often drove his mother the ten miles from the city to our farm, dumping her off in the dirt driveway, always rushing off in a hail of engine rumble, dust, and screeching tires when they hit the pavement without acknowledging my parents. His wake was conducted in a stifling one room funeral home on a hot Indian Summer weekend, my mother dutifully by her friend’s side the whole time. His mother never visited with us again.

Draft Card Protest (Dominoes – An Uncensored Portrait of The 60’s)The nightly news, often dominated by combat footage from Vietnam, suddenly meant more to me. My first official protest was in May of 1968. I had arrived at work early to meet up with an older girl who also worked there that I had taken a fancy to. She was all of sixteen and little did I know my chances with her were nil. But, as they say in the military, horny makes you brave, so when she asked me to join her on the Cambridge Common I jumped at the opportunity. All I can remember of it today is a mass of bodies. People shouting angry words, pushing, spittle flying, elbows and legs everywhere, a pungent smell of sweat. I lost sight of her within minutes as she pushed hard through a crowd that was chanting something in unison. In my eagerness to follow I took one of those elbows to the forehead, stunning me momentarily. I remember the word “fuck!” being shouted over my shoulder and squatting to put my head between my knees.

By the time my head was clear the crowd had passed me by and I turned west on Massachusetts Avenue and walked the five blocks to work. The older girl with the jet black hair never came back to work at the restaurant and I never saw her again despite repeated reconnaissance missions.

I have lost count of the number of protests and rallies my friends and I participated in over the next five or six years. By late 1970 farm life had taken its toll on me and my relationship with my father. To my mother’s dismay I moved five miles away to Davis Square in Somerville, a short walk to Harvard Square, a now long in the tooth sixteen year old. That was the year of “18 by ’72” a true grass roots movement aimed at lowering the voting age to eighteen by 1972. At that juncture in history you could be drafted, sent to Vietnam, killed in action, all without the right to vote on whether our country should be there or not. It became the common cause for a group of us at my high school.

Graduating a year early allowed me the opportunity to fine tune my grass roots organizational skills with Mr. Benson (who seriously ill with skin cancer, never saw the fruit of all his work for “18 by ’72”), refine my cooking skills at the tawdry little restaurant near the law school, fight with my father, truly learn to read and write, ride my horses, take post graduate courses, get accepted to college and date any woman who would listen.

Vietnam spearheaded the urgent student activist movement which birthed “18 by ‘72.” The Twenty-Sixth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, setting the voting age at 18, was adopted on July 1, 1971. The protests weren’t violent. Few ever made the news, but protests they were. Sit-ins, sign ups; organized, intentioned, and truly motivating, particularly if you were of draft age, as I was.

I don’t regret a moment of the sneers and antipathy hurled at me, at us, as we made ourselves heard those two years. So much good came of it. The war in Vietnam finally ended despite a recalcitrant administration, by virtue of inertia. Some called it a failure of will on the part of the U.S. and the South Vietnamese. In reality, forcing change at rifle point only lasts so long. Just take a look at China. Chairman Mao would tell you the same thing if he were still alive as he drove by you in his Mercedes on the way to the Macau casinos. But the damage to the malignant, entrenched political machine had been done. For a while.

Ironically, as I write this, it is July 4, 2009, Independence Day, the celebration of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on this same date 233 years ago in 1776. I can’t help but think; how did all the hard won changes of the 60’s and 70’s get turned around in one generation?

Today we’re still enmeshed in two wars. Afghanistan, prompted by an immoral and contemptible act upon innocent Americans was intentionally stalled to a halt by the other, Iraq, an immoral and contemptible war foisted on us by the same military industrial complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned us to be fearful of in his exit speech in 1961.

The bigger question is WHY? WHY are we not back on the streets demanding to be heard above the roar of lobbyists and billion dollar backed corporate interests which make laws our Congress and Senate rubber stamp into existence daily?

WHY are we not back on the streets demanding that the excesses of Wall Street, begun in earnest with Reagan’s cutting loose of the Savings and Loans and abetted by Clinton’s deregulation of hedge funds not go unpunished?

WHY are we not in the street protesting the lack of equitable and affordable health care, legislation which has been carefully killed in committee since it was first proposed over one hundred years ago?

WHY are people in other countries willing to die to be heard when all we seem to be capable of is buying into mass consumerism, celebrity worship and maintaining an apathy that borders on self hatred?

I grew up in the Revolution. What happened to it?

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Iran and War Dig Up 60s American Skeletons

Iran and War Dig Up 60s American Skeletons

by Dino Romano

Iran and war are digging up 60s American skeletons. Iran and the recent violent protests there, particularly the very public death of Neda Agha-Soltan, immediately came to mind as I watched the film “DOMINOES” last night. It’s a powerfully moving documentary that chronicles some of the most explosive times in American history; 1965 to 1975. From Watts to Woodstock, to Kent State, to the brutal Democratic Convention, to the fall of Richard Nixon, to Gerald Ford’s pratfall on the steps of Air Force One, and the fall of Saigon.

With Iran and War buzzing in my head, and without a word of narration, “Dominoes” is mesmerizing montage after montage accompanied only by a soundtrack for the ages. Dominoes is as much a brilliant homage to America as it is a caustic metaphor for all that is wrong with it.

It’s incredible to me how much we can keep repressed even with Iran and war constantly in the media . Much of that era was MY time. My youth. My indelibly etched memories. My voice protesting. My body getting shoved by police. “DOMINOES” is still bubbling around in my brain a day later, making me wince, and laugh, and cry. It made me realize I remember those moments almost daily and attempt to bury them at the same time. Why?

Iran news coverage – we’ve all watched and listened the past several weeks as average citizens in Iran risked their lives by flooding into the streets to protest what they feel is massive oppression and corrupt election results. Whether on television, YouTube, other internet video sites, or reading about the now famous “Tweets” from the scene, the bloody death of Neda Agha-Soltan shocked me back to our own tragedy at Kent State on May 4, 1970.

That day, both peaceful protesters and casual observers became sitting ducks for Ohio National Guardsmen. Why they shot will never be truly deciphered, but they opened fire. Not on the crowd in front of them, but at what they believed to be protesters almost one hundred feet away. They shot four people to death, two of them simply for walking to class, one of those an R.O.T.C. member himself, and wounded nine others.

Kent State (Dominoes – An Uncensored Portrait of The 60’s)Neda Agha-Soltan, dying on a traffic swollen street in Tehran, blood pouring out of her nose and mouth, onto her neck and chest as bystanders frantically attempt to stem the flow from the bullet wound to her chest, will live for me forever. So will the Pulitzer Prize winning photo of the young woman kneeling and screaming over the dead body of Jeffrey Miller on May 4, 1970 at Kent State.

The shootings at Kent State helped mobilize the nation, effecting a seismic reaction in public opinion. Finally, average people felt vulnerable and violated. Felt the need to take a stand. Americans don’t kill Americans over a difference of political opinion; DO THEY? Suspicions, long held in check, were finally expressed. Not just by long haired, unemployed students and “radicals,” but by fully employed, law abiding Middle America. It appeared people were not going to be lulled any longer.

No, the tide turned here and forever at Kent State. That’s what I truly believed until the election of a B-movie actor to the presidency changed all that for me.

Laced with unforgettable archive footage of Vietnam and world figures, of Americans speaking their minds, protesting in the streets, and the violent response from those elected to serve us, “DOMINOES” also serves up some of the most unforgettable music of the era.

Watts Burning (Dominoes – An Uncensored Portrait of The 60’s)It starts out in the streets of Watts as angry residents burn down sections of L.A. in August of 1965. I distinctly remember my father eating dinner and watching evening news footage on The Huntley-Brinkley Report. He had a rabid appetite for news and liked that I watched the news with him as I often acted as his in-house translator. In his heavily accented English he asked, innocently I might add, “why they burn their own houses down?” I wasn’t equipped to answer that question at age eleven, but my uncle responded in an equally accented voice, “I don’t know, they mad at something, that’s for sure.” I didn’t know that feeling yet, but in just a matter of a few years I would.

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