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Friday, September 1, 2017

They’re Clubbing Hippies!

They’re Clubbing Hippies!
In May, 1970, I was just out of college and working in downtown New York City for a large brokerage firm.  The Viet Nam war was stirring up raw emotions.  Young people wanted nothing to do with the war.  Lots of other people thought the war was necessary to stop the march of communism.  Veterans of the war just wanted to forget what they had gone through and to not be disrespected for their service, much of it involuntary.

Lunch hour one warm spring day there was chanting and commotion in the streets.  War protestors (Hippies) were marching through the streets chanting that clever 1,2,3,4 thing, hollering obscenities and basically poking those who disagreed with them with a virtual stick.
Downtown NYC at the time was crawling with construction workers.  Many old buildings were coming down or being renovated and many new ones were going up.  The World Trade Center was still not completed.  The construction workers, many who were war veterans were not happy with being poked by a virtual stick. 
They reacted. 
The construction workers charged the “Hippies” with two-by-fours.  Heads were cracked, faces bloodied, chaos ensued, there were no police stepping in to stop it.
I walked out of my office building to see what was going on.  I was young, my hair longish, my position on the war ambiguous, after all I had dodged the draft via a C-6 vertebrata fracture.
“What’s happening?” I asked a longhaired agitator on the run.
“Construction workers are beating the crap out of us, get off the street, they’re clubbing hippies!”
“Us?” I thought.  “I’m not us.”
“There’s one over there…get the fucker!”
I looked around and they could only be talking about me.
I ducked in the building and went back to work.
It was some scary shit.
Young people with long hair making a lot of noise.
Construction workers, many back from a war they were forced into, veterans who were booed and spat on when they returned from hell, decided to turn on the smug college hippies who made their sacrifice seem meaningless.
Idiots like myself who almost got caught up in the fracas.
In 1970, you were a Capitalist racist war monger, or a smug hippie fuck.  There was no in-between on the street.
In 2017, you are a racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic barbarian, or a love- trumps-hate defender of all injustice in the world.  There is no in-between on the street.
In 1970, the way to shut down those deemed to be smug hippie fucks was to beat them with a club.
In 2017, those deemed to be racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic barbarians are ripe for clubbing.
In 1970, long hair and a young face is all it took to be a target; there were no questions asked.
In 2017, wearing the wrong hat or thinking the wrong thought will brand you a target for faceless thugs with a club; no questions asked.
Me? I’m staying out of the streets until people go back to thinking and talking instead of branding and clubbing.
Dylan was wrong.


  1. Yep, I was around when our servicemen came home from Vietnam. I didn't disrespect them though. I thanked them for their service.

    Now the thugs of today are beating on anyone who doesn't think like they do. How they figure that out is outside my wheelhouse, but these are just criminal thugs.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

  2. Yup; I've noticed the same thing - how very much the political climate of 2017 resembles that of 1970. It's not a popular take, but when I look at, for example, Charlottesville, I see two groups of people, both looking for trouble. . .

    A friend of mine was an undercover police officer back around 1970, in the college town of my alma mater. At one point, the anti-war protesters staged a massive sit-in on the main boulevard through town, snarling traffic, and making life difficult for everyone. In due time, it morphed into a frisbee-throwing pot party, and after a day or so of 'civil disobedience', they decided to let the street re-open, and gathered in the middle of campus to decide on their next course of action. My friend was on-duty that day, dressed as a hippie like the others, and had managed to work his way somewhat close to the leaders of the protesters. The group debated what they should do next, and somebody eventually shouted, "We should sit-in on the railroad tracks! Shut down the trains!" And suddenly, my friend was in a bind. He didn't want to blow his cover, but images of carnage filled his brain, realizing that a train takes a mile or more to come to a stop. He finally managed to dissuade the group from the railroad sit-in; who knows how many ex-hippies are alive today because of him. . .

  3. Where have all the flowers gone? You would think people would learn, but they don't and it all goes around and around.

  4. Everything changes & yet it remains the same!!

  5. This is also the anniversary of the bombing of Rodin's "Thinker," installed at the Cleveland Art Museum. 1970, One of so many years of protesting that war. Now we are protesting the foundation of the society that entered that war.
    It's a fair comparison, here. The Thinker lost his legs. The curators realized he could not be made whole, so the reinstalled him, to continue thinking. Like we do. The mass produced confederate monuments, produced hastily in the McCarthy and Jim Crow eras, have been pulled down and shattered on impact. It took a bomb to remove the Thinker's legs. The more things change, the more they stay the same. What goes around, etc. May, 1970 is the anniversary of the Kent State massacre.

  6. Not much has changed because human nature does not change.

  7. Doubt this will make the cut, but....I got back from VN in early'69, I was there some of 66, most of 67, and a portion of '68. Coming back, going to school in Oregon, I never experienced the 'spitting', 'babyt killer' stuff. In fact, I never met a vet that did. I think it was a pretty rare thing. We were pretty divided, as much of the US was then, pro or con involvement.
    I was a 'member' of VVAW, Vietnam Vets Against War, as a lot of vets were. We tended to stay out of the big demonstrations....we didn't trust our reactions to police advancing on us with shields and clubs. We didn't want to go back into combat mode.
    I don't know what to say about now and then. Except this: I understand the antifa movement....they say the nonviolent, passive approach does not work. It's exactly what we thought 40 years ago.
    Know you'll delete this Joeh, for whatever reason you have. Hope you read it, it's a perspective from back then you don't have.

    1. Actually I was hoping to hear from you as you come from a perspective that I could never identify with as I missed out on spending time in that lovely country in those horrible times.

      I am firmly against shutting down any ideas with a 2x4, even ideas I find repugnant. I am definitely against having my own head smashed in for wearing the wrong hat, disagreeing with the majority, or voting for the wrong candidate.

  8. Excellent observations. Although, I would be correctly called a liberal. I don't think much of antifa. Arguing creates so much chaos. Being a Southerner, I definitely don't like the KKK, etc. They are terrible is an understatement. I remember a principal I worked for in the early 80s told me he could show me a tree lynched people were hung from.

    We are a stubborn lot and it could be our undoing.

  9. I am glad you were not clubbed. You get enough of that here on your page sometimes. ;)

  10. History always repeats itself. What more can I say?

  11. I'm with you Joe, wearing the wrong hat or having the wrong thought making you a target for a club, I'm not up for getting my head cracked for something silly like having an opinion, but at the same time we should be able to express our opinions without fear of going against someone elses.

  12. I was in Chicago in '68 and watched the police reaction to the "hippies". It marked a change in my political attitude but never convinced me that violence cures violence. There's an old expression, Joe, "What goes around comes around." Once again we are at a dire point in our history.

  13. I don't know if sitting it out will work this time. Our Republic, our very National identity, is under attack. Everyone's voice needs to be heard or it will be assumed the crazies speak for everyone.

  14. I'm with you Joe. Off the street. I might go up to the mountains and put some flowers in my hair tho. :)

  15. Well, gosh. Now I have to try and remember what Dylan was going on about.
    Did you get your hair cut the next day?

  16. Violence is a very bad way to resolve issues, but so is hiding out.

    1. I'll stop hiding out when I think there may be some protection, if protectors are ordered to stand down, I am staying away thank you.

  17. It really depresses me to look and see two sides that are incorrect.
    I was going to say aren't right, but right has it's own connotation.
    I can't say wrong because there are, remotely, valid points at either end.
    Sadly, each side has the other so stirred up that they refuse to listen to the middle.

  18. ...until people go back to thinking and talking... Keep out of the streets then, Joe, if people haven't learned it in 40 years, I'm not sure they CAN learn. :-(

    I do have hope that the ones doing all the shouting and clubbing are the small minority. Most of us try to get along and understand why the other person/the friend/the co-worker/the neighbor/the spouse has a different opinion.