Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Welcome Home Sara Jane!

There’s a lot of revisionist history going on around here! Well, never, never, never forget Kent State!
by Charlie Leck

I have always called the massacre at Kent State University, in May of 1970, the event that ended the historical and psychological decade of the 60s. It was, and has remained over all these years, one of those five days that I call the horrendous days of the decade – along with the John F. Kennedy assassination, the disappearance of the three civil rights workers in Mississippi on 21 June 1964, the shooting of Bobby Kennedy in April of 1968, and the gunning down of Martin Luther King, Jr. less than three months later – the most awful days of my life.

Before this calendar year is out, I will finish the final draft of a book about those horrible, nightmarish years in America. I am motivated to write the book because I see so much revisionist history going on about those years – a general sugar-coating of them – and I want to set the record straight and paint them as they really were.

Racial injustice was being confronted and the racists were fighting back with a vengeance. Some, perhaps many, hateful whites burned black churches in the south and killed people just because they were black. Black riots broke out in the north and parts of many cities were torched, including sections of my own city. The famous riots in the slums of Watts (Los Angeles), Detroit and Newark were frightening and terrible moments.

An unnecessary, evil and immoral war was being fought in Southeast Asia. There was no decent justification for America to send troops there. It was immoral for America to splash Agent Orange over the countryside, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent Vietnamese.

I was among those hundreds of thousands of young people who actively participated in protests against that war. We felt called to stop our nation because our nation was wrong. History – real history – vindicates us on this point. It was a war that proved nothing and accomplished nothing.

I personally believed and devoted myself to peaceful, nonviolent protests. Most of the protestors of those years were committed to protest without violence or injury to other human beings.

I made my first official statement of my opposition to the war in 1967. It was a difficult thing to do because many people believed it was unpatriotic to speak out against the actions of one’s own nation. One needed only to point to Nazi Germany, or to southern slavery in our own nation, to realize that wasn’t true. How I wish I still had that original statement of opposition to the war; however, it and hundreds of other pages of my writing and thinking were destroyed in a Minneapolis fire in September of 1970.

Minnesota, like most states, was awash with demonstrators against the war during the late 1960s. Marches and demonstrations were constant. There were draft card burnings, flag burnings, sit-ins, traffic disruptions and general hell-raising everywhere.

Whenever I could, during those last years of the 60s, I took to the streets and joined the protest marches that nearly always ended up at the Federal Building in Minneapolis. We marched and sang and chanted.

“Hell no, we won’t go!

“Give peace a chance!”

“Hey, hey, LBJ, put those fucking guns away!

Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter wrote, in 1969, a song that became very popular to the protestors and it often comes back to my mind when I think of those days. One Tin Soldier – how I remember the chorus and the way it gave me chills when we sang it. Today, the meaning doesn’t seem as clear as it was back then, when we thought of ourselves and as an idealistic army for peace and justice.

Listen children, to a story, that was written long ago.
About a kingdom, on a mountain, and the valley folk below.
On a mountain, was a treasure, buried deep beneath a stone
and the valley people swore they’d have it for their very own.


Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven, you can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing, come the judgment day.
On the bloody morning after, One Tin Soldier rides away.

So the people of the valley, sent a message up the hill,
asking for the buried treasure, tons of gold for which they’d kill.
Came an answer, from the kingdom, with our brothers we will share
all the secrets of the our mountain, all the riches buried there.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven, you can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing, come the judgment day.
On the bloody morning after, One Tin Soldier rides away.

Now the valley cried with anger, mount your horses, draw your swords
And they killed the mountain people. So they won their just rewards.
Now they stand beside the treasure, on the mountain dark and red.
Turned the stone and looked beneath it, Peace on Earth was all it said.

Go ahead and hate your neighbor, go ahead and cheat a friend.
Do it in the name of Heaven, you can justify it in the end.
There won’t be any trumpets blowing, come the judgment day.
On the bloody morning after, One Tin Soldier rides away.
We sang Bob Dylan’s, Blowin’ in the Wind.

We shouted with joy when we sang Woody Guthrie’s, This Land is Your land, This Land is My Land.

As I was walking
a ribbon of highway
I saw above me
an endless skyway
I saw below me
a golden valley,
This land was made for you and me
It didn’t matter if some of us couldn’t sing. We could shout! They were glorious songs and I’ll never forget them. Gather ‘round when I die and sing them for me. You don’t need to sing them well. Shout them out for all to hear. Proclaim the glory of peace and international friendship and let the world know “we don’t want war no more, no more!”
People Got to Be Free
The Times They are a Changin’
Where Have all the Flowers Gone
He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
If I Had a Hammer
Tie a Yellow Ribbon
I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing
Welcome home, Sara Jane.
You were one of us. You went too far, and you know it. You’ve paid a steep price. Now pompous sons-of-bitches want to keep you out of Minnesota. [Read the Kevin Winge story in the StarTribune if this is news to you!]

“Serve your parole period in California,” they shout.

They call you a domestic terrorist!

They don’t understand, dear woman. However, there are many of us who do. We know you’d do anything to change that one awful moment in time. We know what drew you into it and “there, but for the grace of God, go I.”

Minnesota is a state big with love, forgiveness and understanding, Sara. You are only hearing from the little people, with poor memories, a lack of historical grounding and hard hearts. You deserve to be surrounded now, more than ever, by your friends and family – and in your home.

As Ruben Rosario said in his column this morning in one of our local papers, “Lightweight politicians don’t let the facts get in the way of scoring easy, knee-jerk political points.”

Sara Jane Olson is not the woman of the 60s anymore. They were awful, awful times and those years pushed some way too far while others of us managed to hold on to our core goodness while fighting the immorality of our government. Sara went too far. How many times need we say it?

Let her live out her life now in peace. According to law, she’s paid for what she did – or, at least, she will have paid when she successfully completes this parole period. Let her get it over with.

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