Monday, January 21, 2013
The Presidential Inauguration, Forty Years Ago
Forty years ago (actualy, January 20, 1973; thank you Wikipedia) Richard Nixon was inaugurated for the second time. I was there protesting.
I commented today on Facebook about this. I hadn't thought about this for many years. But forty years is a long time, and it's actually a funny story. It was a different time then.
I had a friend named Valerie. We were in high school together and Valerie and I were platonic friends, but I loved her, as only a teenage boy could love a girl. She didn't know it though. I was a hippie. I had shoulder length hair, and wore patched blue jeans and flannel shirts like Neil Young. She was a hippie, too. She had long straight hair, and also wore jeans and flannel shirts. She lived with her single mom, and went out with a guy, another hippie, named Micheal.
I was cool with all that because, well, hippies were cool with everything.
One afternoon Valerie called me. Hey, she said, we're going to Washington to protest Nixon's inaugeration. Do you want to come?
I swear this is what happened next. I turned and yelled to my mom in the kitchen. Hey mom, it's Valerie. She's going to Washington to protest Nixon's inauguration and wants to know if I can come.
And my mom, who I think was probably at her wits end with her youngest child, said sure, why not.
Valerie, Michael, some guy who I've forgotten, and I all crammed into a Volkswagaon Beetle (what else?) and drove through the night to Washington, arriving in the early morning to what I can still remember to be onel of the biggest assemblies of hippies the world had ever seen.
Pot smoke was in the air. We did some sightseeing (you have to remember we were high school students from Ohio on a road trip) but everything was closed for the expected violence. I looking at the Lincoln Memorial with my jaw on the ground. The mall and the Washington Monument were all closed, at least to long-hairs like us. That's what we were called. Long-hairs and freaks and hippies.
I remember signing up with the SDS, only later thinking the table was staffed by the FBI and there would be an agent at my home when I arrived. I mean, there was no email, Twitter, Facebook, anything. What was the SDS going to do? Send me a brochure?
And it was that weekend when I learned about the nature of political movements. A lot of people came just to party, get high or drunk, and cause mayhem, because they were young and bored and just as entitled and young people are accused of being today. Intellectuals weren't any better represented then than they are now. Smart people are always in short supply. I remember seeing a long-hair pounding on the hood of car that held a bunch of straight people, yelling his outrage at them. Then, straight meant mainstream. It has a different meaning today, but I still use the word with its archaic defiinition.
There's a good chance that guy went back to his suburban home in New Jersey, and later worked on Wall Street. That's what happened to those times. Even Neil Young has turned into kind of an old fogey, interested in selling his music in $500 CD collections.
Me? I wrote on Facebook today that then I was 17-years-old, had long hair, and a penchant for blue jeans and flannel shirts. For me at least, plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.