I arrived in San Francisco, via Oakland, in the winter of 1967, a few seasons into the “Summer of Love.” It was a world that shouldn’t and couldn’t exist. We smoked grass, dropped Owsley acid, experimented with psilocybin, peyote and mescaline. We “balled” who we pleased without fear of recrimination from our friends or partners, and somehow the rent was paid every month. The pungent odors of macrobiotic cooking shared the air with burning incense and the devastatingly potent “African Black” strain of marijuana…a form so potent that one joint and a bathtub full of warm water would keep those who imbibed in a state of grace for a full day. We formed a new structure for our society and at its footings were the concepts of equality. Yes, the woman I might be living with was my “old lady,” but the opposite was also true, I was her “old man.” Janice and Grace shared the same manic gusto for life as did their male counterparts. There were no lines of sex discrimination. The lack of gender specificity made the whole experiment that much more compelling…and sexy. We didn’t have to make sure we were fulfilling an arbitrary set of gender definitions. Definitions that had been created, for the most part, by the white males of America. This was the caldron that formed the metal of our souls, and, much to the contrary of what is being passed along as today’s insightful editorials, we didn’t “sell out.” All of those that I knew who were part of that wild, fantastic super nova of creativity and social change, never fully came to earth after the acid induced Big Bang. Of course we have grown older and some did find their way into mainstream, brick in the wall status, but for the most part we were left with a soulful ache that did not allow us to drink the Kool Aid.
It is with this mindset that I look on in complete disbelief at a country that produces a group of leaders who set about addressing the subject of women’s health care by forming a panel of “experts” that is comprised solely of men. I’m frightened by the fact that no amount of Panama Red or blotter acid can make today’s social and political oligarchy disappear. The dark force that is the Christian, white male power base, the dark force that is attempting, rather successfully, to hold dominion over the bodies of all women, the dark force that concentrates most of this country’s wealth in the hands of two percent of its population, is a force that we could not have confronted in 1967. We would have been no match for this army of soulless plutocrats. They would have crushed us before the Beatles, the Stones, the Airplane, Jimi, the Dead and Ken Kesey would have stood a chance of producing a profound and lasting impact on our society. Had the Holy Army of the Right been as well organized, and established such a centralized and wealthy source of power in 1967, the Summer of Love would never have happened. Certainly the participants in that wonderful social experiment were subject to attacks from those who either didn’t understand the phenomenon or understood it and were frightened by it, but those attacks were weak and unorganized when compared to the hydra that is now loose and actively killing those that would oppose its holy war.
The site of Darrel Issa active barring minority and female witnesses from testifying before his kangaroo court is, to use the parlance of a former time, simply “mind blowing.” There are few among us who can sustain a philosophy of confrontation for extended periods of time…a Dr. Martin Luther King comes along once in a lifetime, if we are lucky, but we can certainly confront the forces of social and intellectual retrograde for the short term. For god’s sake, the man looked right into our faces and said, “I’m going to get to the bottom of the women’s health issue and I don’t want to hear from any women or minorities.” This is 2012! Aren’t we ashamed?
The Republicans are attempting to choose a nominee for President of the United States. Apparently it has come down to two men. Has anyone noticed that these two men have marked, distorted views on sex and, more importantly, sex as it pertains to women? Peel away all the layers of political camouflage that surround their statements, these men want to take us back to the “barefoot and pregnant” days. Does anyone but me get the sinking feeling that these men actually rue the day that women were given the right to vote? I’m confused as to which group they feel represent a greater threat to the fiber of our American society, women or minorities. I watch “liberal” pundits on television make statements to the effect that these are not “bad” men but just men who are “out of touch.” I’m sorry to break the news to them, but these are, for certain, bad men. Why do I think they are bad? I will use a quote from “Inherit the Wind,” the magnificent play written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, in which the character Henry Drummond (Clarence Darrow) states, when addressing a law that would forbid the teaching of evolution in a public school and the danger this law would produce, “Because fanaticism and ignorance is forever busy, and needs feeding.” That is the Republican party of today and Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum represent the philosophy of fanaticism and ignorance with a vengeance. The site of Issa’s committee staring into the eyes of a group of men with predetermined opinions on what should and should not be allowed in the health care of women is “fanaticism and ignorance” personified. The Republican party is characterizing itself as the new party of change, but that change is to regress to a time when fewer of us had a say in the governing of our society and the rights of the individual were subjugated the the rights of the majority. Make no mistake about it, what you witnessed with Issa’s hearing was the moral equivalent of having a committee hearing on civil rights and forbidding Black experts from testifying.
We are living in the shadow of the cross and that shadow is blocking out the light of progress. Unless this country finds the intestinal fortitude to stand up, once again, for the right of the individual and frees itself from the intellectually repressive views of religion, we are doomed. We will spiral downward towards a reliance on faith and sameness as a solution to our social, political and economic problems. I am amazed by the fact that these holy men that hold the reins of power don’t appear to their followers to be the very money lenders that Jesus so hated. We have gone so far as to give the businesses of the money lenders the same rights as our citizens…we have granted personhood to those that Christ saw as a threat to his flock. We do this in the name of Christianity.
I, for one, can never go back. I saw Vietnam and I saw Haight Ashbury. I know where we never want to be and I know where we should steer the ship of state. Perhaps I don’t know its exact final destination, but I have high degree of confidence in my choice of general direction. The sailor who tracks his own wake merely sails in circles. The name of Ken Kesey’s Magic Bus was “Further.” That’s where we want to be, further down the road, exploring, developing, growing. Today’s Republican, Christian, Evangelical party would have us get on a bus named “Backwards,” and Issa’s committee was a graphic representation of that philosophy. For the party which touts ignorance as patriotism and women as “subjects” is surely the party that would destroy the concepts on which this country was founded. You cannot be a moral person and be a member of today’s Republican party. If you are a Republican, then you had best stock up on aspirin for your wife to hold between her knees, otherwise you will be branded as a murderer. When you get right down to it the Republicans are giving you a simple choice: Bayer or homicide. It’s that easy.