By Jeoffry B. Gordon, M.D. / OB Rag
Fifty years ago this week, I was in Chitown.
Having just finished my medical internship and working several years with the famous pediatrician Dr. Ben Spock on anti-war issues, I was in a white coat among the checkered blue caped and the robins-egg blue-helmeted police and real people.
I will never forget walking along the lines of scared, sweating teenage national guardsmen with fixed bayonets, trying to calm them down by talking about how we were all brothers, and now remembering Kent State – I think, Thank God, there was never a charge by them.
The paranoid and imperialistic style of the “wise men in Washington” was no different than now. They had idolatrous faith in the mechanized, high-tech Pentagon, run in an industrially efficient fashion by – in the end, a regretful – Robert McNamara from General Motors.
The key to power in the public square (“The whole world is watching”) was the unifying power of the universal draft – it brought the war home into all American families. (Politicians thus found it necessary to create a “voluntary military” which contributed greatly to our now disastrous socio-economic and regional tribalism.)
That week in Chicago, we had lots of contributed medical supplies, a medical bus and we were home based in Lincoln Park. I was tear-gassed there several times.
We dealt as best we could with respiratory distress and wounds from police. (The sculptor Claus Oldenburg was among those who sought refuge with us.)
Later I was privileged to be outside the Convention Hall for Dick Gregory’s wondrous speech. (Alas – howling true reality to a media committed to “fake news” then from the Pentagon.)
In the present, it is important to recall as the new media of television brought the war home in real time with live action shots for the first time, political and corporate censorship (remember the Smothers Brothers?) made certain we were fed and digested and got used to government-sponsored pervasive “fake news” to support a failing war. And look where this education led us!
In Chicago, I am sure I saved a few lives when the blue helmets got angry and pulled out their pistols. The experience certainly affected my life and cemented my devotion to social justice — both participating in and experiencing these events. But when you look at the ensuing outcomes — the Nixon years and the war went on and on, the end of the draft, the absurd Chicago 7 trial — one has to look back in pessimism.
Which brings us to the present time.
It is quite amazing how the national political parties have been consistent in their preservation of wealth, their imperialistic haughtiness (and ignorance) and the insensitivity to domestic, communitarian social justice.
Our country is a banana republic. Income inequality has never been worse. The greedy consumption of the nation’s wealth by the top 0.1 percent has not only bought them nearly complete political power but impoverished the nation’s basic resources such as infrastructure, healthcare, and education.
The Trumpian agenda has noticeably supercharged these perverse trends.
We here are fortunate to all be living in a bubble of California Dreamin’. The power is not with the people. ICE and CBP are dress rehearsals for an extra-constitutional police state. Racist rhetoric now focused on Hispanics is not only destroying our civic fabric but is presaging vicious attacks against all kinds of others.
Ironically the FBI, CIA and Justice Department stand as the last barriers defending democracy for us. Congress and soon the courts will not be there as democratic institutions concerned with us or the righteously angry, disaffected, large number of Americans who have become throw away people in our late stages of capitalism. They are living out an impoverished “shit life” wallowing in opioids to forget, while the elites (us included) fight to preserve our share of the spoils. Fascism has arrived.