In a recent trip to Oakland, I stand on a side street with three other queer women. On this corner is a café nobody seems to know the name of but they know where it is and go there. On the sidewalk all along the front and side of the café are tables and chairs, every single one full. Among these people within and without the café there is a good number of old seventies Berkeley radical literati. It has been oh… thirty years since I have seen them.
The seventies is a time of the Black Power, Gay Liberation and Women's Liberation movements. This is a time of the Berkeley Barb, Black Panthers, Shameless Hussy Press, COINTELPRO. This is a time when I choose to write sports for PLEXUS which is a small press newspaper of radical notions: producing a women's feminist newspaper, writing about women's sports.
I am required to go to the news collective meetings which is responsible for reporting a great upsurge of urban political activism. In the early seventies on occasion in places like New York City or Philadelphia some underground radicals have an accident with the production of explosives. The resultant explosion takes out them and a tenement block. There are robberies of large sums of money. A rich heiress is kidnapped and turned into an urban guerilla (what's known as terrorist and looter in 2004 terminology).
The guerillas are few. The rest of us are caught up in a high wind of creativity, activity, productivity. There is an urgency to get it done. We spend hours talking about what "it" is: feminist presses, women's coffee houses and bookstores, newspapers and magazines, and women's land. We talk about woman hating, gynocide, music production companies, birth control, sexuality. We are rushing to dream a new world. We think we will get "it" done soon.
It is a time when we become aware that the federal government isn't benevolent. Dissent is not a right, it is a threatening bother. So the government moves to squelch even the hint of a threat. It is a time when the government sends provocateurs to blend in with the restless, to stir up trouble where there is none. It is a time when informants are rampant; if they don't get a good story, they create one. The government initiates COINTELPRO. Phones are tapped, people followed, groups infiltrated.
The tactics are aggressive, divisive, destructive, effective. The social, political movements are set back by pressures from within and without the groups. The intent is to divide and destroy lawful political dissent. People lose their jobs; some people lose their sanity, faith, courage; and the lives of many people are unnecessarily shattered. Not one CIA or FBI detention, action or list is lawful. Still it happens all over the country.
The nineties are the sixties upside down. We are suppressed and tricked by the smiley good will of Clinton. The millennium is the seventies unmasked. There is no Tricky Dicky (Nixon); we have Master George and Darth Dick. What happens in the seventies illegally, is now made legal. The government can spy at will on the citizens of this country and with the blessing of congress.
This is a dangerous moment. The pretenses have fallen. We see what we are looking at. This is a delightful moment. The reality has risen. I have seen this before. I see what I am looking at. We have an opportunity now to make this our world, not theirs. Carpe diem: seize the day, seize the god. Now is the time to set intention, pick a work, do it, and hold to knowing that it is "dark before dawn".
In this moment I work without fear of Master and Darth because what I know from the seventies is that it is they who are afraid. In Star Wars the rebels have a long journey of struggle. There are many scary moments and some unsavory villains. In the end, the rebels, the Jedi, the Wookies, the robots, the Ewoks are all gathered around. They are at peace in a great forest. They drum, sing, chant, feast and speak sweetly with each other. May it be so for us.