By Tony Gabriele
August 23, 2009
"Power to the people, man!" said the old familiar voice on the phone.
It was Newmobe, my old college radical friend from the 1960s.
Newmobe, you may recall, was the undisputed champion political
protester on our campus in those protest-filled days. He still holds
the NCAA record for the longest sit-in in a dean's office. In fact,
he occupied the office longer than the dean did.
What's up, Newmobe? I asked.
"I've been thinking about the good old days. The sit-ins, the
marches, the peace rallies, all the things that made life worth
living. Maybe it was the hoopla about the 40th anniversary of
Woodstock that brought it to mind. Were you at Woodstock with all the
No, I wouldn't have fit in. In August of 1969, I was a PFC at Fort
Dix. The Grateful Dead had nose hairs that were longer than my
haircut. You were there, I presume.
"Was I there? Heck, I was picketing the thing."
You picketed Woodstock?
"I was protesting its failure to include a sufficient number of
transsexual disabled Aleutian-American rock 'n' roll acts."
Something that would occur only to an advanced political thinker like
"I like to think I was ahead of my time."
You were on the cutting edge of radicalism, back then. Tell me, do
you still have that tattoo of Chairman Mao on your arm?
"I confess, that got to be a little embarrassing. So I went back to
the tattooist and had him put a moustache and chin whiskers on Mao.
Now when people see the tattoo, they think it's the Kentucky Fried
How soon they forget.
"Even worse, I still have the tattoo of Karl Marx on my other arm.
And when people in their 30s and 40s see it, they say, "Wow, Jerry Garcia."
So how have you been, since college?
"Tell you the truth, these have been dreary years for us old-time
revolutionaries. Nobody pays attention. I couldn't even get President
Bush to listen in on my phone calls. That hurt, man."
Why is that, you suppose?
"I blame this lazy younger generation. No longer willing to lead the
active life, marching, chanting, throwing rocks. Don't they know what
healthy, invigorating exercise that is? Instead they sit at home and
write blogs. Nobody wants to rage against the machine, to confront The Man."
Since you mention it, Newmobe, could you clear something up for me?
Just who is "The Man" that I keep hearing people complain about? The
Orkin Man, perhaps? The Man from Snowy River? The Man from U.N.C.L.E.?
"It's The Man, man. The whole corporate fascist military-industrial
OK, OK. But Newmobe, there are some people out there doing some
vigorous protesting. How about those citizens yelling and chanting at
the health-care town meetings?
"Yeah, that's true. In fact, I'm thinking about joining up with those folks."
Really? I suspect they're from a different part of the political
spectrum than you are.
"I don't care. The important thing is they're protesting. When
somebody is yelling their lungs out, shouting down the people they
disagree with, I feel a certain solidarity with them. To paraphrase
H. Rap Brown, yelling at somebody is as American as cherry pie.
Besides, I could give them some pointers."
"Expand their protest repertoire. Show them how to conduct a good
sit-in. Back in the old times, we had a whole repertoire of ins.
Sit-ins, lie-ins, lean-ins, sleep-ins, love-ins, yoga-ins, run-ins,
jog-ins, stroll-ins, mosey-ins. On time, we got a group of
kindergarteners to demonstrate for longer nap times by holding a
That is a lost art.
"We even had jump-up-and-down-ins, but that would be hard on my back
these days. Do you suppose these town meeting screamers have any
non-negotiable demands? It's been years since I heard a good
You could ask.
"Hey, remember how me and the other war protesters would burn our
draft cards? Maybe we could get these people to burn their Social
Actually, some people in New Hampshire did that once.
"That's the spirit. We won't stop protesting until the government
gives us free universal health care for everybody."
Uh, Newmobe, I don't think that's what these protesters want.
"Ah, we'll work out the details later. What's important is that we're
mad as hell and we're not going to take it any more. Regardless of
what 'it' is."
So you think this will make you feel relevant again? Make you feel
you're still hip?
"Relevant, yes. As for hip, that depends."
"On my upcoming hip-replacement surgery."
Contact Tony Gabriele at email@example.com.