Legendary singer/songwriter and Grammy winner
Posted: September 23, 2009
I read Sam Leff's thought-provoking article about the trial of the
Chicago Seven, my testimony, and Tom Brokaw's words concerning my
participation in the "Yippie Festival of Life." (see Leff's piece here)
I wanted to thank Sam for speaking out in such a clear and meaningful
way about how we (not just me) were robbed (and everyone lost) in the
circus that surrounded the Chicago 1968 Democratic Convention. The
police brutality and smashing of the heads of protesters look more,
in retrospect, like the methods applied to other protests in recent
years around the world. Superimpose another language on Chicago, and
you get -- what? A Third World country struggling to express itself?
What it looks like is a police state wielding its power. See the
crowds and the swinging batons, and hear the screams of the beaten
and those who are being hauled off to jail.
Walter Cronkite himself, the most trusted man in America, said at the
start of the convention, "The Democratic Convention is about to begin
in a police state, there doesn't appear to be any other way to describe it."
He could see what was in front of all our eyes. He could see it clearly.
There was never a question in my mind that the war in Vietnam was
wrong, that the Yippies were right. I had been protesting the war in
Vietnam in many ways and many marches and many events from the time I
was in high school, and my father was railing against our involvement
"Why in hell can't we see it -- the French got out, what are we doing
there? We are going to end up hip deep in the muddy waters!"
And the damned fools said to go on. All of them did, from Kennedy and
Johnson and Nixon. All David Halberstam's brightest and best, hip
deep. My contemporaries were being drafted; my peers were singing
their hearts out, some going to Canada because, like Dave Dellinger's
father, they were serious, committed conscientious objectors.
I believe that Chicago, the Richard J. Daley administration, the
police, as well as the organizers of the convention itself, whacked
the Yippies over the head and dragged them off to jail -- were in
part responsible for the continuation of the war in Vietnam. You know
Combat troops were sent in as of 1965 but military advisers were in
Indochina from 1950 and the first report of the death of a U.S.
soldier was in 1957, from a land mine incident. During the French
occupation in the 1940s, there was 'light' military adviser activity
on the part of the U.S. The war was escalated in 1965 and resulted in
58,000 American dead. And the majority of the casualties in Vietnam
occurred after 1968, after the Yippies' celebration of peace and
light that bloomed into a public relations attack on the peace
movement itself instead of the war.
If peace activists had not been beaten and jailed and muzzled -- as I
was muzzled in Judge Julius Hoffman's trial of the Chicago Seven when
I tried to sing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone"-- (always, always,
Mary Travers' song -- God rest her soul) in my testimony there may
have been a more positive effect in the country at large to end the
war. Instead of concentrating and refocusing on the efforts to
achieve peace in Indochina, there was a focus on the 'antics' of the
peace activists in Chicago, who were, by the decision of the city of
Chicago (and others?) beaten and jailed and prevented from peacefully
protesting -- our right in this country, at least once upon a time --
in protest to the war.
According to Sam Leff, in his book, "Brokaw baits Judy to confuse her
serious political activism with her serious alcohol problem,
effectively editing out her major involvement with the Festival of Life."
You can see my testimony at the trial of the Chicago Seven here.
As Churchill said to an unattractive woman who accused him of being
drunk at a dinner party, "Madam, I may be drunk tonight but tomorrow
I will be sober and you will still be unattractive."
Tomorrow came, I was sober but we were still at war in Vietnam and
50,000 more were dead. Now we are still in wars that are killing our
young people. As necessary as they are said to be (and I disagree, I
disagree) that murder in the name of lies needs goes on -- the fiasco
which is Iraq is a bloodbath of eight years of the destruction of
life and the drain on our finances by yet another original act of the
Bush administration which bleeds us and continues to rob us of our
self-respect and the respect of the world -- and if Alexander the
Great had a hard time in Afghanistan -- and he did, he did -- we will
try as he did to extricate ourselves from the country Alexander the
Great himself said harbored "terrorists." That is what he called them
nearly 2,500 years ago -- and he had to leave as bloodily as we will.
Abbie Hoffman, Dave Dellinger, Rennie Davis, Tom Hayden, John
Froines, Lee Weiner and Jerry Rubin were very serious peace activists
and were baited into a festival of confusion instead of a festival of
life in Chicago in 1968, launched to take the focus off the war. You
don't have to have a brain trust to know that we were in the wrong
war at the wrong time on the wrong continent. All of us -- the young,
the eager activists who marched and sang and tried to bring about
peace, were and are serious. Cronkite was serious when he came out
against the war early on.
I am an activist of many years and challenge anyone to question the
fact. But thank you Sam, for spelling out the insult for me, to
forcing me once again to become aware that the day the Yippies died
in Chicago was a day the peace movement has to look upon as its
reason for being.
A lot of us are saying, "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it
anymore!" ... about a lot of things. So, where is the peace movement
today and how can we all get on board? The train is on the tracks;
the cars are slipping by, one by one. It is time for a new Yippie
movement to surface in this country and take back the flowers and
silence the guns.