We honor Tom Hayden - tireless activist, lawmaker, writer, dead at 76 - both for how long and hard he fought, and the cogent, hopeful way he did it. From his view of this election season as "the end of one generation on the left and the rise of another," to his reportage on the 1967 Newark riots - sparked by the police beating of a black man - he faithfully upheld "the idea and practice of democracy (as) a revolutionary idea." Crosby, Stills et al remind us of what he saw as that lofty "unfinished business."
I was 18, living on the streets and selling flowers on street corners to make enough to eat. The call had gone out to meet in Washington to protest the war. I was going to go…then I wasn’t…then I was…and finally was definitely not going. On the day by which I had to leave to hitchhike there from Texas and still make the demonstration, I showed up, as usual, to the shed where we flower sellers met in the morning to be taken out to our prospective corners. No flowers! The shipment hadn’t arrived that morning so no work. I went back to the apartment where friends let me sleep on the living room floor…nobody home. So I made a cup of coffee and sat down to listen to the radio. The radio hadn’t been on two minutes when the CSN&Y song came over the air waves. “So your brother’s bound and gagged and they’ve chained him to a chair, won’t you please come to Chicago for a ride…in this land that’s known as freedom how can such a thing be fair, won’t you please come to Chicago…OR ELSE JOIN THE OTHER SIDE.” I had my bed roll strung up and my “DC” hitchhiking sign made in five minutes. I stepped out the door and never looked back.
Besides being part of the reason for the song, Tom Hayden was one of the organizers for the demonstration. Changed my whole life and took me in directions I could never have imagined. Thanks, Tom. Rest in peace, brother.
Based on my experience there are two memorable actions by Tom Hayden. The first was his trip to Israel in 1982 where he demonstrated his support for the Israeli Defense Forces while they were invading Lebanon which resulted in the deaths of 20,000 Lebanese and Palestinians that culminated with the massacre at the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps. The other was his support for Hillary against Bernie Sanders at a time when Bernie still had a chance. As Gore Vidal said Hayden gave opportunism a bad name.
Cheers for Tom Hayden, though I can’t think of when I have agreed with him for a few decades, and the difference between the campaign ads he sent to me in Venice, CA and those he sent to more upscale and conservative neighboring Mar Vista worse than painful and did things to my young ideas of human beings, things that are not going to undo.
Here’s to the reminder that we are all in this drowning mess and each must find some way while the entirety self-organizes----or disorganizes, as the case might very well be. One wakes and finds oneself a peacemaker, then goes to bed a soldier.
Here’s to Hayden, and here’s to the lot of you. Here’s to morning.