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The White Issue

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“Yo! Ex-cuse me, Mr. Poindexter!” The black kids in the street cut loose at me. I’m wearing a tartan vest, wire-­rimmed glasses, and riding a three-speed bike. A cascade of laughter comes down after the taunt, then some from me, too. We all hoot at my upright whiteness.

Whether whiteness is a thing to laugh or cry about is undecidable. For a long time it was neither. Whiteness was simply there, like the atmosphere, as unconscious as the intake of breath.

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I recently met a Southern novelist who asked me where I came from. When I told him he said, “Why, that’s as close to Tupelo, Mississippi, as you can get, isn’t it?” I loved him for saying it, since most people I meet in New York think of New Hampshire as “New England” in the generic Yankee sense of saltbox houses and Mayflower pedigrees, part of a homogenous bloc of nominally liberal states overblessed with vacation lakes and ski colonies. Contrary to this sunny leisure vision, New Hampshire has always been the slum of New England.

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“But then Warner also believes that “lily-white” is a “bizarre dyad” with which journalists are “slapping” the European American com­munity. And we only had, as our agenda, the goal of unmasking someincoherent, un­justified point of view.”

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The problem here is simply “How can one be a white, heterosexual male, and still retain a clear conscience?” All other positions can affirm their specificity, their particular mode of enjoyment; only the white male heterosexual position must remain empty, must sacrifice its enjoyment.

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My mother is white. And I, as you may or may not have figured out, am black. This is how I choose to define myself and this is how America chooses to define me. I have no regrets about my racial classification other than to lament, off and on, that classifications exist period.

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“It is impossible to imagine that any other people that had one out of every three of its members murdered in the past 50 years would be seen as “privileged” — except by those who in some way covertly sympa­thized with the murderers.”

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“White sex,” I repeated, for the third time. Not “right” sex or “wide” sex or a new drug to do it to, which is what every­one imagined when I announced the sub­ject — everyone being white, of course. So let me spell it out for you. White sex as in white people and how they fuck and is there anything to it.”

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“As a cultural category, whiteness has an uncanny ability to be all places but specifi­cally nowhere. It eludes our grasp even as it rules our lives. Whiteness is invisible. And like anything invisible, it’s empty of content, cordoning off what it can’t abide and yet half in love with what it represses. Where, exactly, is this conceptual black hole to be found? Herewith a glossary of whiteness to help fill in the blanc.”

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“Like every other choice we have in the supposedly “color-blind” United States, the choice to be blond should be made so as to prove that one can make it, to prove that one is American.”

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“For a hot minute in the 1970s, white Americans in general felt bad about racism at home and racist imperialism abroad. For the first time in American history, blacks, browns, and Asians had a little social ca­chet, were actually sought-after in some venues. Then came Bakke, the backlash, claims of “reverse discrimination” and the evil of quotas, the demonization of “wel­fare queens,” the criminalization of black and brown youth, and the splitting-off of Asian “model minorities” for use as a bat­tering ram against blacks and Latinos.”

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From The Archives From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Violence

Beyond the Tiananmen Massacre

June 13, 1989

The Seeds of Civil War
By James Ridgeway

By yesterday, the battle be­tween the army and the stu­dents had died down, but the battle for control of the Peo­ples’ Liberation Army was just beginning. 

In Beijing, elements of the crack 38th Army, renowned in China for routing Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War, was believed to have come to the aid of the students. In early skir­mishes, the 38th reportedly engaged units of the 27th Army, the instrument of the Party hierarchy in Saturday’s massacre. An exchange of gunfire was reported in the western suburbs at a military airport, followed later by an attempted assassina­tion of Li Peng. 

In downtown Beijing Tuesday morn­ing, Michael Morrow reported a general strike had shut down the city. Emotions were running high. The people are rebel­lious, defiant, and determined above all to liquidate the 27th Army, now viewed as an army of assassins. “They can kill as many of us as they want,” a resident said, “but they can’t kill us all.” 

The troops of the 27th are skittish, moving along streets in patrols, usually under covering fire. Passport control and airport security are lax at the Beijing airport. Troops (possibly from the 38th) along the road into the city are friendly, and not until visitors reach the down­town does a sense of great tension take hold. 

“You must be careful how you walk in the streets, being careful not to gesture or speak, lest you come under fire,” Morrow said. “People are being killed by stray shots. The people place perhaps undue hope in the 38th, believing that troops loyal to the people of Beijing will arrive to liquidate the 27th.” 

Although sporadic firing could be heard in the streets of the city as well as rumors of firefights between troops from the dif­ferent armies, it was difficult to pin down any actual exchange. Some of the firing may have come from snipers. Visitors and reporters in Beijing found it difficult to move around the city, and watched troop movements through binoculars from their hotel windows. But they were getting their best information on what was going on at a nearby street corner from CNN out of Atlanta. 

To begin to understand the maelstrom of events in Tiananmen Square, one must have some idea of the complex organiza­tion of the Chinese Army. From now on, the outcome of the struggle could depend on the army. 

***

The Chinese armed forces number about three million peasants, no more than a third of whom are in the air force and navy. About half the remainder are regular forces, whose job it is to maintain internal order. The other half are specially trained, heavily armed members of some 40-odd field armies. 

The country is broken down into seven military regions, each one including sev­eral different provinces. The Beijing re­gion, for example, encompasses four provinces. Each region includes several field armies trained to be deployed against foreign invaders. In addition, each region maintains separate and dif­ferently trained troops to maintain inter­nal order, not unlike the state National Guards in the U.S. Finally, there are the local police. 

The Beijing region has the largest con­centration of military forces in the coun­try, including eight different field armies. Among them is the 38th Army, which refused to attack the students during the hunger strike two weeks ago; instead, the soldiers deserted, dropped their guns, or simply burst into tears. Based 40 miles south of Beijing, the 38th is the best-equipped army in the country, forming a strategic reserve in the event of a possible Soviet attack. 

The 38th consists of six divisions total­ing about 60,000 men, including three in­fantry divisions, one tank division, an anti-aircraft division, and an artillery di­vision. The army not only is well­-equipped, but has high morale. 

When the 38th refused to move on the students, Deng traveled to the southern part of the country to recruit military support. During the civil war in the late 1940s, Deng was political commissar to the second of four big front armies, which were deployed in the south after the war. Deng turned to his old comrades for as­sistance in implementing martial law last month, quietly moving their troops north to the capital. In addition, he enlisted the support of commanders of other field ar­mies, apparently including elite units sta­tioned along the Soviet border. These battalions were then dispatched to Beijing and the troops prepped to put down a student revolt. 

On Saturday, June 3, when the troops moved into Beijing, the first units were from the 27th Field Army, whose former commander, Chi Hao Tian, is now head of the general staff of the Liberation Army. The 27th’s current head is Yang. Chin Qu’un. The 27th is intertwined with top party leadership, and very hard-line. It ferociously attacked the students and played a major role in the savagery mounted against them. Following the 27th came the 38th, whose soldiers again refused to fight, and instead shouted, shot into the air, even gave their guns to the students. Appearing next were ele­ments of the 79th Independent Division, a vicious attack force from the coastal city of Jinan, which proceeded to chase down students and civilians, shooting them in the back. The 40th Army, from Shenyang to the northeast, and the 42nd Army, from Canton in the south, were both reportedly deployed in the capital streets. The 42nd was thought to be tak­ing positions in support of the 38th. ■

This article is based on additional report­ing and analysis by Yu Bin, a political scientist from Beijing University now studying in the United States. He served on a divisional planning staff in the 38th Army, and is currently a commentator for the Pacific News Service. 

 

Revolution Without Borders
By Yuen Ying Chan

The Tiananmen massacre has generated a giant wave of pro­tests among Chinese-American communities across the country. Thousands of Chinese students and long-time U.S. residents of Chinese heritage have taken part in demonstrations condemning the regime for premeditated murder and atrocities against its own citizens. Taking their cause to the White House, the steps of Congress, and the United Nations, they have issued an urgent appeal for international support. 

Gone are the pleas for government re­form that dominated student discussion only a week ago. In their place, Chinese studying at American universities (the largest single group of foreign students in the U.S.) openly call for the overthrow of Deng Xiao-ping and Li Peng. “The task is to overthrow the fascist and reaction­ary clique ruling China. This is the agen­da of the day,” said Xia Wen, an organiz­er of student protests in New York.

The New York Chinese community­ — which has always been torn between alle­giance to Beijing or its arch-rival, the Kuomintang government in Taiwan — has come full circle to discover common ground in the politics of their homeland. Since the student protests erupted almost two months ago, New York Chinese newspapers representing opposite politi­cal orientations are suddenly speaking the same language; Chinatown organiza­tions that were suspicious of or antago­nistic to each other in the past now find themselves voicing their indignation in a similar pitch and tone. The selflessness and ultimate martyrdom of the Chinese students have struck a universal chord among Chinese around the world. 

This Friday, thousands of Chinese im­migrants and students will gather at the United Nations and march across town to the Mission of the People’s Republic of China at West 66th Street near Lincoln Center. Billed as the largest Chinese­American demonstration ever, the coffin-­carrying march is expected to include ev­ery part of the Chinese community spectrum — millionaire entrepreneurs and toilers working at below-minimum wage, immigrant mothers and their American-­born daughters, the communist sympa­thizers and the anticommunists, the “up­towners” and the “downtowners” — who will converge in a massive outpouring of anger against the Chinese government. 

“This is your time to do something for China,” said Peter Lee, a protest organiz­er and former Chinatown reporter who quit his job two weeks ago over his pub­lisher’s call for a crackdown on the stu­dents in Beijing. “If you don’t stand up now, you may never stand up for any­thing else in your life.” Chinese students in New York are racing to construct a replica of the “goddess of democracy” crushed in Tiananmen Square for the march, to show that Chinese around the world have taken up the cause. 

Accusing President Bush of a double standard in his human rights policy — his angry and very specific denunciations of rights violations in the Soviet Union con­trast sharply with his guarded warnings to the Chinese leaders he befriended as envoy there in 1974 — has become the vogue since the recent turmoil began. One might as well go for a field day hunting down double standards in Chinatown. 

***

In the face of the monstrous criminal acts committed by the Chinese gov­ernment against its own citizens, the lines between the genuine and the fake in Chinatown have been sub­merged — at least for the time being — by the higher call for freedom and democra­cy. In the past month, the leaders of the Chinese Consoliuated Benevolent Associ­ation, an umbrella organization of 60 family organizations in Chinatown, has become a strong advocate for democracy in the People’s Republic — even though it has maintained a stony, 40-year silence on the military rule of the Kuomintang in Taiwan. 

No less ironic is the case of Fred Tang, one of the chief organizers of Friday’s march for justice. As president of the Chinese-American Planning Council, a multimillion-dollar social service agency, ‘Tung oversees a revolving-door cheap la­bor program for the City of New York. In the name of “training,” the CPC, a con­tractor for the city, pays immigrant workers $5 an hour (without medical in­surance or other benefits) for doing reha­bilitation work in rundown neighbor­hoods. The CPC also sets a limit of six months of employment. Prevailing wages for similar work in the general construc­tion industry run between $12 to over $20 per hour. 

Thus, the massive show of strength and unprecedented unity by the Chinese community masks the real contradictions and challenges confronting the city’s Chi­nese-Americans. For the last hundred years, events in China have always had tremendous impact on Chinese commu­nities overseas. “Since Chinese immi­grants were denied the right of natural­ization [until after World War II] and thus effectively disenfranchised from the democratic process, most Chinese in the United States channeled their energy and resources into strengthening China as the only means for achieving full protection and respect from Americans,” said Berkeley professor of Asian-American studies and community activist Ling-chi Wang. 

It wasn’t until the tail end of the civil rights and antiwar protests in the late 1960s and early 1970s that Chinese began to fight for equal rights in this country. In the past few years, with the easing of tensions between Taiwan and the main­land, divisions based on loyalties to the motherland seemed to give way to healthy disputes over local Chinatown is­sues like city politics and school board elections. 

But against the backdrop of the epoch­al tragedy in China, issues such as the city’s charter revision or minimum wage enforcement in Chinatown seem mun­dane. Yet it is precisely these concerns that would empower the Chinese-Ameri­can community. After all, the most far-­reaching impact of the events in China will be in matters of daily survival, such as jobs, housing, and education for one’s children. 

Already, residents of Hong Kong, due to return to China in 1997, are talking in hushed voices of massive emigration to any country in the world that might take them. Many Hong Kong students here, who were undecided over whether to re­turn or make a career in the U.S. just one week ago, have received midnight phone calls from panicked parents at home. The messages are all similarly direct: “By all means, stay. Find a way to get residence papers. You are now the hope of the whole family.” 

Dick Netzer, senior fellow at New York University’s Urban Research Center, says that if Hong Kong is persuaded that things will really be “bad” after the Chi­nese takeover in 1997, “an enormous wave of immigration from Hong Kong could be triggered very quickly.” He esti­mates that perhaps one million people would emigrate, of whom 300,000 to 400,000 could settle in the New York re­gion. It can hardly be disputed that events of the past week in China would meet the “really bad” criterion.

It’s almost a foregone conclusion that the recent tragic events in China will act as an explosive push factor in the global Chinese diaspora. Statistics from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Services between 1983 to 1987 showed that Manhattan’s Chinatown had attract­ed the largest number of Chinese immi­grants (mostly from the mainland and Hong Kong), while the more affluent im­migrants from ‘Thiwan prefer Chinese neighborhoods in Queens. An influx of legal or illegal immigrants will put addi­tional strains on housing, the schools, and social services in the area. 

At the same time, one cannot expect the new money pouring in from the other side of the Pacific to filter down to the bottom of the community. Indeed, past experience has shown that the new riches have in fact created a community polar­ized between the haves and the have­nots. Real estate in Chinatown is such a high-stakes game now that local brokers admit that, increasingly, only the trans­national consortiums with big cash and “staying power” can manage to buy. A local store owner cannot even dream of buying a modest building in the neighbor­hood in case his lease expires. 

Already, the influx of money from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the rest of Southeast Asia is drastically changing the face of Manhattan’s Chinatown. In 1984, the BCC building on Canal Street became the first dilapidated factory loft building to be converted into a modern office com­plex on the Canal Street corridor. Now at least eight more major factory buildings within the 12-block area around the La­fayette-Canal intersection have under­gone similar conversions, with another seven targeted to go. Along Canal Street, squalid, century-old brick outer walls are giving way to glittering glass facades, and their tenants, mostly immigrant women who work at Juki sewing machines, are being replaced by young pin-striped Chi­nese yuppies (called Chuppies) who sit at computer terminals. A Chinese developer pointed out with glee that the center of Chinatown is shifting from good old Mott Street to Lafayette and Canal, where in­vestors have found good housing stock, better access to the subways, and room to grow towards Soho, Tribeca, and the City Hall area. 

In other parts of Chinatown, new con­struction is booming. Chinese developers, many in partnership with Hong Kong investors, are rushing to build on any empty lot they can lay their hands on. Learning from their defeat in a mid-’80s zoning battle that effectively killed the city’s plan to give luxury high-rises a free ride in Chinatown, developers are build­ing “as-of-right” to avoid the hassle of seeking variances or community approv­al. The slogan of the industry now is to build and build fast. The new construc­tion is for the upper-middle class never­theless, selling at $300-350 per square foot, and the Hong Kong gentry are a prime marketing target. Working people who cannot afford the high prices of these condominiums have no choice but to double up in crumbling Chinatown railroad flats or move to Ridgewood, Sun­set Park, and the few remaining afford­able neighborhoods in the outer boroughs. 

Even before the massacre, major banks from the colony had already landed in New York in a big way, in part to provide a more convenient conduit for the ex­pected influx of money in 1997. At least two premier Hong Kong banks are plan­ning major expansions in New York’s Chinatown. The Bank of East Asia, which is owned by the most affluent and influential Chinese elite in Hong Kong, has just moved from its Fifth Avenue offices downtown to Mott Street and in­stalled a full-service branch. And if all goes according to plan, East Asia will have the distinct honor of being the only bank in Chinatown housed in new, cus­tom-designed headquarters at Canal and Mulberry, the heart of old Chinatown, by early 1991. The new bank, estimated to cost $10 million, will replace the loft building now standing at the site, which the bank bought for $5.5 million in 1986, a bargain in retrospect. 

Not to be outdone, the Hang Seng Bank, the leading consumer bank in Hong Kong, is completing its rehab of the five-story cast-iron building on Canal Street that it bought for $7 million last year. Meanwhile, Hong Kong Bank, the de facto central bank of Hong Kong (which has nine branches in New York), recently switched its advertising agency and is launching a new market campaign. 

Canal Street now boasts eight bank branches within a 10-block area. On the other side of Chinatown, East Broadway, with another nine banks, competes with Canal for the title of the “Chinatown Wall Street.” And the banks are still roll­ing in — two more branches are currently under renovation on East Broadway. 

The construction boom has not given Chinese immigrants, among whom skilled construction workers number in the hundreds, a chance to enter New York con­struction unions. In major construction work in Chinatown, elite plumbing and electrical jobs remain in the hands of mostly white union workers. When Chi­nese workers are lucky enough to be hired, they can only expect to work at wage scales far below those prevailing in the industry as a whole without benefits or job security. Just last year, an undocu­mented Chinese worker from Malaysia was killed in a Queens house under reno­vation when slabs of concrete collapsed from the ceiling. The Chinese employer boldly announced that the unfortunate victim was “just a visitor” who happened to be there, looking for work. 

Such inequities render the cheap labor program run by the Chinese-American Planning Council even more repugnant. Is there a link between the real estate industry and the CPC, which operates a separate Local Development Corporation and has publicly stated its interest in sharing the city’s $500 million in public housing money? By staunchly defending its practice of paying $5 an hour for con­struction jobs, CPC institutionalizes cheap labor and does a service for real estate interests — and tries to give coolie labor a good name. 

Only two weeks ago, a protest against martial law at the Chinese consulate in Washington, D.C.­ — attended by 3000 Chinese stu­dents from across the eastern seaboard — had an almost surrealist air as the students marched under fluttering red flags in this belly of the beast of capitalism. Over and over, the marchers sang the National Anthem of the People’s Republic of China and the Internation­ale, the battle hymn of international communism. 

This past Sunday, the day after the massacre, a march by many of the same students in New York City took on a decidedly different mood. Mourning the dead in Tiananmen, angry students with black arm bands carried wreaths and wore white paper flowers pinned to their chests. The red flags and cries of “Arise, ye prisoners of starvation…” are gone. 

Gone too was the national anthem, a song written in the first years of the Chinese Communist Party. But at the same time, isolated shouts of “Down with communism!” seemed to receive little support. 

One can only surmise that the shift of symbols signifies a profound soul-search­ing among these young democrats of the republic. The problem they face is noth­ing less than the viability of world com­munism itself. 

As chants of “Down with the fascist clique” roared through the crowd and re­ports on the mounting toll in Beijing were circulated, Xia Wen, a doctoral stu­dent in sociology at Columbia, said, “It’s irrelevant to count the dead now. The important thing is that we are continuing the struggle. China will not be the same China, and the people will no longer be the same people.”

That determined optimism is shared by Ming Ruan, a deputy director of the theoretical office of the Chinese Commu­nist Party Cadre School until he was purged from the party in 1982. “The fas­cist ruling group is unable to control the situation with their reign of terror. The people are more angry than scared by the bloodshed. And they are still defiant and fighting. The days of the hardliners are numbered.”

Ming now believes that it is not enough to change the party’s political line. Chi­na’s governing institutions must also un­dergo fundamental reform to introduce freedom of the press and checks and bal­ances.

“This is a transition point for the Chi­nese people and a new beginning,” Ming said. “Today’s winners are bringing their own demise, and will be tomorrow’s losers.”

 

It All Started With Jan & Dean
A Chronology

The student movement in China didn’t begin with the hunger strikes last month. James Ridgeway pieced together the following account, drawing statements made by students and professors from Orville Schell’s recent book, Discos and Democ­racy. Schell recorded these texts during numerous trips to China over the last two decades.

In December 1978, Chinese students began to express themselves for the first time since the Cultural Revolu­tion, and their elderly leaders found it to their advantage to appear to support dissent. At the time the pro­tests were limited to putting up posters on a street wall, called Democracy Wall, in downtown Beijing. “Democracy Wall is good,” Deng told visiting journal­ist Robert Novak.

Among the famous posters was “De­mocracy: The Fifth Modernization,” written by Wei Jingsheng, a young for­mer solider who worked as an electrician at the Beijing zoo. It was sharply critical of Deng’s modernization efforts: “Do the people enjoy democracy nowadays?” Wei Jingsheng wrote. “No! Is it that the peo­ple do not want to be their own masters? Of course they do. This was the very the Nationalist Party… The slogan of ‘people’s democracy’ was replaced by the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat,’ making a very small percentage of the hundreds of millions of people the leaders. But even this was cancelled, and the despotism of the Great Helmsman took over. Then came another promise. Because our Great Leader was just so great, we arrived at the superstitious belief that a great leader could bring the people far more happiness than democracy could. Up until now, the people have been forced time and time again, against their will, to accept ‘promises.’ But are they happy? Are they prosperous? We cannot hide the fact that we are more restricted, more unhappy, and the society is more backward than ever…

“If the Chinese people wish to modern­ize, they must first establish democracy and they must first modernize China ‘s social system. Democracy is not a mere consequence, a certain stage in the devel­opment of society. It is the condition on which the survival of productive forces depends… Without democracy, society would sink into stagnation and economic growth would encounter insuperable obstacles.”

In the autumn of 1979, Wei was brought to trial on charges of leaking military intelligence on China ‘s war with Vietnam and “openly agitating for the overthrow of the government of the dic­tatorship of the proletariat and the so­cialist system in China.” He was convict­ed and sentenced to 15 years in a Beijing jail, where Amnesty International report­ed he died.

***

Among the main supporters of the student movement was Fang Lizhi, vice-president of the university in Hefei, where early protests broke out in the fall of 1986. In November of that year, Fang Lizhi gave a speech at Tongji University in Shanghai.

“We now have a strong sense of urgen­cy about achieving modernization in Chi­na,” he said. “Chinese intellectual life, material civilization, moral fiber, and government are in dire straits… The truth is, every aspect of the Chinese world needs to be modernized… As for myself, I think all-around openness is the only way to modernize. I believe in such a thorough and comprehensive liberaliza­tion because Chinese culture is not just backward in a particular respect but primitive in an overall sense… And frankly, I feel we lag behind because the decades of socialist experimentation since Liberation have been — well, a failure! This is not just my opinion; it is clear for all to see. Socialism is at a low ebb. There is no getting around the fact that no socialist state in the post-World War II era has been successful, nor has our own 30-odd-year-long socialist experi­ment… I am here to tell you that the socialist movement from Marx and Lenin to Stalin and Mao Zedong has been a failure…

“Clearing our minds of all Marxist dog­ma is the first step… We must remold our society by absorbing influences from all cultures. What we must not do is isolate ourselves and allow our conceit to convince us that we alone are correct…

“The critical component of the demo­cratic agenda is human rights. Human rights are fundamental privileges that people have from birth, such as the right to think and be educated, the right to marry, and so on. But we Chinese consid­er these rights dangerous. Although hu­man rights are universal and concrete, we Chinese lump freedom, equality, and brotherhood together with capitalism and criticize them all in the same terms. If we are the democratic country we say we are, these rights should be stronger here than elsewhere, but at present they are noth­ing more than an abstract idea [enthusi­astic applause].

“I feel that the first step toward de­mocratization has come to mean some­thing performed by superiors on inferi­ors — a serious misunderstanding of democracy. Our government cannot give us democracy by loosening our bonds a bit. This gives us only enough freedom to writhe a little [enthusiastic applause]. Freedom by decree is not fit to be called democracy, because it fails to provide the most basic human rights… In a demo­cratic nation, democracy flows from the individual, and the government has re­sponsibilities toward him… Science should be allowed to develop according to its own principles, free of any ideological straitjacket… The products of scientific knowledge should be appraised by scien­tific standards. We should not be swayed by the winds of power. Only then can we modernize, and only then will we have real democracy.”

***

Almost simultaneous with the pro­tests at Hefei, students in Shang­hai took to the streets. The first wave of protests followed the ap­pearance of the American surf rockers Jan and Dean in November and December 1986. In Shanghai, the pro­tests brought downtown to a virtual halt for four days.

One Shanghai handout, an “Open Let­ter to All Fellow Citizens,” said, “Be­tween the past and the future, there is only the present. We cannot rewrite his­tory, but we can change the present and create the future. In the face of the reali­ty of poverty and autocracy, we can en­dure. However, we cannot just allow our children to grow up abnormally in shack­les and in the absence of freedom, democ­racy, and human rights. We cannot just allow them to feel poor and abused when standing together with foreign children. Fellow citizens, please understand! Bu­reaucracy, obscurantism, and the lack of democracy and human rights are the roots of backwardness.”

At People’s Park in downtown Shang­hai, a political science student addressed the crowd: “So long as there is one-party domination and no rule of law, the enter­prise of liberation is not finished.” He ended by saying he would shed blood “for the early achievement of real democracy in China.”

***

Soon after the student demonstra­tions abated in Shanghai, they broke out in Beijing. Students de­manded a debate with university officials over democratization, and soon marched into the streets chanting such slogans as “Long live freedom and human rights ” and proclaiming solidarity with their fellow students in Shanghai. A small group broke away to march on Tiananmen Square, but were turned back by the police. As the days went by and the students continued to march in Beijing, the demonstrations spread to at least 11 other cities. Alarmed, the government took steps to ban demonstrations.

But the students were determined, and before dawn on December 29, 1986, stu­dents marched from Beijing Teahers’ University to Beijing University, shout­ing, “We want freedom.” More wall post­ers went up. Some were exhortations: “Beijing University comrades: The cir­cumstances for democracy are ripe. Raise your hands in an iron fist. What we must now do is act like heroes.”

Others were sarcastic: “…In the United States there is the false freedom to support or not to support the Commu­nist Party. In our country we have the genuine freedom of having to support the Communist Party. In the United States there is the false freedom of the press. In our country we have the genuine freedom of no freedom of the press.”

On New Year’s morning, several thou­sand students began a march on Tianan­men Square. A few got through security lines. Most of them, turned away by po­lice, dissipated.

By the end of 1986, student demonstra­tions had engulfed more than 150 univer­sity campuses in 20 cities across China, representing the largest mass movement in the country since the Cultural Revolution.

In interviews the protesting Chinese students have never been especially spe­cific about what they mean by democra­cy. Perhaps two Shanghai wall posters in the winter of 1986 came close:

“I have a dream, a dream of freedom. I have a dream of democracy. I have a dream of life endowed with human rights. May the day come when all these are more than dreams.

“When will the people be in charge?” ■

 

 

Categories
From The Archives NEWS & POLITICS ARCHIVES Protest Archives THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized Violence

Tiananmen Square: The Mourning After

June 20, 1989

Deng’s Purge Seeks to Split Workers From Students
By James Ridgeway

AS THE SHADOW of fear spreads across China, the outlines of a purge that could last as long as five years have begun to emerge. In city after city, the authorities are rounding up “scoundrels” and “bad elements” to be dealt with by “the iron hand of the people” — the name given the anonymous plain-­clothesmen now making nightly visits throughout the country.

In its first hours, the purge hit hardest at the workers and “unionists” who had defended the prodemocracy movement in the streets. These were the “bad ele­ments” who, in China newspeak, “agi­tate” the still “patriotic” students into “hooliganism.” The police have been giv­en orders to shoot on sight, and in Shanghai three people have been execut­ed (they originally were arrested for bank robbery, but authorities later linked them to student uprisings as well). By Monday night, upwards of 700 had been arrested.

The prospects for an ongoing under­ground resistance are slight. Given the long tradition of purges in China’s histo­ry and the Communist Party’s continuing pervasive political control, grassroots movements find little nourishment in the world’s most populous country. Ever since the Democracy Wall movement more than a decade ago, the state appara­tus has batted the students back and forth like a bemused cat.

But this time, the time-tested routines may need to be freshened by bloodletting on a scale China hasn’t seen since the Long March. During the Cultural Revolu­tion, workers and peasants were pitted against intellectuals and party cadres. While there were some killings, it was mostly an exercise in psychological war­fare. Today, with much of the population of the cities in support of the student demonstrations and in opposition to the government, turning workers and peas­ants against the intellectual class is more problematic.

In the past, Deng Xiaoping has himself carried out several large-scale purges against intellectuals, most notably while he was party secretary during the anti rightist campaign against some 200,000 intellectuals in 1957. They were sent into the wastelands of northwest China, where they became outcasts. They were prevented from living in cities or holding decent jobs. Their children were denied education.

Deng led another purge in 1964–65, this time of Party subalterns, shortly be­fore the Cultural Revolution began. Dur­ing that period, work teams were sent into the countryside as a form of reeduca­tion. Deng needs no primer on how to put down a protest.

The future of the resistance is prob­lematic at best, and almost surely de­pends on alliances within wavering units of the People’s Liberation Army. Last week’s reports of disaffection within the army sprang from reports that Deng was dying or dead. Now that he has reap­peared in public, whatever factional divi­sions existed in the military have melted away.

Still, there were problems in the Beij­ing military region from the very begin­ning. Troops from the 38th field army refused to attack the students, and the fact that Deng had to import troops from elsewhere around China clearly indicates the Beijing military district could not be trusted. During the occupation, troops from only five of the eight field armies in the sprawling capital district were de­ployed. In the case of the 38th, it ap­peared only in individual units, preceded and followed by units of other, more loyal armies.

This analysis of what’s happening in the army is not based on game theory. Yu Bin, a Chinese student at Stanford University and himself formerly a member of the divisional planning staff of the 38th, has described the cultural context in which the army functions:

“As a member of the 38th army for five years, I remember how every new recruit was taught the analogy of the fish and the water. While the fish (the army) can­not exist without the water (the people), the water can exist without the fish. This was not only a moral principle but some­thing the soldiers in my unit put into practice every day.

“In fact, we spent more time helping the local people than in our own military training… Once, when the division’s hospital removed a 120-pound tumor from a peasant woman, we all donated blood. When local people learned of the operation’s success, hundreds came for medical help. We even evacuated part of our barracks to accommodate them. Later, thousands came from all over the country just for medical treatment.

“More important, from the earliest days of the revolution, the army followed a strict code of behavior known as the ‘Three Main Rules of Discipline’ — to obey orders, take not even a single needle or piece of thread, and turn in everything captured. Under the Eight Points of At­tention, soldiers were instructed to speak politely; pay fairly for what we bought; return everything we borrowed; pay for anything we damaged; never hit or swear at people; never damage crops; take no liberties with women; never ill-treat captives.

“Even after China’s military became increasingly professionalized in the late 1970s, it still carried on this tradition of serving the people. Military service enjoyed relatively high prestige… In the late 1960s a large number of Beijing youth — including myself — joined the 38th, and those who stayed kept in constant touch with family and friends in the capital. Some were children of top offi­cials in the government.

“During the Cultural Revolution, at least two divisions were assigned to maintain order in Beijing, going to vari­ous government agencies to help factions talk out their differences instead of fight­ing. This experience deepened the 38th Army’s political sensitivity.”

ALIENATED from events in Beijing, Hong Kong, with its great wealth, could well become a base for opposition to the government, perhaps even an active center of support for an underground. The British colony is at the center of a network uniting all the major southern cities into international markets, making it far more difficult than ever before for rulers of China to close the country off. The growing influ­ence of international commerce curbs the regime’s inclination to play off the peas­ants against intellectual and business communities in the coastal cities.

It wouldn’t be the first time that a revolt came from the south. The Taiping Rebellion, which lasted from 1853 to 1864, originated in the southern province of Guangzi when a peasant, thinking himself to be a son of God, organized first other peasants, and then merchants and intellectuals, around nationalistic and modernizing themes. The rebels took Nanking before being crushed by the im­perial army. Sun Yat-sen took heart from the Taiping Rebellion and launched his own insurgency based among the intellec­tuals in the southern countryside. In the early 1920s, his Kuomintang established a revolutionary government in Canton and waged civil war against the govern­ment in Peking.

If the evident fear in Hong Kong seems to be fertile soil for an underground movement, Taiwan should be an aggres­sive conspirator. But Taiwan has been surprisingly uninvolved so far. The gov­ernment there may be leary of supporting a prodemocracy movement for fear it might backfire, resulting in calls for more democracy there as well. ■

Research assistance by Cynthia Cameras, Bill Gifford, Andrew Strickman, and the Pacific News Service. 

Fang of the Revolution
by Bill Gifford

FANG LIZHI, the intellectual who has sought sanctuary in the U.S. embassy in Beijing, has developed a longstanding relationship with the American scientific communi­ty. He dates his career as a dissident back to the mid-1950s, when he studied physics at Beijing University. In 1955, as a teenager, Fang disrupted the found­ing meeting of a university chapter of the Communist Youth League, seizing the microphone and delivering a critique of the Chinese educational system.

He survived the antirightist campaign two years later only because he was Chi­na’s most promising young physicist. When the Cultural Revolution broke out, however, Fang was not treated so delicately. His physics talent earned him the lowest social classification, as an intellectual of the “stinking ninth cate­gory,” for which the prescribed punish­ment was to be stuck in a disused cow­shed for a year and then sent to the countryside for a bit of mind-clearing peasant work.

After the fall of the Gang of Four in 1976, Fang was rehabilitated and his academic career restored. Since Deng’s “opening” of China to the West in 1978, Fang has been tolerated by the govern­ment despite his continued outbursts of dissent. The periodic student move­ments of the 1980s have frequently claimed Fang as their spokesman.

Fang is known for his stirring speeches to university students. The following excerpts (culled from Orville Schell’s Discos and Democracy) are taken from one delivered on November 4, 1985:

“As intellectuals, we are obligated to work for the improvement of society,” he said. It is a shame that… China has yet to produce work worthy of consideration for a Nobel prize. Why is this?…

“One reason for this situation is our social environment. Many of us who have been to foreign countries to study or work agree that we can perform much more efficiently and productively abroad than in China… Foreigners are no more intelligent than we Chinese.

“Intellectuals in the West differ from us in that they not only have a great deal of specialized knowledge, but they are also concerned about their larger society. If they were not, they wouldn’t even be qualified to call themselves intellectuals. But in China, with its poorly developed scientific culture, intellectuals do not exert significant influence on society. This is a sign of backwardness…

“There is a social malaise in our country today, and the primary reason for it is the poor example set by Party members. Unethical behavior by Party leaders is especially to blame… Some of us dare not speak out. But if we all spoke out, there would be nothing to be afraid of. This is surely one important cause of our lack of idealism and discipline.

“Another cause is that over the years our propaganda about communism has been seriously flawed. In my view this propaganda’s greatest problem has been that it has had far too narrow an inter­pretation — not only too narrow but too shallow. I, too, am a member of the Communist Party, but my dreams are not so narrow. They are of a more open society, where differences are allowed. Room must be made for the great vari­ety of excellence that has found expression in human civilization. Our narrow propaganda seems to imply that nothing that came before us has any merit what­soever. This is the most worthless and destructive form of propaganda. Propaganda can be used to praise Communist heroes, but it should not be used to tear down other heroes.

“We Communist Party members should be open to different ways of thinking. We should be open to different cultures and willing to adopt the ele­ments of those cultures that are clearly superior. A great diversity of thought should be allowed in colleges and universities. For if all thought is narrow and simplistic, creativity will die. At present, there are certainly some people in power who still insist on dictating to others according to their own narrow princi­ples. They always wave the flag of Marxism when they speak. But what they are spouting is not Marxism.” ■

Bullets in Beijing
By Susanne Lee & Mitch Berman

EDITOR’S NOTE: Susanne Lee is a host of New York Culture for WNYE-FM and a contributing editor to DV-8 magazine; Mitch Berman is a novelist and contribu­tor to the Voice. They left for Beijing a few days before the massacre and signed on as runners for an ABC camera crew on their arrival. When the troops opened fire, they were walking along a sidestreet half a block from Tiananmen Square.

BEIJING
THE ABC NEWS CREW gets out of the minibus at Chang’an and Fuyou, a long Beijing block west of Tiananmen Square. It’s impossible to tell whether our eyes are tearing because of the city’s usual mix of dust and diesel pol­lution or because of the residue of tear gas that police were using on protesters at this intersection a few minutes ago. All of us have tied wetted hand towels around our neck. Each bears the mono­gram of the Great Wall Sheraton.

Chang’an translates as the Avenue of Eternal Peace, but on this Saturday af­ternoon the broad, sunny boulevard is choked with hundreds of thousands of protesters. They are milling and shoving, passing rumors, and occasionally climb­ing to the top of an evacuated military bus to brandish captured boots, helmets, and tear-gas canisters.

Soon after we arrive, a ministampede drives us from the street, and we set up on an embankment overlooking the intersection. Small groups knot around us in the hot afternoon air to ask where we’re from, urge us to “tell the world,” ask us why we weren’t here when the police were shooting rubber bullets, examine our vid­eo and 35-millimeter cameras, and simply to gawk as we Westerners eat or giggle at how fast we write in our notebooks. A vendor with a wooden flat of watermelons sells out within five minutes.

The word on the street is that the military will mount a major offensive to­night, and teenagers scale the framework behind the billboard beside us to watch for signs of attack while their friends stockpile rocks and chunks of cement. On the hour, the oversimplified electronic strains of “The East Is Red” blast from a loudspeaker followed by some tinny chimes. Orwell’s Bells, we call them, and it would not surprise us if they were ringing.

A man comes toward us, his shoulders swiveling through the crowd. “OK! OK!” he shouts. It is the all-purpose English word, and he shows us how the police clubbed open the left side of his nose and shattered three of his front teeth.

The street swells with people getting off work. At 6:50 a government radio announcement warns that the army will now restore order, along with the con­flicting admission that certain overzeal­ous soldiers used excessive force and shall be disciplined accordingly. There will be no more violence tonight, the army promises.

By today’s standards, very little is go­ing on now. Across from us people occa­sionally lob rocks over the wall of the Forbidden City into the compound where the government leaders live; for the past hour, 200 troops have been surrounded by 10,000 people at Kentucky Fried Chicken near Tiananmen Square; other troops sighted from the Beijing Hotel were stopped before they could get near the square. After 11, we decide that noth­ing more is going to happen tonight.

Just as our crowded taxi makes a U-­turn on Fuyou to begin back toward the Sheraton, the ABC walkie-talkie lights up with reports of gunfire at Muxidi, in the west of the city.

We turn around, get out behind a hedge at Fuxingmen, and approach Chang’an on foot. The distant fire from the west sounds like corn popping. At this range, we can’t tell whether we’re hearing bullets or tear gas.

Bullets. The firing comes closer and a bicyclist screams through the crowd: “They’re killing us! They’re killing the common people!” A small group of young bicyclists charges the other direction, with helmets, sticks, and a red banner; the crowd, slowly falling back from the intersection, cheers them on. These are the heaviest arms borne by the people on Fuxingmen. The wind changes, and on it comes the sweetish musky smell of gunpowder.

The first few bullets in Fuxingmen sound like none we heard before: not pop­ping corn nor even .22’s on a rifle range, but loud, commanding, immediate. They are firing into this unarmed crowd, and we run bent over, all of us, thousands. There are bullets in Fuxingmen.

We take refuge behind a reeking brick outhouse. People are trying to set buses afire in the intersection, but seem to be having little luck. The soldiers, now pass­ing in full view on Chang’an, pour auto­matic rifle fire — hundreds of bullets — ­into the street where we are moving, and our bodies react before our brains know what they are reacting to. Nothing seems far enough or low enough, and we spring back to the outhouse, crouching behind a dirt mound where the residents are grow­ing a few vegetables. Bullets tear the air directly above our heads. The sound is high, ringing.

About a dozen of us are squatting be­hind the garden. It takes a minute to realize why nobody is lying on the ground: even with bullets zipping around our heads, a lifetime of habit prevents us from messing up our clothes. We flatten ourselves to the rocky soil.

A very old woman smoking a cigarette comes out from the house behind us and starts yelling in Chinese. At first we think she is berating us for spoiling her garden, but it turns out that she is telling us not to get dirty, and inviting us back to her yard. She goes into her house and re­emerges with a glass tumbler in one hand and a small cast-iron wheel in the other. She gives them to us and motions to the water faucet sticking out of the ground between the garden and the outhouse. There may be automatic rifle fire tearing up her windows, but the old woman wants to make certain her guests are as comfortable as possible.

Nobody has any desire to venture out for water, so we politely refuse the glass and ask her if she has a cigarette. She goes back into her house.

On Chang’an, the city buses barricad­ing the intersection leap into flames 40 feet high just as the army convoy ap­proaches. The troops come in trucks that each hold at least 30 soldiers. For the moment, the convoy is stalled. The old woman comes out with a pack of Hilton cigarettes, a luxury brand still in the cel­lophane, and half a dozen bin gur, the ice-milk popsicles ubiquitous in Beijing. We eat a couple as the producer in charge of our crew barks warnings into the walk­ie-talkie: “Get our people out of Tianan­men Square! These guys are launching D-­Day.” The warning is sent out in diluted form by the ABC control room: on the one hand, people we know are in immi­nent danger of losing their lives; on the other hand, they may bring back some great footage.

As the flames reach their peak, a few armored personnel carriers in the convoy butt against the barricades. Soon the trucks are on the move through a narrow channel of dying flames. We count 20, 30, 40, and the trucks keep coming.

The bullets are coming too, but we can’t tell where from. There are build­ings, trees, cars, hard surfaces all around, and the acoustics are deceptive. We dive into the dirt again when we hear the singing.

The old woman discovers that we’ve lost her good cigarettes, and she implaca­bly produces two fresh packs of her sec­ond-string brand. She unfolds a cot for us and squats next to it.

She is well past 70, nowhere near five feet tall, so dark it is difficult to make out her features in the night. Her husky voice comes to us disembodied in the darkness: “Such a thing has never happened before. Even the Japanese didn’t do this to us.” She inhales and the ember of her ciga­rette casts a dim glow. “It is unspeakable.”

The convoy trucks continue plodding through the intersection, hundreds of them. Earlier in the evening, we were speculating about possible divisions in the leadership. As the first few troop trucks rolled by Fuxingmen, we were still marveling that, although we had been hearing all week about 200,000 troops hidden in the underground and behind the walls of the Forbidden City, there had been no intelligence about the massing of army forces to the west of Beijing. But now we are numbed into silence by the sheer and mounting military might being paraded past us. The crowds, crouched low in the street, hiding behind the out­house, have begun chanting: “Tuo fan! Tuo fan!” It can be understood as “criminals” or “traitors.” The roar is deep and massed, tolling, and higher individual voices distinguish themselves to our ears. They join in from doorways, from win­dows of houses all around: “Tuo fan! Tuo fan!”

The old woman brings us an enormous bowl of sunflower seeds roasted in the shell. We all begin nervously munching, bent around our walkie-talkies to hear the reports as the first troops roll through the intersection and the sounds of their gunfire recede with them, become .22 shots on a rifle range, become pop­corn again. It is 2:15 a.m., and at least 50,000 soldiers are headed for Tiananmen Square. ■

Scenes From a Failed Revolution
By Joe Conason

ARRIVING NEAR midnight on Monday, two days after the massacre at Tiananmen Square, we walk with trepidation through the Beijing Airport, tourist visas in hand, expecting and fearing that the customs agents in the drab China Airlines termi­nal will prevent us from entering their country. But our reception is the first sign that martial law is being virtually ignored outside the center of the city. The officials in khaki uniform barely glance at the contents of our bags or at our passports before impatiently waving us through.

Outside the terminal the taxi driver who agreed to take us into town mentions that the roads are too dangerous to be traveled at this late hour, long past cur­few. And he reasons that the 20-minute trip was therefore worth about a hundred times more than its ordinary cost. A fair price, he suggests, might be around $300. But it takes only a few minutes haggling to ascertain that the roads aren’t so dan­gerous. We settle on a much more afford­able fare.

The smells of raw sewage and burning vegetation suffuse the warm air as we travel the first few miles. The empty tree­lined roads pass through dark and silent farmland. As we approach the city, the driver becomes slightly agitated. Up ahead, along both sides of the highway, we can see a long line of parked army vehicles. In and around the trucks are hundreds of soldiers.

The car slows; the driver seems to expect trouble. But the soldiers pay us al­most no attention as we cruise slowly past their outpost. Again, we are stopped briefly, and waved on.

The troops are at ease, smoking and eating, but mostly talking to the scores of local residents who, in open defiance of the curfew and martial law, have ven­tured out of their homes. We later learn that they are a unit of the 40th Army, one of the divisions who had defied or­ders to shoot their countrymen. Local residents even assert that these soldiers had opened the chambers of their rifles to prove that they were not loaded.

The people believe, even eagerly await, the punishment that the 40th and other ar­mies will surely inflict on the 27th Army, who obeyed Prime Minister Li Peng’s orders and opened fire in Tiananmen Square on Sunday morning. The people talking with these soldiers are ordinary Beijing residents, probably young workers. The boldest go right up to speak to the soldiers while the rest watch. On this, our first night in China, no one seems afraid or poised to run away; they all appear curious and excited to be visit­ing with the army who is occupying their neighborhood.

On Tuesday afternoon, as we drive across the city toward Haidian, the university zone, we pass troop checkpoints and incinerated vehi­cles whose tires have left a black residue on the street. For a few days after the students and their supporters were driven from the center of the city, the university district became their liberated zone, with Beida — as Beijing University is called — at its heart.

Whenever no soldiers are in sight, peo­ple gather to stare at the wreckage. Out­side a teachers’ college, crowds on bicy­cles and on foot read underground “news reports ” hastily slapped on the walls. One poster shows photocopied pictures of mangled bodies. Another proclaims a general strike: “If you are afraid or not, people are dying,” it reads. “The living must unite and strike to seek the end of all this death.”

The students are decorating their cam­pus with white paper flowers in memory of the dead. Shaped like huge chrysanthemums or carnations, the handmade blooms cover the university’s front gates and the surrounding pine trees, and have been garlanded around the lampposts, over and across the street.

In a large, ground-floor classroom of the Communication Science building, about a dozen students have been setting up a makeshift but beautiful memorial, where meetings to honor and remember the dead will be held. On round frames of bamboo, propped up like Western funeral wreaths, they are placing the white paper flowers amid boughs of pine.

Liu, a thin, 22-year-old chemistry ma­jor, who had marched in Tiananmen Square and had lost friends in the massacre three days ago, leads us to the second floor of a dormitory. Against the back­ground sounds of an urgent, amplified voice exhorting and pleading, most students are packing their meager belong­ings, saying farewell, preparing to hur­riedly leave town. A few have assumed a bunkerlike mentality, and are burrowing in. “Some students told me to leave Bei­da, because they said the soldiers will come and kill all the students left here.” Liu holds forth in the formal, romantic style adopted by many of the younger Chinese students when they speak agitat­edly about their political commitment. “We didn’t know each other, but we held each other’s hands [in Tiananmen Square] because we knew we were com­rades in democracy and freedom.”

The bustling, busy hallways are dingy, the dim light from fluorescent bulbs re­flecting off cracked and peeling walls. The rooms are identical: 10 feet by 15, with four desks and four bunk beds, each with its own modest bookshelf nailed above it. The litter of lives abruptly inter­rupted is scattered everywhere — over­flowing urinal troughs in the bathrooms, bowls of half-eaten steamed buns and rice, cigarette butts and half-empty car­tons of cold chrysanthemum tea.

And one of these second-floor rooms has been converted to a makeshift studio for “Voice of Beijing University,” the source of the persistent racket blaring from loudspeakers across the campus. Broadcasting news and music, the Voice of Beijing University’s very existence is an act of bravery, its abrasive volume a gesture of defiance. When announcers are not playing songs of mourning, they play the “Internationale ” — “because it calls for a new world and for freedom,” ex­plains one boy. Occasionally, they also play China’s national anthem.

The microphone, which is plugged into an amplifier with wires leading out the window, is always manned. But a few of the broadcasters rise to speak with us; like everyone else, they want the story to get out to the world. They can’t quite believe that outside China, the world al­ready knows. From time to time, the stu­dent broadcasters break in to the music programs to bear witness, offering despairing, personal accounts of the kill­ings.

Wang Hui … 18 … freshman, chemistry major … son of a coal miner from Nung Xia province … fasted for seven days … returned to Tiananmen Square on June 3 to hunt for a friend … shot in the heart.

Chang Buo … 27 … chemistry in­structor … presumed dead … to learn if the dead body was Buo, “someone had taken the keys from his body … they were the keys to the south chemistry building.” Buo was the only one who would have had the keys.

Qin Renfu … 30 … married … grad­uate student in material physics … crushed to death by a tank.

The broadcasters name who they can of the dead; they are perhaps even more fearful for the hundreds still missing.

Later that day, two students with whom we’d become friendly stand with us in the crush on Chang’an Avenue, watching as the armored personnel carriers, believed to be­long to the 27th Army, and troop trucks go through maneuvers. The very presence of so many people on the most perilous street in Beijing is a sign that they are not yet cowed. Whenever the soldiers fire their weapons in the air, the people run off momentarily, but always return.

In the weeks leading up to the massa­cre, workers had openly demonstrated their support for the students, and now our friends introduce us to a worker dressed in Mao blue whom they’d just met themselves. He insists upon taking us to a small hospital nearby. He knows where some corpses are being stored. The students and he are convinced that unless we see the gruesome proof, we would nev­er believe what had happened.

This is a serious violation of martial law, and the worker, whose name we nev­er learned, is risking his safety to do it. As we learn later, it is almost impossible to stroll into any of the city’s major hos­pitals because most of them are stacked with scores of the dead and closely guarded.

The worker leads us to an unfinished brick building next door to the hospital. Five orange body bags have been laid side by side on the bloodstained cement floor. Our guide carefully unties the twine at the neck of each bag and a fetid stench escapes. The rapidly decaying remains of what had been three youngish men, an old man, and a woman are crawling with maggots.

By this time a few dozen people have thronged into the courtyard, and have inadvertently attracted the notice of hos­pital administrators. We climb on our bicycles and prepare to take off. As we pedal out on the street, we look back and see that the worker is being questioned by the officials. But the students warn us against going back, insisting that if we try to help him, we’ll only make matters worse for everyone.

So, reluctantly, we speed off. Night is falling; this is no hour for foreigners to be out in that part of Beijing. We ride the 20 kilometers across the city, passing through some neighborhoods which are very still. But in others, crowds of rest­less people gather at highway intersec­tions and street corners to share whatev­er news they have gleaned.

One morning, an elderly woman steps inside the gates of Beida, sits down on the sidewalk, head in hands, and begins wailing her grief and rage. A small knot of students and workers gathers to console her. “She is here from Henan Province,” a young woman explains, “looking for her son who came here to demonstrate. She has five children, but this son is the only one who went to university.” She has been in Beijing five days but can’t find him. When the old woman stops crying for a moment, a man tries to soothe her. “Don’t worry, don’t worry,” he says. “You don’t know yet.”

And he is right. Nobody knows, or yet knows, exactly who was killed and who has survived. A few feet away, another small group gathers around a boy in a black shirt, who had come from a provin­cial college in Anhui province “looking for our students.” Unidentified and un­claimed bodies still lie in hospitals and mortuaries around the city, and the ru­mor persists that the military simply doused many of the dead with gasoline and cremated them at the Gate of Heav­enly Peace.

The mother from Henan Province is among the first wave to come to Beijing, searching for a lost one. The echo is chill­ing: the Chinese government has just ushered in a generation of its own desaparecido.

On Thursday morning, four days af­ter the massacre — days during which it was potentially fatal to walk, drive, or ride a bicycle down the city’s major boulevard — the army opens Chang’an Avenue to limited traffic. A horde of gawking cyclists rides east and west, back and forth, while ven­dors sell popsicles and soda. The sun has finally come o t after a gray, rainy week, and on the backs of some boys’ bicycles perch girlfriends in frilly dresses, twirling parasols.

People, tense and frightened, watch troops as they remove the carcasses of torched buses and trucks and tidily sweep up the broken glass and ashes. These soldiers, wearing red armbands and be­lieved to belong to the 27th Army, are now performing janitorial duties to cover up what they have done.

It is prudent to keep moving, insane to take a photograph. On one block the army tows about 20 burnt armored vehi­cles and jeeps to a driveway in front of the city’s Military Museum. Directly across the road, and facing the junked armor, sits an enormous tourist billboard advertising the museum’s “collection of Chinese ancient arms and military relics on display.”

But signs of brave, foolhardy student resistance persist. Down at one end of the avenue, on the lawn of a public building, stands an abstract steel sculpture of a woman, in an arabesque, her hands thrust skyward: she symbolizes Youthful Vigor. But now a white wreath has been hung about her, as has a banner with characters large enough for the soldiers across the road to read quite easily. “This is for the people who died in the cruel incident of June 3. A debt of blood must be repaid with blood.” At her feet lie a pair of burned sandals.

By Friday afternoon, when we set out again to visit the university district, martial law has finally conquered Beijing. Citizens no longer gather in the open air to talk or read wall posters. Instead, the workers on their bicycles go cautiously and quietly about their business. As they had done the previous day in the city’s center, soldiers and municipal workers are cleaning the streets of burned-out ve­hicles. Each hulking orange wreck had attracted throngs of curious people just a few days earlier, but now the cars are guarded by heavily armed troops. People seem to know about the random shoot­ings, beatings, and arrests that have been the fate of those who irritate the military. No one dares speak to a soldier.

Thousands of soldiers have moved into the Haidian district to set up a fortified position, complete with sandbags, on its southern edge at the Capital Gymnasium. They cruise up and down the district’s main strip in trucks, automatic weapons pointing outward. The big posters de­nouncing Li Peng and Deng Xiaoping that once festooned the gates of every school have been torn down. A warning has been issued against any further pos­tering. The activists have been instructed to turn themselves in and confess their “counterrevolutionary crimes.” Students are forbidden to leave Haidian.

The loudspeakers at Beijing University are gone, too. Where the woman from Henan once sat wailing, a guard now stands at the entrance gates to Beida, taking the names of everyone who enters. The only tokens that remain of the resis­tance are a few white paper chrysanthemums.

Tonight on China Central TV, the gov­ernment begins a propaganda campaign against the students, using carefully edit­ed videotape lifted crudely from Hong Kong stations to portray the Tiananmen demonstrators as violent hoodlums who assaulted soldiers, mad arsonists bent on burning the city. Despite the students’ provocations, the government asserts, no one has been killed in the square. Scenes of fire and destruction on the streets at night are followed by sunny scenes of “the People’s Army… helping the people clean up the streets and restore sanita­tion,” and of soldiers “assisting the old people crossing the intersections.”

“We always serve the people,” said one PLA officer, smiling for the camera.

On this Friday, our last day in Beij­ing, we go to a park in Haidian to meet up with Lai, a gaunt, earnest student with a wispy goatee. For the first time in a week, we are all worried about being watched or discovered. As we speak, a middle-aged man wanders by several times, glancing at us — we don’t know whether he’s a sympa­thizer or a spy. Finally he stops, ap­proaches us, and warns that soldiers are close by. He points south and, using both arms, pantomimes the firing of a machine gun. This has become a universal gesture in Beijing, although, unlike the cab drivers trying to fleece passengers, he doesn’t bother with sound effects.

Lai and the two other activists we are speaking with don’t want to believe the latest news. It is being said that Wang Dan, the brilliant organizational leader of the Tiananmen sit-in, was killed last weekend. Finally, Lai admits sadly, “We failed this time. I am standing out like this to help you, because I hope for help from America.” Just as they had feared that no one outside China would under­stand what had happened, they now fear that soon everyone will forget.

Much later that night, fresh graffiti is reported on the Third Ring Road, the major highway round the outskirts of Beijing. The big characters say: “Long Live Democracy! Destroy Fascism! This is not paint. It is written in blood!”

But our last appointment in Beijing is for afternoon tea. We visit with an elderly professional couple in their southwest Beijing apartment. Their obedient grand­daughter serves us candies, peanuts, and steamed dumplings; our social pleasantries turn to the events of the past week.

Our hosts, intelligent, sophisticated world travelers, talk as if they do not know what has happened outside their windows. The old man cannot acknowl­edge that his government has murdered thousands of their nation’s young. Denial has set in; the crude propaganda from China Central TV has been stunningly effective. “Such a thing will be proved,” he maintains, pointing for emphasis, “if it is true.” ■

(Most of the names in this story have been altered to protect the individuals and their families from harassment by the Chinese government.)

Poem of Protest

EDITORS NOTE: As in several modern political movements in China, the stu­dents of Tiananmen Square composed poems to express their feelings and their hopes. They wrote them on large sheets of paper and pasted them on walls, fences, in subway stations, and under freeway overpasses or bridges in a sort of Chinese samizdat. The better poems are invariably copied down and circulat­ed to inspire others and to build the movement.

This poem was copied by Chinese and Taiwanese journalists over the last three weeks and published in Taiwanese newspapers. It was translated by Ling­Chi Wang and Franz Schurmann, both professors at the University of Califor­nia in Berkeley. 

Little Conversation

Child: Momma, Momma, why are all these little aunts and uncles not eating?
Mother: Because they are thinking of the beautiful gift.
Child: What gift?
Mother: Freedom
Child: Who is going to give them this gift?
Mother: They themselves

Child: Momma, momma, why are there so many people on the square?
Mother: Because it is a festive day
Child: What kind of festive day?
Mother: A day for lighting fires
Child: Where are the fires?
Mother: In everyone’s soul

Child: Momma, momma, who is sitting in the ambulances?
Mother: Heroes
Child: Why are the heroes lying down?
Mother: So that the children standing behind can see
Child: Like me?
Mother: Yes
Child: See what?
Mother: A seven-colored bouquet of flowers ■

Shanghai Goes ‘Back to Normal’
By Dusanka Miscevic & Peter Kwong

TO THE 50,000 or 100,000 people gathered in Shanghai’s People Square at noon on Friday, June 9, the rally meant more than a memorial to dead civilians in Peking. They were making the last stand. While they pleaded with the Shanghai government to tell the truth and lower the national flag to half­ mast, the funerary music playing over the loudspeaker sounded as the last note of a lost cause. Many found it difficult to sup­press tears.

“The government has destroyed every­thing I ever believed in,” said a weeping student from Jiaotong University. She had come willingly to express her distress in front of foreign cameras: “I will never forgive them that. I used to believe in socialism.”

All students interviewed agreed that the immediate future for China was bleak. Indeed, many of their leaders had already gone into hiding. Others were re­portedly arrested during the night that followed. The protests have dwindled, leaving only the handful of die-hards that gathered in front of the Internal Security Bureau on June, 10 and 11 to protest the arrests of student and worker leaders. Local residents, used to swaying along with the changes in the atmosphere, pre­dict “more arrests, no protests.” The pro­democracy movement has been forced underground. The intimidation by the authorities is working.

The first indication of the methods the government was to employ came with the TV appearance of the mayor of Shang­hai, Zhu Rongji, last Thursday evening. He announced that the patience of many people, plagued by traffic standstills and by food and fuel shortages, was wearing thin, and that he was planning measures to bring the situation back to normal. Shanghai residents had put up road­blocks on over 130 intersections and blocked access by rail to the city. Even air traffic was interrupted for a day. Without public transportation, most of the workers failed to show up for work. In effect, the city was on general strike.

“I have heard from many workers who complain they cannot get to work,” the mayor said on TV. “We will take the necessary measures to restore transporta­tion and communications in the city of Shanghai.” His calculation was simple: he would mobilize 10 per cent of the working force, to ensure that the remaining 90 per cent got to work. In a city of four million workers, that meant a force of 400,000. The accompanying film segment showed truckloads of helmeted men being driven out to the streets to take down the roadblocks.

At six in the morning of the next day, all the intersections were clear, and some of the city buses were running. It is not clear whether the others were grounded by a continued drivers’ strike, or whether they were merely being cleaned of the slogans written or pasted in the previous few days, slogans like: “The citizens of Shanghai oppose the reactionary govern­ment of Deng Xiaoping, Li Peng, and Yang Shangkun!” “Butchers of the peo­ple, go to the guillotine!” and “People will not be scared of the fascist methods — the final victory belongs to the people!”

On this morning, however, the fascist methods were taking effect. Every inter­section was guarded by 400 “order main­taining workers,” as the yellow tags pinned to their chests proclaimed. Some of the tags also read “traffic maintenance squad” — but a Western observer has called them “goon squads.” They claimed that they were volunteers, but informed Shanghai residents know that they have received 20 yuan for each day of the “maintenance” work. We have talked to workers in this city who make only 75 yuan a month and, with the creeping in­flation, can no longer afford to eat meat — so the material benefits for the “voluntary” goon squads are clear. They also claimed that they would only apply persuasion, should protesters appear.

The “persuasion” they rely on is backed by the powerful state propaganda machinery. In repeated broadcasts the state television keeps announcing arrests of people involved in the protests. One detainee is shown interrogated at gunpoint. Three people have been executed in Shanghai for “a bank robbery related to the unrest.” The students, at the same time, have been warned by the authori­ties to abandon attempts at illegal activi­ties and “not to go any further down this dangerous road.”

Shanghai’s official press revealed that 130 people have been detained by police for “the spreading of rumors, damaging transportation, and disruption of com­munications.” Public gathering and dis­cussion have been banned, as well as the display of posters, notices, and announce­ments. Such gatherings and announce­ments have been the only way to communicate the news that did not conform to the official, highly edited version of events. In a country where authorities and the media have denied any shooting of the civilians during the Peking massa­cre — claiming that the only victims were soldiers — photocopies of Chinese-language reports from abroad posted in pub­lic squares have become the only access to the truth. Students have also read the Voice of America and British Broadcast­ing Corporation’s reports over the loud­speakers. With the enforcement of new public regulations, now those sources of information are gone. It is hard to believe that the people, already highly critical. of the official Chinese media before the cur­rent onslaught of brainwashing, will buy the government’s campaign to discredit the popular movement by presenting it as marauding by a small group of thugs. The authorities, however, obviously think that once again the constant repetition will turn fiction into facts.

Foreign reporters are being forced to leave, and broadcasts from abroad are jammed. Tapes and printed information are being confiscated on the way out as well as on the way in.

The goon squads on Shanghai streets are enforcing the order: they are there to disperse public gatherings and tear down leaflets, while officially “securing the transportation and communications.” Under their vigilant eyes, the gatherings in this crowded city — where it is extreme­ly difficult to avoid crowds — have been reduced to groups surrounding street ven­dors. Gold chains and traditional medi­cine seem to be particularly attractive. Last Sunday morning, one such vendor was exalting the virtue of his merchan­dise: tiger paws for rheumatism, tiger pe­nises for virility, water buffalo bones to relieve fever. When asked whether he had anything for the current condition of China, he waved his hand vigorously: “No, no. Nothing for that. That’s the question of ideology,” he said, pointing to his head. “My medicine cannot treat that.”

As of Monday, June 12, the goon squads are still in the streets. News and rumors of arrests persist. The indepen­dent trade unions and student unions have been branded as illegal by the city government. Citizens are encouraged to inform on each other, and neighborhood committees have been ordered to report all unusual activity. The reign of terror, reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, is back in full force. But, the government reports, life in Shanghai has returned to normal — after a brief show of power and self-determination, the people of Shang­hai have once again submitted to govern­ment intimidation and repression. May­be, in. Shanghai, that’s normal. ■

 

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives From The Archives From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES

Letters to the Editor: Woodstock Nation

Letters to the Editor: Woodstock Nation
August 28, 1969

Aquarian Genesis
Dear Sir:

It was the Genesis of the Aquarian Age. And our minds were without form and void, and paranoia was upon the East. Somewhere in the far reaches of the mind of one man was the seed of an idea. And with the seed the man created a world. And he populated it with other men who raised tents and built a city. It was a city of peace. And music. And love.

And the people that lived in the city saw that it was good and they loved their neighbor and shared with him all that they had. And many extended hands to those who were falling and gave comfort to those who needed it. And a large tent was raised so that all who were sick could receive help. And people were born. And people died. It was one hell of a city.

— Betsy Glass
Jane Street

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Thank You
Dear Sir:

All the world needs is love and what a great place it would be!

The people of Monticello, Bethel, and White Lake proved that.

They were so great to us that I just don’t know how to say thank you.

Fifteen miles is a long way to walk, but the beauty of the people made it all worthwhile. Love was there, and its music filled the air.

Peace.

— Ethel Jimenez
Brooklyn

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Hope for America
Dear Sir:

Three days of intermittent attendance at the Aquarian rockets in the Catskills proved to be, literally, a mind-blowing and eye-opening experience. Observing those gentle, courteous, considerate, kindly, caring kids gave one some genuine hope for the future of this country. Th se young people could well be telling us something about the political realities in America today that the violent revolutionaries and fiery tear-it-down militants have yet to comprehend.

In only a few days they succeeded in turning the open hostility, distrust, resentment, opposition, and even hatred of the resident population — mostly conventional, conforming rural types and middle-class Jews making the Catskill vacation scene — into almost universal affection, admiration, and respect. Call it instant conversion, but such radical alternation of attitudes had to be seen to be believed and properly appreciated.

Is it hopelessly naive to argue that the vast social change so desperately needed in this country can be achieved in like manner? Is it perhaps possible that the cultural revolution will, indeed, supply the blueprint for the political revolution?

Bloody confrontations, violent threats, obscene epithets, wild rhetoric, unbridled rage will, admittedly, produce some limited change and movement. But once the repression begins — and begin it will in the face of accelerated revolutionary violence — those one or two small steps forward will instantly be converted into 100 giant steps backward.

The great majority of Americans still do not feel oppressed. If we ever hope to win them over, it won’t be done by spitting in their faces and prodding them up against that wall. Maybe the kids really know something about the struggle for men’s minds and hearts. Does the answer lie only at the end of the barrel of a gun? Or is what happened in the little town of Bethel last week the real way?

— Joel Pomerantz
West 58th Street

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Fun for Peace
Dear Sir:

The success of the Woodstock Music Festival should be a lesson to the organizers of peace marches and rallies. We are bored to death of masturbatory speeches which serve only to gratify the egos of the statisticians who make them. Get Janis and Jimi Hendrix and Blind Faith into the Sheep Meadow and you’ll get 250,000 others there too. And it’ll be fun. Yes.

— Gerald Rosen
Grove Street

Consolidation
Dear Sir:

I must thank Steve Lerner for his objectively positive coverage of White Lake (VV, August 21). I was really glad to read the exact consolidation of everything I felt and thought, but which hadn’t quite settled in my head yet. There must be other words for it besides appreciative appreciation.

I only hope that his article falls into the hands of some scornful scowling put-downing square who, suspiciously skimming for sarcastic opportunities, becomes trapped and beguiled and confused and beneficially influenced into having no opinion at all.

— Helene Goodman
Queens

P. S. I also think that Serena Silverstein (Voice Letters, August 21) is allowing herself to become too old and cranky.

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One Opinion
Dear Sir:

You will hear much about the Aquarian Exposition. Here is the opinion of one eyewitness.

Woodstock
It was weird,
and it was wild.
It was freaky,
and it was freedom.
It was lunacy,
and it was love.
It was beautiful.

— Arthur Schreibman
Brooklyn

Tough Luck
Dear Sir:

I really must reply to Serena Silverstein’s letter (VV, August 21) where she bitched about the White Lake rock festival. Serena, you should have parked your car and forced yourself to walk the distance to the music. I can only offer sympathy for your outlook. It was really your tough luck that your head was preoccupied with viewing the festival in terms of the inconvenience which you were exposed to.

Woodstock Ventures should be congratulated and not chastised for giving us smiles, peace, music, and good vibrations. Sorry, Serena, but you truly missed out on a beautiful experience.

— Ronald R. Coles
Sheridan Square

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Congregation of Warmth
Dear Sir:

May I address my remarks to the child of comfort, Serena Silverstein (Voice Letters, August 21), who, upon observing the hardships of White Lake from her well-upholstered tower, missed the whole point?

It is true that “food, water, health and sanitary facilities” were poor, and it is true that a great deal of hard walking was necessary; I, and many others I know, returned home with assorted illnesses all stemming from being wet, and constantly rained upon to become wetter. My normal attire is not mud; I usually get a little more to eat than I did there; and let me tell you, man, my hair still hasn’t completely dried! BUT…

It was much, much, more than the music, Serena. The moment I climbed from my car and began the hike to Max’s pasture on Friday morning, I suddenly knew what it was all about. Didn’t you look around? Couldn’t you see the immense camaraderie which grew among all those beautiful, wonderful people? On the road I was stopped by a fellow for a cigarette, and in return he gave me a joint, with a beautiful smile that made me love him immediately — him and all the smiling “freaks” who are stomped upon at home, but who found, for the first time, a sense of real FREEDOM, and an intense feeling of belonging. We all belonged, to one another, to the place, to the moment. I did not hear one angry word or see one flicker of disgust in anyone’s eyes. All I saw were thousands of strangers becoming friends; all I heard was laughter, singing, words of peace and love. The music was just a part of what White Lake was all about. A little physical discomfort is well worth three days of total unselfishness, total giving, and responding to one’s brothers and sisters who, like us, are searching hungrily for that spark of beauty in man — in the SOUL of man — which distinguishes him from the ape.

We were not “duped.” If we had been any other large crowd assembled to hear music and subjected to untold misery, we would have been “duped, ” and cheated, and used. But we were not any large crowd — we used White Lake to establish a bond of trust and friendship. We turned what could have been an unfortunate, uncomfortable mistake into a congregation of warmth. We gave, we received, we helped and we were helped. Our “image,” so to speak, with establishment people was redefined. The cops and doctors from Liberty could not get over the fact that from among 400,000 or more people, there was not one fight, not one bloody nose, not one stab wound. And the most remarkable thing to me, who was born and raised in Manhattan, was that, with all my conditioning to beware of strangers and to protect myself from potential harm, I did not FEAR — not once, in that wonderful, happy mob of thousands. There was nothing, no one, to fear. Have you once been able not to FEAR, Serena?

To all of you thousands who endured because of one another, and for one another, I thank you for being what you are. I wish you peace, flowers, freedom, happiness.

— Jill Leedman
Queens

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A Beginning
Dear Sir:

In such a large group of teen — and twenty-agers — as there was at the Aquarian Exposition last weekend the atmosphere of cooperation and “let’s enjoy it all despite the elements” was really amazing. As the announcer Saturday afternoon put it, “We’re all glued together and stuck in the same mud puddle.” We showed, perhaps, that things taken from the positive side of “we’re all basically good” rather than the “this many kids have just got to be policed to the hilt” attitude can bring happy results. This is the first time in my life that I have seen so many youths smile, wave, and thank police with no antipathy whatsoever between kids and cops.

The shortages of food and drink as well as the music itself were all peripheral to the tremendous uplifting experience of such a beautiful living-together. Even the use of drugs was almost meaningless — an escape from an uptight world we were proving need not exist. Learning to live together in crowded conditions in real peace and brotherhood is no longer a catch-phrase — it has been accomplished, for however short a period of time. A beginning has been made. Officials have been used — and appreciated — for helping the “general public,” not for hindering them. People walked for miles, hours, days shoulder to shoulder without pushing and shoving — with smiles, songs, and helping each other by offering rides, food, and drink to one another.

Though every one of the hundreds of thousands who spent any time at all at Bethel this weekend will bring some of that brotherly love and concern home with him, it is far from enough to change even New York City. Hopefully, it will not be the only happening of its kind — something to tell our grandchildren about. Hopefully, our grandchildren will live in a world with an attitude similar to that in White Lake, New York State’s third largest city this weekend — where even local residents, who would have had the right to react with an imposed-on feeling, instead donated food and water to those walking the 15 miles from Bethel to the nearest bus stop in Monticello. Can you imagine what the subway would be like with such an attitude?

— Diana M. Donovan
East 80th Street

Categories
CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives From The Archives MUSIC ARCHIVES Uncategorized

The Magnificent Rolling Stones

“Oh, the dazzle of it all”

The Stones were magnificent. Everybody thought so. Thank Christ. Report on the Stones ploughing through their own multi-multi-million dollar Suez Canal of rock ‘n’ roll, high life garbage, and Life covers across the flatlands to New York City, USA: tired but alive, still superbly capably of thrashing out the best music currently available. “Nice t0 be back in Noo York, Noo York,” says Mick with a quick and casual stroke of the mike. “They always do best here,” says Peter Rudge, tour manager on his way to bed down the staircase of the Four Seasons restaurant where we of the press had just been treated to a party to end them all. Naturally enough, everybody was there, all the way from Richard Meltzer who got thrown out to Truman Capote who didn’t, but then Truman wasn’t dancing on the tables. He’d already had his fun right there onstage with the Rolling Stones, squatting on an amplifier case in fedora and sunglasses with the fabled Super Trouper light ensemble dug in like an anti-aircraft battery behind him. Oh, the dazzle of it all. But you know all that already, of course. How could you possible avoid it? Ever since Altamont, the Stones are A-1 cover material.

Why have all the Stones stories from Life to Rolling Stone been practically interchangeable? Is it the God of Journalism speaking in tongues and conferring many uniform visions? I think not; a better reason might be that big blue loose-leaf folder they give out with the press tickets.

The first Stones concert in New York since “Ya-Yas” made that heady blast sound dull by comparison. The horns helped of course but mainly it was Mick Taylor who played a lead guitar which burned your ears off.

Production and Security have been emphasized. Production was brilliant, security unobtrusive, vibes so nice you’d almost be tempted to forget all nasty feelings about rock’s only surviving juggernaut. Long live Chip Monck and the Positive Philosophy of rock presentation. A feeling of great well-being surged through 20,000 fans, bouncing them all in perfect time to the rhythm of Charlie’s bass drum.

“Love in Vain,” their seventh number, got them fully in the groove. Until then, it had been messy. “Exile on Main Street” has partially obscured the fact that Mick can sing; the little Dervish in the white jumpsuit has one hell of a voice. He plays harp too, and dances. He whips the stage with a leather thong during “Midnight Rambler”; “Have you heard about the Boston — WHACK!!” Chip’s lights bathe him in blood red, but when the band slams into the final chorus, all the lights go on and everybody comes together. It’s called balance.

Keith is all spikes from head to toe. For some, he is the most interesting Stone; he retains a sense of mystery while Mick is but a brilliant showman, Charlie a drummer, Taylor a guitarist, and Bill a bass-playing lump.

Stevie Wonder’s set was, frankly, boring for the first half hour. He hardly sang at all and his big band sounded like an amplified milk churn despite all the technical wizardry you must have heard about. But he warmed up, got it on, and won more than a few hearts. After “Street Fighting Man,” Mick led him back onstage and the two of them — Mick in clinging white, Stevie in clinging black — bounced together through “Satisfaction.” Mick was all set to leave, but Stevie rallied the assembled company; he was delirious with the roar of the crowd, and he didn’t want to leave. Mick washed the front row with rose petals, but when he got to the water, a cop ran for cover smiling.

The Rolling Stones have gone. It’s all over.

— Patrick Carr

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THE ROLLING STONES make it all work. Opening a four performance stay at Madison Square Garden Monday night, they proved even for those of us who had not participated in the ritual pack in 1969 (or before) that the magic is real, that they’re not just playing games. Sure they had a beautifully elaborate lighting system — using mirrors and spot­lights operated from behind the stage — and a sound system which made even the mammoth Garden seem like a reasonable place to hold a concert. But the Stones themselves held it all together.

The crowds which had been dreaded, and which prompted even publicity material to proudly announce the tightest security measures in the history of rock concerts, never appeared in very large numbers. Inside, there was little of the screaming which had become so famous on the Stones’ previous tours. Aisle-crowding, yes, but not of a violent nature. The Garden is big, and people do want to be able to see.

Stevie Wonder and his group Wonderlove opened things, with Wonder coming on as though this was his only chance. If a lack of advance publicity did anything to Wonder, it was to make him come on that much stronger. No time was wasted in getting down to business. By the time he got to singing “Lean on Me” through a modulator which was controlled at the keyboard, everyone had joined in.

The Stones came on after inter­mission — Jagger in a silver jump suit with black shirt and red scarf, lights following him like a magnet as he went through his repertoire of dances and contor­tions. The exaggerated pan­tomimist’s movements provided what under other circumstances would have been simple facial expressions. All for playing to a mass audience — an audience of literally millions, for Jagger is not just performing for those within the confines of a particular limited situation. The whole group, in fact, gives the impres­sion that it is playing for everyone individually, with the stress on the everyone.

What makes it all work, from “Satisfaction” to “Midnight Rambler” to “Jumping Jack Flash” to “Tumbling Dice” is as much a mystery as ever. The Garden, however, is an appropri­ate enough house for this popular mass art form — one which may well take the title away from another (faltering) Garden at­traction, the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus. Yes, the Rolling Stones just may be the Greatest Show on Earth.

— Ira Mayer

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The Stones: Long view from the viscera

As I sit down to write, the Rolling Stones are staggering toward the end of their most suc­cessful American tour. Thousands upon thousands of fans have turned out in cities across the country to sit mesmerized, stomp and shout, or struggle to touch the personification of their fantasies. Thousands more had to be turned away. A riot in Vancouver. Busted in Boston and the concert delayed until Mayor Kevin White intercedes in their behalf. Wild nights in Hugh Hefner’s mansion. An entourage of swaggering dandies, stylish ladies, tarts, bodyguards and international ce­lebrities waiting patiently outside dressing rooms to tell them they’re marvelous. Truman Ca­pote covering the tour for Rolling Stone! Terry Southern on assign­ment for the Saturday Review! Mick on the cover of Life. Don Heckman, in the Sunday Times Magazine, reports that Mick’s “genitalia are pushed up and out… as aggressively protuberant as a ’50s teen-age girl in a pointy bra.”

“Is Mick Jagger a transves­tite?” the woman downstairs asks me. She can’t quite understand her son’s devotion to Their Sa­tanic Majesties. “I don’t believe so,” I reply off-handedly, “but that’s a logical question.” I clomp on down the hall, a bit self-cons­cious now in my stacked-heel boots, feeling a twinge of guilt about not being able to explain to her what the Stones are all about. Where would I start? With a defense of existential creativity? A rap on art reflecting reality? A Jungian analysis of societal sym­bolism and its relationship to primordial images? Or should I use the Stones’ current trade­mark, a bright red tongue lolling out of a wicked mouth, to suggest that it probably signifies the inev­itable solution to the population crisis, as well as a reminder that cunnilingus can be a quite effec­tive alternative to abstinence in cases where straight intercourse is not desirable in the absence of a birth control device. Or that it’s a perfect way for heterosexual couples to both enjoy the quite natu­ral desire to have a turn at being sex objects without the need for having traditional masculine-­feminine, passive-aggressive roles to play. Or that these thoughts can be inspired by a mere symbol, proving the effectiveness of pop art as a facile medium of vital and sometimes complex information for survival.

In a society where cosmetics, clothes and automobiles are extravagantly expensive objectifications for states of mind we could reach at no cost at all; where hypocrisy has become a social necessity and adulthood requires surrender to a suicidal technological routine where work becomes a spirit-crushing mind-fucking trap, it shouldn’t be hard to understand the Stones have remained popular for nearly 10 years by dwelling on themes of sexual exploitations, mental disintegration, drugs, violent politics, and the fragility of male-female relationships. In short, they are hip to the horror show and can articulate it in words and music. Thorough fantasizing, and intuition based on personal experience, they often reveal the reality of a complex set of circumstances.

But 10 years is a long time. Has their rage really been assimilated into the mass consciousness? Do the feelings they evoke linger, and provide a positive impetus for thought and action? Or has the effect of the Stones’ music been like that of a safety-valve on the feelings of their followers, a symbolic alternative to action? Has it all been a mind-dulling, technological film-flam, a “revolt into style” a diversionary tactic?

Jagger keeps hinting that he’s tired of doing the same primal rock ‘n’ roll melodies, although they still manage to sell a lot of records. He has expressed the desire on several occasions to experiment with other styles than the basic, blues-inspired material the Stones have built their career on. He speaks highly of Their Satanic Majesties Request, the sole departure from the group’s visceral brand of rock ‘n’ roll.

For that reason, and a growing belief that perpetual adolescence is going out of vogue as a life-style (as upcoming generations get hip to what’s real and what’s fantasy at an earlier age), I think that the Stones, next time around, might be singing a slightly different tune.

I also believe that the Stones, sooner or later if they continue working together as a band, will be forced to adapt, or be naturally and artistically inclined in favor of the changing attitudes of their over-all audience.

I think rock ‘n’ roll will continue to serve as a catalyst for the release of youthful frustration; that groups like the Stones, Alice Cooper, and Black Sabbath must continue to provide theatrical expression for fantasies and hard-edged reality, and create understanding among an audience which often has no medium other than popular music to find answers or share feelings.

Leonard Cohen once said: “Do I listen to the Stones? Incessantly.” Sometimes I do, too. I listen to other music also, Indian music, blue-grass, Satie, Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler, acoustic guitar players, and the chanting of Tibetan monks. It eases my mind or provides an aesthetic stimulation you don’t often get in rock ‘n’ roll. But when I feel the need for a little get-down-to-it, primitive expression, or an urge to do some howling or midnight creeping, I put on the Stones and either wind up staying home and letting them do it, or I absorb sufficient energy to swagger out myself for some boogieing, and beating the blues.

One more thing: In the Times Magazine article, Heckman criticizes the Stones for withdrawing into “protective isolation” after “having stirred the cauldron of violent, antisocial attitudes.” So what? Politicians do it all the time, and they have a clear-cut responsibility to their constituencies far beyond rhetorical display and public appearances. The Stones are artists, first and foremost, and their work is the only thing that we can legitimately criticize. Their private lives and how they spend their money are not our concern, unless they infringe on our lives.

They should at least perform some benefits, though, and invest some of their bread in social change. And they could also patronize and encourage other artists.

— Richard Nusser

Categories
From The Archives Neighborhoods NYC ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Violence

Reports From the Tompkins Square Riots

NYC: Reports From Tompkins Square


Night Clubbing
By C. Carr

IT STARTED BEFORE mid­night with a ragged little rally directed at the park faithful — the unlucky, the unruly, your tired, your poor. Near the en­trance at 8th Street and Av­enue A, a plump balding man in tie-dye exhorted about 100 punks, politicos, and curious neighbors through a tinny speaker sys­tem: “Yuppies and real es­tate magnates have declared war on the people of Tomp­kins Square Park!” Fliers from the Emergency Coali­tion Against Martial Law covered a card table nearby, and a young man in black clothing and beret waved a black flag stapled to a card­board tube. The cops were going to shut the park down as they had every night that week. I overheard some talk in the crowd from neighbors who thought it should be shut. The crime here… the noise, some guy explained to a companion. The grim cops at the gate, the chants of “Die Yuppie scum!,” the M80s exploding deeper in the park — all added to the aura of latent violence. Even so, who could have predict­ed the police riot to come within the hour — complete with cavalry charges down East Village streets, a chop­per circling overhead, people out for a Sunday paper run­ning in terror down First Avenue. Running from the cops, who clearly regarded any civilian as a target.

At midnight in Tompkins Square, the motley demon­strators had begun trooping defiantly around the paths with their “class war” ban­ners, returning on each swing past the officers lined up along the bandshell. Most nights, the bandshell is filled with homeless, but they’d been hoovered out to god-knows-where that morning. Now it was police headquarters — focal point for 12 vehicles including vans, 11 horses, and the long blue line. One officer shone his flashlight into the lens of every photographer who tried to get a picture — foreshadowing the more ag­gressive camera-shyness to come.

Protesters marched by, chanting that hell no, they wouldn’t go. But they did go, of course. As soon as the mounted cops pranced out to Avenue A.

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It was 12:30 Saturday night, a peak traffic hour on the avenue between Alca­traz, the Wah-Wah Hut, 7A, and the Pyramid — when, as a rule, the skinheads and spiky heads hang out at curbside, neighbors go to-­and-froing, and the peddlers set their tattered goods out along the park. But on this night, people were lining the park between 7th and 8th as if waiting for a parade. I could see some protesters pushing on a squad car, jerking it a couple yards closer to 7th. I could see the mounted cops in a line near 7th and the rally “leaders” in the middle of the street at 8th, black flag and card ta­ble stuffed in a grocery cart. Fists in the air, they yelled, “It’s our fuckin’ park!” as another M80 exploded at someone’s feet along the sidewalk.

Suddenly the cops had their riot helmets on and clubs out. Someone in front of a bar threw a bottle to­ward the mounted police massed at 7th Street, and the cops backed up. Protest­ers and onlookers milled around the avenue, while a long line of honking cars tried to make the turn off 8th. Protesters yelled “yup­pie scum” at bewildered drivers. Three Hells Angels drew cheers. Another bottle smashed on the pavement. And another. The mounted police backed up again. The foot patrolmen stood shoul­der-to-shoulder at the park entrance. It was 12:50. Met­al gates began to slam closed over the storefronts. Punks were jumping the fence, urg­ing the crowd to follow. But apart from them, it was no longer clear who was pro­testing and who’d inadver­tently walked into this mess or come outside to see what the hell was going on. By now the crowd numbered in the hundreds.

About 12:55, I heard an explosion and the mounted police suddenly charged up Avenue A, scattering the knot of demonstrators still in the street. I ducked be­hind a car. The policemen were radiating hysteria. One galloped up to a taxi stopped at a traffic light and screamed, “Get the fuck out of here, fuckface!” I walked toward 9th Street; unsure where to go. “Calm your men!” yelled a pedestrian near me.

At 9th Street, foot patrol­men in riot gear formed a line along the drive into the park. Across the avenue, some young men stood on the south corner screaming drunken taunts: “Faggot! Pussy! Koch’s dogs!” I was on the north corner at a phone booth. I recognized two of the patrolmen, de­spite their helmets, as the two I’d spoken to just 45 minutes earlier. Then, they’d told me courteously that they couldn’t say why the park was being closed. Now, they were charging me with their clubs raised.

They couldn’t be charging me.

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I just stood there because I was the press and I was wearing my credentials and I hadn’t done anything and this was my neighborhood and this was the phone I use to call my friend over there who doesn’t have a buzzer and… “Run! Run!” screamed a tall young black man, taking me by the arm. “We gotta get outta here!” And I felt a billy club across my shoulder blades, the cop pushing me. Cop pumping adrenaline. Cop yelling, “Move! Move! Move!”

They were sweeping 9th Street and it didn’t matter if you were press or walking home from the movies or sitting on your stoop to catch a breeze. You were gonna move. At First Ave­nue, I watched two cops on horseback gallop up on the sidewalk and grab a guy by his long hair, pulling him across the street between them. Minutes later, the same guy was down on the sidewalk in front of Stromboli’s, bleeding.

The cops seemed bizarre­ly out of control, levitating with some hatred I didn’t understand. They’d taken a relatively small protest and fanned it out over the neigh­borhood, inflaming hun­dreds of people who’d never gone near the park to begin with. They’d called in a chopper. And they would eventually call 450 officers.

By 1:30, I’d taken all the notes I wanted to take. I wanted to go home, so I walked back to Avenue A, where I was soon trapped, as were many others. “Can I cross the street?” I asked a policeman at the cor­ner of 7th, showing him my orange press card.

“If you do, you’re going to get roughed up!” he declared.

“If you do that, you’re going to get some publicity you aren’t going to like,” I spouted back.

“Hey,” he said, “you’re trying to stereo­type me!”

It had been a big night for absurdities.

Getting back to First Avenue took anoth­er half hour. And there, dancing around their grocery cart in the middle of traffic, were the so-called “leaders,” bandanas pulled up over their noses so the police couldn’t identify them. God. This was gonna take all night. I walked south. Then I heard screams. Cop attack. Panic-stricken pedestrians ran down the sidewalks, as the cops galloped, clubs at the ready. I tried to duck into a restaurant. “No!” shrieked someone at the door, slam­ming it in my face. I kept running.

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THE NEXT DAY I walked up to Tompkins Square. It’s a foul little park and a symbolic one. I’ve lived near it for 11 and a half years and have yet to experience a moment of tranquillity in its crummy confines. But I can tell you that the people who go there are, for the most part, the people who’ve always gone there. The old Ukrainian guys who play chess and the old ladies who go to sit down and the squatter kids, drag queens, Rastas, and junkies. As the neighborhood slowly, inexorably gentrifies, the park is a holdout, the place for one last metaphorical stand.

At the empty bandshell on Sunday, I no­ticed some posters pasted up by the political comic book World War 3 and the Rainbow Soup Kitchen weeks before this curfew dis­pute began. The posters feature a quote from a former resident of the neighborhood:
The uneasy spring of 1988. Under the pre­text of drug control, suppressive police states have been set up throughout the Western world. 
— William S. Burroughs, The Wild Boys, 1968\

GENTRICIDE

The Tompkins Square rising has rekindled a perennial debate: What is the precise moment of gentrification? When the rents begin to swell? At the first restless kick of running shoes? Or is a gentry a nascent life form whose seeds are planted with the entry of the first artists? Mother Graffiti, founder of Loisaida Right to Lifestyle, has shared the procreative pride and nauseous awakenings of her parish as it has grown heavy with gentry, yet remains devoted to the Gospel of Art:

MG: As a human being and renter I sympathize with a neighborhood struggling with an unforeseen gentrification. But new art needs gallery space to grow in, even when the result’s an unwanted gentry. We can’t throw out the baby with the bottled water.

VOICE: Do you advocate the use of condos to prevent conversion?

MG: Trump forbid! There’s a lag between the opening of the first gallery and the arrival of first croissant shop. With the right rhythm you can pull out in time to move to redder-­lined pastures.

VOICE: But is it ever morally permissible to terminate a gentrification?

MG: Have you ever seen an aborted gentry? Its little Walkman peeking out from its tiny ears — sweatpants not quite detached from Gucci bags — did you know their bricks were exposed by the first trimester?

VOICE: We used to frequent your neighborhood to go to the clubs. Now we just get clubbed. Any consolation?

MG: Suffer the gentry to renovate thee … for such is the Kingdom of Koch.

— David Polonoff

The Boombox Wars
By Sarah Ferguson

THE PROTESTORS were shouting “Class war!” and “No more fascist police state!” in Tompkins Square Park last Saturday night, but the massive deployment of 450 officers, a police chopper, and a flotilla of paddy wagons was sparked by a much more mundane urban pain: noise complaints.

According to 9th Precinct commander Captain Gerald McNamara, the decision to enforce a 1 a.m. curfew in Tompkins Square Park was brought on by “antisocial behavior and partying in the park.” Complaints began mounting three years ago from local Community Board 3 and several resident groups, including the 9th Precinct Community Coun­cil, the Independent Demo­cratic Club, and the Friends of Tompkins Square Park. In addition, the Avenue A Block Association, com­posed of tenants living across from the park, was formed a year ago to deal specifically with the prob­lem of kids pouring out of neighborhood bars in the wee hours of the morning, playing loud music and breaking bottles in Tomp­kins Square.

Ilona Merber, a member of the Avenue A Block Asso­ciation, said her group had met with the 9th Precinct and the Community Board about the noise last summer, but the only response by then-precinct captain Ralph Zakar was “a two week blitz” of police sum­monses and boombox confiscations. When asked why the crackdown faded, Ser­geant Jack Smythe blamed a “lack of cooperation” from the Community Board. “They didn’t appreciate Zakar’s hard line; the board had different priorities,” he added.

Saturday’s riot was pre­figured by a curfew protest the previous weekend, when angry youths clashed with riot cops in the park, resulting in nine arrests and five police injuries. After the crowd swelled from 60 to 300, the police were forced to cede the field. McNamara called a private meeting the following Tuesday at Man­hattan South headquarters with local officials and resi­dents to discuss the contin­uation of the curfew. The meeting was attended by representatives of Commu­nity Board 3, the offices of Councilwoman Miriam Friedlander, Borough Presi­dent David Dinkins, and State Senator Manfred Oh­renstein, and several of the local resident groups who had filed complaints about the park. All agreed to the continuation of the curfew until the noise problem abated.

Many of those opposed to the curfew, however, were angered that they were not allowed to attend that meet­ing. “If they had allowed for the people who use the park to give their input, this probably wouldn’t have hap­pened,” said local resident Peter Le Vasseur.

After the angry crowd of persistent hecklers and bot­tle-throwers had forced offi­cers to back down July 30, the police were determined to make a show of strength last Saturday. On Friday, August 5, police were seen parading on horseback and marching in formation be­fore the bandshell in Tomp­kins Square Park, as if drill­ing for Saturday night’s confrontation. By 10 p.m. Saturday, cops had barri­cades ready at all park en­trances and were roaming the park in groups of 12 while four officers with guns looked on from the roofs of tenements across from the St. Marks entrance.

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For many of the original complainants, the police re­sponse last Saturday far surpassed anything they had asked for.

“This is not crowd con­trol. This is Central Ameri­ca,” said Maryann Terillo, a member of the Independent Democratic Club, pointing to the police copter sweep­ing down on fleeing protestors.

McNamara said he or­dered the curfew to start July 11 after meeting with Manhattan borough parks commissioner Patrick Pomposello. He said the curfew was necessary because his precinct did not have enough officers to adequate­ly patrol the park.

“We didn’t ask for this,” Terillo said. “If they spent half the money they did to­night for all this, they could have patrolled the park the whole summer.”

Ilona Merber said she found the whole riot “outra­geous.” “We wanted to get rid of noise that has been keeping residents awake for four years, but now the whole issue is lost in police brutality.”

Merber denied accusa­tions by several young pro­testers that her group was composed of yuppie gentri­fiers. “Nobody in my build­ing pays more than $400 a month,” said Merber, refer­ring to her residence at 131 Avenue A and St. Marks Place. “This is a building that’s been on rent strike for the past three years. This is not gentrification.”

Philip Lalumia, chairman of the 9th Precinct Commu­nity Council, a group of more than 100 area resi­dents, said he still supported the park curfew. “Had the law been enforced all along, this wouldn’t have happened. [The police] have been slacking off.”

But as the Koch adminis­tration attempted to put spin control on depictions of the riot early this week, several critical questions remained unanswered. No matter how many bottles and firecrackers were thrown, what possible prov­ocation can justify a cos­sacklike charge through the streets of the Lower East Side? Was the police riot triggered from above, or was it a spontaneous response on the part of street cops­ — who have endured a series of public humiliations, includ­ing being upstaged by Guardian Angels in Hell’s Kitchen, the broadcasting of the Metro North flasher tape, and their own igno­minious retreat from Tomp­kins Square Park one week before? Will Captain McNamara or any other member of the depart­ment brass be held accountable, as NYPD policy requires, for the actions of their men? And, finally, what changes in police proce­dure will the city institute in the wake of the riot?

Reverend George Kuhn of St. Brigid’s Parish, which stands on the corner of 7th Street and Avenue B, thinks the authorities have made a bigger blunder than they know. “The police have managed to do something that nobody else could do, which is to unite the community — against them.” ■

Ignorant Armies
By Andrew Kannapell

WE’D HEARD rumors all week: that the police were forcing out the homeless — who have for years used Tomp­kins as a summer residence; or that the police were clear­ing the park to protect the homeless, who were targets of beatings and robberies; or that the park closing was the result of “yuppie com­plaints” about loud music.

MIDNIGHT. We saw two po­licemen on a rooftop at St. Marks and Avenue A, watching the people below in the park. One demonstra­tor yelled, “Jump, cop, jump!” A few more joined the cry. Cherry bombs ex­ploded, making the crowd of about 200 edgier. Whistles shrilled.

Riding bikes around the perimeter of the park, we saw more and more cops. We stopped at 9th and B to watch the parade, with a “CLASS WAR” banner at its head, pass a hundred feet away in the park’s interior. They were chanting “DIE YUPPIE SCUM,” then “PIGS OUT OF THE PARK.” More cherry bombs. Two cops stationed at the entrance were calling each other “pig” and laughing. One told me that the homeless would be allowed to sleep in the park, at the southeast cor­ner, where the lights were. “All anyone has to do is come up to an officer and identify themselves as homeless, and they will be directed to the area where they can stay. But anyone else in the park at 1 a.m. is mine.” He slapped his stick into his palm.

“Jeez, this is like the Superbowl,” said a man in 7A Café. A drunk bellowed, “Move along, let’s move along now,” having his fun with the crowd on the cor­ner. A line of mounted po­lice faced the demonstrators, who were throwing bottles at the cops. The point of the demonstration seemed forgotten — just op­posing teams and how bad was it going to get, who’s gonna hurt whom and how much?

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1 A.M. The riot squad gath­ered at the park’s south­western corner, about 30 strong, then moved into the street, the mounted police shifting to the side. The park was cleared, the demonstrators taking over Ave­nue A. Suddenly the riot squad turned and dashed back in, and the horses charged into the crowd. (Later, a cop said a police­man had been assaulted.) Demonstrators climbed over the fence. back into the park, and the melee began.

Moments later people ran out of the park, some blood­ied. Groups of cops gave chase, grabbing one young guy who had a short blond mohawk and knocking him down. Seven or eight cops surrounded him; pinning him to the ground with a nightstick against his neck, they pressed him down, hard, till they handcuffed him and shoved him back to the squad cars. The crowd lining the streets went wild, screaming “POLICE BRUTALITY,” “FUCKING FASCISTS.” A riot squad swept down Avenue A, dispersing anyone in its way. A shove with the shield, then a blow with the stick if you didn’t move fast enough. We retreated into a café. A cop blocked the door. We couldn’t get out.

A city bus, driven by a cop, came south down A, stopping at the intersection. “They’re doing that so you can’t see them abusing the women and children!” a man inside the café ranted. “This is disgusting! They’re beating women and children back there!” Police at all the corners, everywhere, moving in packs. You could leave the demo, but you couldn’t join. A woman skipped out, exaggerating her skip insult­ingly, doffed her baseball cap to the army, skipped on.

The riot squad pushed through A again, then up 7th, gathering up more peo­ple — coming out of bars, restaurants, apartments. Some walked out into a fly­ing nightstick.

2 A.M. During a lull in the sweeps, we unlocked our bikes, trying to figure a way to get out. Police passed in groups of 20. One cop saw my bike light and took it for a flash. “Didja get some good pictures?” he sneered. We rode west on 7th Street, freaked by the voyeuristic thrill of the night. “Movie training,” said Joan. “Makes us expect this. It makes me sick, I feel like I’d be disappointed if nothing happened.”

Joan went home. Steve and I headed over to his building on 9th Street. The sound of a helicopter motor was near, loud, ominous. We looked up — where is the thing? It was so loud it ought to have been right over our heads, and then it broke over the top of P.S. 122, hovering maybe 30 feet above the building. Shit flew everywhere; we couldn’t see through the dust it kicked up.

A neighbor told us the pushes were now taking place all over the East Vil­lage, all the way out to Sec­ond Avenue. Another police sweep went east on 9th. Why east, back to the park? A caravan of 17 squad cars and police vans zoomed down First Avenue, against traffic — but there was no traffic. A crowd of cops gathered at the corner; among them stood one of the block’s longtime drug dealers, ready to work.

4 A.M. We couldn’t cross Avenue A till 7th Street. There was still a band of demonstrators, still a line of mounted police, but the face-off had moved to 6th Street. The park was filled with cops — napping, drink­ing milkshakes, hanging out. 10th Street looked like a po­lice parking lot. A clean-cut guy leaning against a wall commanded us to “Register to vote.” We didn’t see much damage to storefronts or cars, but garbage was strewn all over. The whole neighborhood smelled like horse manure. ■

There’s a Riot Goin’ On
By Vince Aletti

I WAS SITTING in my liv­ing room at 12th Street and Second Avenue around 1 a.m. Sunday morning when the loud pulse of a helicopter’s blades started drowning out the rock and roll on my turnta­ble. The copter was hover­ing low around Tompkins Square Park, after a while so low that it almost brushed the rooftops, and it stayed there long enough to draw me out of the house and east to see what was go­ing on.

The first scene of action I encountered was near First Avenue and St. Marks Place. The intersection was filled with police on foot and horseback; the sidewalks were crowded with people, mostly looking, hanging out. Just as I stepped off the corner of 9th Street to have a closer look, a group of mounted police cantered down the far sidewalk, right into the spectators, picking up speed. People fled down 9th, followed by the mounted cops shouting, swinging clubs. I froze against a mailbox, and in a few seconds it was over.

The crowd seemed to thin, and I went up to 10th Street, closed off to traffic by a blue police barricade. The helicopter was still beating noisily overhead, bringing people out of their apartments or to their windows in curiosity. A stream of at least 20 police cars and vans, sirens wailing, sped down First Avenue against the traffic toward St. Marks. But when I headed in the same direction, every­thing seemed quiet — except for the helicopter, which was hovering just above the roofline, making a frighten­ing racket and stirring up the physical and psychic at­mosphere. After a while, it moved over right above the avenue and started a storm of dirt and debris among the clumps of people. This was a typical Saturday night crowd — local fashion vic­tims, Puerto Rican kids, a scattering of drug dealers who work the corner of 10th Street, young couples not yet ready to head home or drawn out of their hangouts by all the action — mostly white, though, and mostly not activist types.

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Suddenly a group of four or five police grabbed a guy out of the crowd on the op­posite sidewalk and dragged him into the street, yelling as if they’d just captured an enemy fighter. The guy’s T­-shirt was torn nearly off his chest. Six or seven other cops rushed over and began roughing up the captive, throwing him to the ground and kicking at him, pulling him up and tossing him around among themselves. When a few people ran up to protest, the police attacked them, too. One guy screamed, “Assholes!” and the police collared him and threw him back. They start­ed to charge at people indis­criminately, running into a group that was just standing on the sidewalk, maybe as stunned as I was by what they were seeing. The police knocked bystanders down, swinging clubs at their heads and bodies. I saw one man on the sidewalk on his stomach: a policeman rushed over and stomped on him with both feet as if he were jumping into an impromptu tag-team wres­tling match. No one was ar­rested, no one detained. Even the man with the torn T-shirt disappeared into the crowd. After a few minutes, the cops regrouped (I count­ed about 20 of them) and swaggered toward St. Marks.

When I looked around, most of the people on my side of First Avenue had frozen where they stood, usually as close to the build­ing walls as they could get. I walked to St. Marks and Second Avenue, where there was only one cop, stationed in the intersection, directing traffic away from the east and down the avenue. People were throwing trash at him and taunting him from the crowded corners, but there was also a neighbor­hood guy in shirtsleeves out there directing traffic along with him. Farther away, I heard a woman call out, “Was anybody shot?” And near 9th Street a man yelled, “Go home!” I didn’t hear the reply that prompt­ed him to shout back, “I am home! What are you doing here?” At Rectangle’s, an outdoor cafe on 10th Street, young patrons sat and talked, having a snack at 2:30 in the morning.

An hour later, I could still see the helicopter from my window, hanging low over the avenue. ■

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Leaflets From Nowhere
By Jeff Salamon

WHO ORGANIZED last Saturday’s demonstration? Nobody is owning up to the responsi­bility. Although leaflets were passed out in the days before the rally, no political group took credit for them. Neighborhood activists in­sist that the protest was a spontaneous response to gentrification and the newly enforced curfew.

“We were trying to show the power in numbers,” says John Potok, a self-described “revolutionary squatter” and one of four people arrested at the previous Satur­day’s near riot. Potok, who had a table outside of Tompkins Square Park to pass out political literature, says he doesn’t know who promoted the rally.

A number of people learned of the march during Jim Marshall’s Saturday af­ternoon show on WFMU. Marshall, a Voice contribu­tor and an East Village resi­dent, says that he had wit­nessed the tail end of the first demo and heard about the new action through neighborhood word of mouth. He thought a protest was a good idea and went on the air with it.

Frank Morales, a squatter activist controversial even among housing organizers, acknowledges that he hand­ed out leaflets announcing the demonstration but says he doesn’t know who print­ed them up.

Nine months ago, Mo­rales helped lead the now­-defunct Emergency Coali­tion Against Martial Law, which organized a rally in November that ended up in Washington Square Park. The coalition’s leaflet, enti­tled “Washington Square Park: The Police State Is Here,” shares an illustrated human figure with the leaflet that promoted the Tompkins Square Park pro­test. The leaflets also share similar targets: “At mid­night,” the Washington Square leaflet reads, “[the authorities] barricade the entrances and this once vi­brant and diverse neighbor­hood dies… They have spread their fascistic off­-the-streets policies to other open spaces as well, most re­cently beginning a similar crackdown in Tompkins Square Park.” ■

Categories
AD CANDY ARCHIVES CULTURAL COMMERCE ARCHIVES CULTURE ARCHIVES From The Archives Theater Uncategorized

Taking the Stage with Alfred E. Neuman

Before she won six Tony awards, between 1970 and 2012, and prior to her 1979 Emmy for her lead role in the TV show Alice, Linda Lavin appeared on stage in The Mad Show, singing Stephen Sondheim’s (uncredited) “The Boy From …,” a breathy parody of “The Girl from Ipanema,” which includes such lines as “When I tell him I think he’s the end / He giggles a lot with his friend.” In this case, girl does not get boy.

And before she became a household name on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, Jo Anne Worley trod the boards alongside Lavin to bring the satirical magazine’s gags to life in a 1966 production at the New Theatre on East 54th Street.

The first hint Village Voice readers had of this hybrid of the printed page and live theater was an ad in the December 23, 1965, issue announcing “A New Musical Revue Based on MAD Magazine,” to which Alfred E. Neuman declaims, “ECCH!”

Two weeks later the paper included a publicity photo of three mugging cast members.

At the bottom of that same page, the magazine’s mascot’s mug appears again, blasé about the show’s opening date, Sunday, January 9, 1966.

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The following week there is no word from Voice critics, but others have weighed in. In the ad, the clip art of Alfred remains stoic.

Come January 20 and the Voice passes judgement in the Theatre Journal column. This time, the production department took pains to keep the ad on page 19, separate from the editorial critique on page 20.

Critic Michael Smith liked the show, but lamented the omission of the magazine’s “threat of savagery in its satiric bite”:

“The Mad Show” is a speedy and consistently funny musical revue. Its five performers are likable and highly skilled, Steven Vinaver’s direction leaves barely a moment unoccupied, Mary Rodgers’s music is energetic and versatile, and the sum is thoroughly diverting. It’s difficult to break the show down into its parts, since it moves at an almost blurring velocity. Linda Lavin is absolutely bewitching in “The Boy From,” and Paul Sand’s “The Real Thing” is a flawlessly performed miniature. MacIntyre Dixon and Dick Libertini, previously familiar as the Stewed Prunes, are as unpredictably zany as ever, and Jo Anne Worley has comic expertise to spare. Together and separately, they look like the ideal revue cast.

“The Mad Show” is based on Mad magazine. It shares the comic book’s irreverence, sometimes mimics its mating of the far-fetched with the dead-pan, but omits its air of tenuous control, the threat of savagery in its satiric bite. Much of the time the source is not visible, and I would have preferred to see more risks taken, more point of view, more precision in choosing targets for satire. I prefer theatre to be less innocuous; despite its shambling exterior, “The Mad Show” would not be outré in a chic midtown boîte. (But when would you find time to drink your drink?)

In other words, if you like this sort of thing, this is an excellent example of it. Aesthetic commitments ablush, I report it readily recommendable.

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Categories
From The Archives NEW YORK CITY ARCHIVES NYC ARCHIVES Style THE FRONT ARCHIVES Washington, D.C.

Jackie Ode: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, 1929–1994

Jackie Ode
May 31, 1994

Other First Ladies — Pat Nixon — have passed with little fanfare. So have enigmatic and glamorous icons like Garbo. No pull­out sections of the paper or CNN specials for them. It dawned on me as I ingested the ubiquitous Jackie coverage over the week­end: the media was playing this as if a national leader had died. Because she had.

I imagine that makes no sense to anyone under 35 or even 40. But trust me. The team coverage, the people keeping vigil out­side the apartment building, lumps in the throat among people who thought them­selves above it all — this goes beyond the usual celebrity psychosis.

Everything depends on whether you lived through that horrific assassination in 1963. I was just a kid then, but I can assure you that no one was looking to Lyndon Johnson to get us through the trauma. It was Jackie who led us through days of national mourn­ing. Instinctively, she understood the im­portance of confronting the horror head-on. She began by refusing to wash JFK’s blood from her pink suit. And it was Jackie who planned the funeral, a critical public ritual. She had the casket placed on an open cais­son where all could see it, directed her three-year-old son to salute it, asked that there be a riderless horse with boots turned backward in the stirrups, and then that there be an eternal flame lit at the grave. She knew the images we needed, those that were solemn enough and true enough to meet the crisis. But then she always did have this sense of public appropriateness. Later it allowed her to maintain a public self, even as she remained completely pri­vate.

For those of us who lived through the assassination, though, Jackie remained something of a tragic figure forever after, the classically veiled widow leading a nation down Pennsylvania Avenue behind its mur­dered president. She was our chief of state then, if only for a few days. Naturally, there can be no other resting place for her but Arlington. — C. CARR

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Part of me was going around all Friday humming: I want to be Jackie Onassis, I want to wear a pair of dark sunglasses, oh yeah. I couldn’t help it.

But the rest of me was sitting on the subway, looking at the Times, at the picture of her at the funeral, the kids who don’t know what’s happened (they were the same age I was when my father died); and her teary face, and her perfect legs in her black heels…

I wasn’t born yet in November 1963; I knew her only by her later, gossip-rag im­age, the sunglasses and perilous chic. I certainly never thought l’d be sitting on the subway tearing up over the passing of Jack­ie O.

But she seems to me now to have had an extraordinary strength and grace; and poise, an outdated female quality but per­haps an underrated one. She did what was required of her — what we asked of her­ — very well, and gave us what we wanted and kept something for herself behind her shades. Instead of merely giving in to girl clothes and girl roles, she used them and made them serve her purposes. She was running the White House at age 31, an age when most people I know still hoard news­papers and get their furniture off the street. And, no small accomplishment, she raised good kids.

You’d imagine her money would help, but I suspect even that only raised the stakes. It meant that even in her worst hell she had to be impeccably turned out, in a black suit and black heels. I’d like to think there’s some strength to be drawn from those fe­male clothes, and from living as the woman we expected her to be. — JULIE PHILLIPS

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The Jackie I long to see clutches a large, unwieldy camera as she stands ankle-deep in water to grab a shot during her stint as an inquiring photographer for The Wash­ington Times-Herald in 1952. She reclines on the hood of a car in 1989, intently read­ing a book, perhaps for her job as an editor at Doubleday. These images suggest an ac­tive Jackie, the career woman Jackie that framed the professional-wife-and-widow Jackie. But even here there’s just too much grace: in the former photo, she bends deco­rously at the knee in her simple white dress; in the latter, her lean, bare legs are tightly pressed together, her head wrapped in a towel with casual élan.

These are the words that always attend Jackie: “taste,” “grace,” “dignity.” These words repel me, much as I admire Jackie the survivor, the fashion maven, the savior of historical buildings, the devoted single mom. But the canonization of poise sur­rounding Jackie’s death seems to me a cruel perpetuation of the containment that dog­ged this woman her whole life. Smile, please. Speak softly. Curtsy. Now stand up straight. Stay slim. And for god’s sake, be proper, whether you’re mourning a hus­band who cheated on you or being stalked by paparazzi who only strive to capture that millisecond when you stumble, drool, or flip them the bird. Only of course you never do.

Have you noticed how much Hillary’s gradually been molding herself into Jackie­ness, what with those controlled coiffures and tight little suits? Hillary has, of course, been routinely slapped for being less than first-ladylike (too opinionated, too crunchy), so maybe it’s understandable she’d take her cues from the exemplary, cool Jackie O. But does the glow of Jackie’s halo — not to mention her sheer starpower — ­blind us to the fact that she wore a straight­jacket in the name of seemliness? Do we mourn the passing of her impeccable stan­dard, or, in mourning, do we tacitly concede that womanhood is still too often defined thus: the right outfit, the correct pose, and just enough self-sublimation to serve a com­mon good? — KATHERINE DIECKMANN

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The history of the feminine speaks in images, like someone else’s photo album. We try to fill in the captions that might go beneath Mona Lisa’s sexy grin, Elizabeth’s hairline, the sway of Madame X’s shoulder line, the smoke veiling Dietrich’s face. How such women moved through the world reg­isters less distinctly than the way they’ve been captured and stilled. And so, for me, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis will never es­cape her photographs. Her mastery of the pose, her perfection at balancing vitality and calm, make her seem unfleshly, unreal. Now, bombarded by snaps and portraits of Jackie, I feel my mind’s eye straying to other women’s pictures. There’s Marilyn, the obvious doppelgänger, spilling over her dress, looking like she could momentarily break into tears. Marilyn’s problematic al­lure precisely opposes that of Jackie’s: while the First Lady’s every recorded move (even the most casual or tragic) fits, the movie star disrupts the frame, or lets confining presence discomfit her. Marilyn seemed to want to walk out of her photos, toward you. Jackie, even when gazing into the lens, seemed to be turning away.

That turning away was her triumph, and it’s so divergent from feminism’s passion to dig up and confront that I can’t help but wonder about its worth. Jackie’s success at managing a life that could have easily de­feated her makes me callow for questioning her legacy, and certainly Marilyn’s self-sac­rifice offers less. But revered images de­mand obeisance, and iconoclasm seems in order when the ideal costs most women so much. So my mind turns to another snap­shot, of a figure as iconic for this women’s studies-bred baby as Jackie seems to be for the women a generation older than me. It’s of another ’50s daughter, trying to stay in the frame: Sylvia Plath, neat as a pin, her darkness only seeping through in the inten­sity of her gaze. Plath let what she saw as her failure in those roles that Jackie perfect­ed — socialite, wife — bury her spirit. But in her poems, at least, she confronted what confined her and raged against it.

“The woman is perfected,” Plath wrote, and she meant the woman is dead. Jackie survived perfection, even flourished under its rule. Let’s hope that someday women won’t have to wrestle with such a goal. — ANN POWERS

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“She-e-eee was a friend of mine.”

The trumpeter, very tuneless, bicycled several yards along the park drive, stopped, played a long note, sang his plaint, and then moved on. Across Fifth Avenue, outside the building where she lived and died: police barricades, gawkers, and, a subtle sign of respect, senior officers working crowd con­trol. At the curb: an armada of television vans with transmitter masts erect; foreign tourists; many of those peculiar people who attach themselves freakishly to public events, to tragedies, perhaps merely for the attention, perhaps out of some atavistic will, perhaps even because they feel com­passion. But how can that be?

Two men jog past on their way to the park. “I cried when I heard this morning,” says one. “Yeah, classy lady,” replies his friend. I also cried, or felt an urge to cry, but not because Jacqueline Kennedy Onas­sis meant something to me, which would be untrue, but because her death reminded me of other deaths.

I’m encouraged by the press to feel some­thing about her: she was the “symbol of an era,” a “courageous lady,” an iron will, a fiercely guarded privacy, a model First Lady, whatever that may mean. (Actually, it means Eleanor Roosevelt, in my book.) She was certifiably a good New Yorker, born and named here, a resident, and actively engaged with preserving the texture of the place (viz: Grand Central Terminal). People I know took pleasure in Jackie sightings. And, although I myself never laid eyes on her, in the week before her death I noticed two photographers laying for Jackie in Cen­tral Park, near a path where she might, with her lover’s assistance, take a brief walk. I experienced a chill of repugnance then and when I saw in the newspapers that the photographers had got her, bloated (and with that hard, awful bulge that people with abdominal tumors get), and tottering, with only a week left of life. Contemplating how grotesque, in some ways, that kind of fame must have been, how imprisoning and full of anguish, I remembered that she had han­dled it with “dignity.” The eulogists echoed the word so often that it became a kind of tic, a joke, almost, as though she were impervious, a public edifice. Maybe this was so. Jackie “achieved a level of privacy that, well, it is impossible, but she did it any­way,” Frank Mankiewicz, Robert F. Kenne­dy’s former press aide, said recently. I imag­ine that what people mean by dignity was refusal. “Minimum information given with maximum politeness” was how she herself once described her policy with the press, at a time when the White House received 10 daily requests for the size of her shoes.

The spring moon the evening after her death was a fragment of mica, not quite full, but waxing: it was still light at eight. I’d taken my dog along with me to check out the voyeurs; that way, I reasoned, I wouldn’t seem so much like a voyeur my­self. What was I expecting? “We’ve been here two hours and haven’t seen nothing,” complained a Staten Island woman who’d come with her toy poodle. I stood awhile, staring at a limestone facade, a green cano­py, some cops, and a doorman, then walked into the park and up the bridle path. Two people on horseback cantered past. Again, unaccountably, I felt a twinge of grief. Lat­er, on board a plane to California, I read an article that claimed Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had “added to our portfolio of iconic imagery,” which seemed awfully silly to me until I considered my own odd reaction and that of the man on the bicycle blowing his horn: “She-e-eee was a friend of mine.” I would never have said that. And yet here I am calling up her ghost. — GUY TREBAY

Categories
Equality From The Archives PRIDE ARCHIVES THE FRONT ARCHIVES Uncategorized

Stonewall 25: The Media, the Message

The Media
June 28, 1994
By Martin Duberman

We didn’t even get to cover our own riot. Which is no surprise. In a heterosexual universe, it had long been assumed that gay men and lesbians were not reliable witnesses of their lives (let alone anything else). Our experience had to be explained to us, the “experts” of the day insisted, for we lacked the “needed objectivity,” and our “pathology” further compromised our ability to see straight (as it were). “Surely no one would recommend that operations for cancer be performed by the afflicted patients themselves.”

And so even the countercultural Village Voice — itself at the journalistic center of ’60s protest — saw nothing out of the ordinary in allowing two heterosexual reporters to cover the outbreak of gay rioting at a Greenwich Village bar, the Stonewall Inn. The lead sentence in Lucian Truscott IV’s piece referred to the sudden “specter” of gay power having “erected its brazen head and spat out a fairy tale the likes of which the area has never seen.” In his second sentence, he referred to “forces of faggotry.”

To be fair, this was 1969. Not too many gay people were using kinder, more accurate words about themselves (certainly I wasn’t: my idea of liberation in those years was to put myself in the hands of a therapist promising to free me from my “afflicted” orientation). Besides, Truscott also commented on the riots creating prospects for gays to assert “presence, possibility and pride” — a potential not widely seen at the time, though many now claim, retrospectively, to having immediately understood the significance of the riots.

Truscott also alluded to the way the riots had been covered in the Daily News as having been “anything but kind to the gay cause” — and few other straight reporters of the day would have considered the degree of kindness in an article about despised homosexuals as being a relevant gauge of the article’s journalistic  worth (unlike, say, its ability to sell newspapers). Jerry Lisker, the author of the Daily News article, may not have been responsible for its headline, HOMO NEST RAIDED, QUEEN BEES ARE STINGING MAD, but he most assuredly was for the adjectival mockery (“lisping,” “prancing,” etc.) of its prose, and it’s smug, derisive characterizations of “honeys turned Madwomen of Chaillot.”

The New York Times was above so coarse an assault. It had its own dismissive strategy, one more appropriate to its high-toned readership: avoid covering news about gays at all, or do so briefly and antiseptically in a back-page throwaway story. For its short article about the first night of the riots, the Times chose the headline, 4 POLICEMEN HURT IN VILLAGE RAID — as if the score of injured gay people was of little or no import. The Times did mention that the police had “confiscated cases of liquor from the bar,” but said not a word about the way they had wantonly smashed jukeboxes, mirrors, and cigarette machines, ripped out phones, plugged up toilets — and pocketed all the money from the cash register and safe.

The Times article reduced the rage of thousands to what it characterized as “a rampage” by “hundreds of young men.” The paper further implied that the arrest of one of the rioters had resulted from his “having thrown a heavy object at a patrolman.” In fact, police had grabbed the man in question at random out of the crowd, had dragged him by the hair back into the Stonewall Inn where they had retreated from the mob, and had proceeded to give him a severe beating. When it looked as if he was about to pass out, he had been handcuffed and Deputy Inspector Seymour Pine, the ranking office, had snapped, “All right, we book him for assault.”

And so the limited, distorted coverage went… The Voice’s second article, by Howard Smith, did mention police vandalism and generally was free of Truscott’s occasional homophobia — though it did include a description of the rioters “prancing high and jubilant in the street.” The New York Post — then a liberal paper — did do a follow-up piece headlined THE GAY ANGER BEHIND THE RIOTS, which responsibly discussed resentments felt over Mafia control of the Stonewall (and all other gay bars), over the huge profits that never went back into the lesbian and gay community, and the huge payoffs that went to the police. And both RAT and the East Village Other — organs of the counterculture — also carried sympathetic accounts.

But these were marginal voices in a coverage that overall reflected all too accurately the dominant bias of the culture.

Its perfect creature, Time magazine, summarized the majoritarian view when, some four months after the riots and in response to the publicity they had generated, it published a lengthy “analysis” of gay life. The article characterized “the homosexual subculture [as]… without question, shallow and unstable,” and warned its possibly wavering readership yet again that “homosexuality is a serious and sometimes crippling maladjustment.”

There we have the authentic voice of mainstream America, circa 1969. And it is a voice once more sounding loudly through the land as the legions of the religious right wing methodically prepare for battle against the “gay lifestyle” in a slew of forthcoming fall elections. It is being widely predicted that the right wing will win those elections in a landslide. If so, we might want to recall again those memorable summer nights in 1969 when we were pushed too far — and bellowed back in rage, THIS FAR AND NO FUTHER!

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The Message
By Allen Ginsberg

Think of the historic importance of coming out of the closet! Stonewall’s cry echoed round the world! Spiritual liberation meant gay liberation also, the liberation of individual veracity against hypocrisies of church, and state, and age-old social sadism. A revelation of actuality in midst of mental hallucination and emotional repression. Truth against “lies age-old, age-thick.”

What was the fix to begin with? Legendary gay bars owned by organized crime paid off the New York police, and if they didn’t they were closed down. Something went wrong with the payoffs at Stonewall Inn. So the customary repression of gay social life was motiv’d by hypercritical greed and sadism. As the sign says: GAY PROHIBITION CORRUPT$ COP$ AND FEED$ MAFIA

Who rebelled against this police fraud? We see hairy-chested guys with leather caps like cops, curbstone pixies on roller-skates applauding the parade, white-clad pure butch lesbians, poseurs mugging in front of Stonewall’s graffiti’d façade, ”Gay Cruise” billboards above Christopher Street’s classic cigar-store corner, Rock Hudson elegies & T-shirt sociologies on Keith Haring’s shop wall, a gay vet tombstone, Carmen Miranda banana hat clones, transvestite motorcyclists, brown skins dancing, AIDS die-ins, Peter Orlovsky & myself musing in bed 1959, arm in arm old lovers bald, Baldwin & marble Lincoln, Auden’s wrinkle-faced dignity, Gay Liz comix covers, thirty-something male hands sharing Affidavits of Domestic Partnership, magic homosex symbols flagged above Grove Street’s old brick roadway, a limp protestor dragged off by cops, a “Love Boys” spray-painted door, bath-house queens and bare chest youthful cuties, Priests & Amazons, campy mitered Bishops & Gay Church floats, 1973 night crowds and balloons, Stonewall Inn shut down, a sign for “Bagels And” above its old brown brick front.

These Anniversary parades and records thereof, like Fred McDarrah’s photograph (shown above), are now significant as we approach end of millennium. Think of present circumstances — recent revelation of the tortured & torturing blackmail psyche of the mad transvestite J. Edgar Hoover in the closet — the late powerful homophobe N.Y. Cardinal Francis Spellman dallying with Broadway chorus boys on the privacy of citizen Roy Cohn’s yacht! Roy Cohn, himself a tax-free anti-faggot power head queer lawyer for the N.Y. Diocese, organized crime hats, androgynous politicians & macho millionaires, gay pimp for the Director of the F.B.I. How many magic Cardinals & religious fanatic priests we see unmasked, their tenderest longings hid under the iron visage of censoriousness.

This year Cardinal Spellman’s successor Cardinal O’Connor still dares to put his Bible curse on gays, no public word whispered of his famous predecessor’s celebrated predilection for young men’s love. Thus while Catholic Ireland herself, through miraculous legislation, presently legitimizes homosexuality, the New York Cardinal scandalously prohibited Irish gay brigades from marching with the Green on St Patrick’s Day parades!

This degraded “Family Values” theopolitics has become a worldwide mask for mind control as against spiritual liberation. Hear the late Khomeini Ayatollah and his successor little Satans denounce “Spiritual Corruption,” along with Stalin, Mao & Hitler. Listen to Pat Robertson, his confrères & his guru W.A. Criswell, the fundamentalist Svengali of a “Biblical Inerrancy” cult, intolerant of any deviance from mind controlled by their interpretation of the “Good Book.”

These vicious priesthoods are allied with beer magnates and tobacco senators in hierarchies of political ambition, demagoguery, power addiction, nationalist chauvinism, military aggression, assassinations and war. Intolerant of other faiths, sexualities and folkways! Fraudulent ethical poseurs set family members against each other & oppose ancient true family values of sympathy, tolerance, forgiveness, intimacy, humor and fidelity.

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To the Days

From you I want more than I’ve ever asked,
all of it — the newscasts’ terrible stories
of life in my time, the knowing it’s worse than that,
much worse — the knowing what it means to be lied to.

Fog in the mornings, hunger for clarity,
coffee and bread with sour plum jam.
Numbness of soul in placid neighborhoods.
Lives ticking on as if.

A typewriter’s torrent, suddenly still.
Blue soaking through fog, two dragonflies wheeling.
Acceptable levels of cruelty, steadily rising.
Whatever you bring in your hands, I need to see it.

Suddenly I understand the verb without tenses.
To smell another woman’s hair, to taste her skin.
To know the bodies drifting underwater.
To be human, said Rosa — I can’t teach you that.

A cat drinks from a bowl of marigolds — his moment.
Surely the love of life is never ending,
the failure of nerve, a charred fuse?
I want more from you than I ever knew to ask.

Wild pink lilies erupting, tasseled stalks of corn
in the Mexican gardens, corn and roses.
Shortening days, strawberry fields in ferment
with tossed aside, bruised fruit.
Adrienne Rich

[“Then see to it that you stay human… Being human means joyfully throwing your whole life ‘on the scales of destiny’ when need be, but all the while rejoicing in every sunny day and every beautiful cloud. Ach, I know of no formula to write you for being human…”]
— Rosa Luxemburg, 1916

Categories
From The Archives Living NYC ARCHIVES

Travel ’86: What’s Your Trip?

What’s Your Trip?
May 27, 1986
Survey by Lois Draegin

RICHARD HELL
Poet, actor, musician
The best I’ve ever had were when I took some money up to Grand Central Station, got a train going up the Hudson, and just got off in an arbitrary town and went and stayed at a motel. Alone. For a day. Then I just wan­der around the town a little bit, have a few bucks in my pocket so I can buy a nice book. All the sightseeing spots, like a big puddle in a vacant lot, are revelations to me ’cause I’ve never seen them before and I’m a total stranger and I’m alone. Whenever I’ve gone on a vacation with anyone else where the idea was to go and have fun, get out of the tension and rat race of New York, it’s been utter horror and tedium and viciousness. I hate taking vacations because I’m out of my element. I’m only really on vacation when I’m alone in my apartment.

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RUDOLF
New York nightlife czar
I haven’t gone out of Manhattan in years.
The Hamptons? Yeah, okay, but that’s for work, so you can mention that, sure.
I don’t know the last time I took a vacation. I don’t remember. My business is the kind that you just have to do night and day. I can’t travel. Can’t you hear the telephones ringing?

KEITH HARING
Artist
Bahia, Brazil, is my favorite place in my world. It has the cleanest, most beautiful water. The food is incredible, and the people are really beautiful. It’s far enough away from New York.
I go there every year for a month or two — as long as possible. My friend Kenny Scharf has a house there, so I usually stay there half the time, then go to other cities the rest of the time. Most of the time I just swim and lay in the sun; and eat; and paint.
Travel Tips: Learn to speak Portuguese, be­cause no one speaks En­glish. Stay away from sharks. Don’t drink the water. Never trust the taxi drivers.

CHARLES BUSCH
Actor and playwright, currently starring in his own Vampire Lesbians of Sodom
Ooo, I just had a fabulous vacation. I needed to find a place to go for five days. I told the travel agent I wanted a place that was tropical, where you could lie in the sun, but that had like a triplex movie theater or something you could do at night. He came up with Key West.
So we went there and had a fabulous time. We stayed in a guest house. It was great because you sat by the pool — actually, the beaches are where all the tacky hoi polloi hang out — but the pool is so lovely. And we met all sorts of people: we met a Spanish marquis and a hair dresser from Washington, D.C. At night we went to marvelous restaurants. We saw a horrible production of As Is, which was sort of amusing, and we went to see the singing group Gotham. We toured Hemingway’s house, then we visited the cemetery in Key West, which is real fascinating.
Travel Tip: I use sunscreen 15, so I spent five days in Key West and ended up lighter than when I left. It bleached me. So that’s my travel tip — it’s also a beauty tip.

LL COOl J
Rapper extraordinaire (his name says it all: Ladies Love Cool James)
In March I went to Hawaii. We went to Honolulu, then we went to Maui, then back to Honolulu, so it was very cool. I’ve never been to such a tropical place. It was my first vacation that I paid for and went on. I’ve been on vacations before, but only in the States, like down South, the usual. But that was the first time I had went over to a place like that and chilled.
I chose Hawaii because I knew the weather would be nice. I knew the bikinis would be nice, I knew the bikinis would be nice, I knew the bikinis would be nice. They were. It was an incredible experi­ence. Plus the view in Maui — you see the ocean and the mountains and the cliffs.
I was there a whole week, so it was cool. I took one of my friends with me, E Love — he’s in my group. We laid on the beach, got a little darker, and just cooled out. Didn’t touch the Maui Wowie, but I was coolin’. Runnin’ around, havin’ fun, wasting money. Just going to different places, like Pearl Harbor and all up in the mountains, things like that; buying clothes, buying people gifts.
The best thing about Hawaii  was not having to get up early in the morning and just hangin’. Just being able to do what I want.

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MEREDITH MONK
Transcategorical choreographer/composer/performer
If I ever go on vacation I try to go to New Mexico. Usually I’ve sung a concert as a way of getting there, then I’ll stay for a while. Just being there is like a vacation, even if I’m working.
I like the expansiveness of  the land­scape, and I like the dry heat very much. I like the kind of danger that sort of terrain has. It’s a very powerful kind of thing, and you do feel that you’re slightly in danger all the time: rattlesnakes, what­ever. You feel a certain power of the landscape, and it’s a very interesting per­spective to have, coming from New York. It does interesting things for my work, too.
One of the things that’s amazing is how the terrain changes very quickly: it goes from mountainous, pine-tree sort of ter­rain to desert within half an hour. So there’s a lot of different kinds of terrain in that space. There are canyons that are beautiful and pine trees, but my favorite is the desert, those dry hills of sagebrush, where you really get that expansive sky and the quiet.

RICHARD PRICE
Author (The Wanderers, The Breaks, Ladies Man)
I go to Italy, anywhere, from Sicily to the Italian border in the north. Italy’s main produce is style. It’s a very warm, stylish, artful country. They say France knows how to cook, Italy knows how to eat: it sounds like a cliché, but that’s the nut of it for me. When I’m in Italy, I don’t feel like I’m traveling, I feel like I’m liv­ing. But there is one place in France I would mention, the Périgord region, where all the foie gras comes from. If you go there in season, you pass all these farms where 400-pound geese waddle after your car with these desperate looks in their faces — like “Save me, save me.” Still, I’d go to the shittiest part of Italy before I’d go almost any­where else.

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VIVA
Writer
In the summer I almost always go to the Thousand Islands, which I hate to publicize because more people will come. I’ve been going there since I was 12. We. have a big family, 20 acres, and woods and boats and tennis courts, a big house, guest houses. We were big on water ski­ing, treacherous feats — 12 behind a boat going through a narrow pass type of thing. We also did a lot of exploring by boat, finding islands we didn’t know ex­isted. The river is now polluted. We still swim in it, but when I was 12 we used to dip in a glass and drink.
Now, in my old age, I sit in a former ice house at a typewriter and occasionally look out the window at the ducks and the great blue heron. I do play a little tennis, but I’ve now developed exercise-induced asthma. Five minutes on the court and I’m huffing and puffing. I’m deciding to take up golf — the geriatric delight.
In the winter I concentrate on South America and Mexico. I have family in Argentina; they live on a ranch across from La Perla, which was one of the big­gest concentration camps during the 1970s, so that’s a little, ahem, psychologi­cally tough when you realize you’re en­sconced in the nest of the oligarchy. It’s like being across the highway from Da­chau and having everybody telling you this isn’t happening.
My travels are now political. In Argen­tina I interviewed the mothers of the dis­appeared. Then I went to Uruguay and taped the Tupamaros as they exited from jails after 15 years. Then I went to Bue­nos Aires to a military trial and took notes. My basic aim in this trip was to gather details for a novel I’ve been writ­ing for five years. Then I went to Rio for that facelift I wrote about.
Travel Tips: I never follow it, but never bring any clothes. Never take a charter flight. This is the greatest travel tip I could give anybody: Stay away from plans altogether.

TAYLOR MEAD
Sui generis… poet/filmmaker
I go to Port Jervis, New York, about twice a month. I have a friend with a nice estate there. He has four dogs and six cats. I adore animals and I take all the dogs for walks three times a day. They sleep with me and everything.
I suppose Port Jervis was thriv­ing up till 1942, or something like that, when all the young men went away to war. Now the city is sort of suspended in time. It has an other­world quality, like a twilight zone. It’s kind of dairy country, with low gentle rolling hills, woods, a great pond, old stone walls. The Delaware River is not far away, and we go rafting on that, which is a terrific pastime. It’s amazingly beautiful and only 75 miles away. In fact, people are finding it out now, and my friend’s getting worried.
Of course, I could spend the rest of my life living six months in Greece and six months in Manhattan. I’m waiting for Brian McNally, who owns Indochine, to buy a restaurant in Greece. He’s promised I could have the apartment over the restaurant. Then I could come down and dance with the local Greeks.

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PATRICIA FIELD
Fashion designer
The last place I went on vacation was Italy. I took an Italian holiday for 10 days. Shopping. That’s what I did. It was for the act of it: go to Rome, go shopping.
Usually when you travel you’re sup­posed to bring the least amount neces­sary to drag. Well, this was the opposite. I went with the idea of getting dressed and turning it out on the streets of Rome. I had my whole wardrobe there, turned it out, brought hats, suits, coats. It was like theater. So I slept, got up, hung out, called room service, went out for lunch, went shopping. It was one of these mov­ies kind of trips. It was good, especially in Italy — the Italians like all that stuff. They’re very overdone, so they really re­sponded to it.

GRACE PALEY
Writer of short story collections Later the Same Day, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, and The Little Distur­bances of Man; political activist
I never think about vacations. That makes me sound like a workhorse, whereas I’m the exact opposite. I live in Vermont half the time, and New York. Either of those two places is wonderful. If I think of a vacation, I’d like to be in either one of those two places without any other work than my writing.
I haven’t been near an ocean enough in my life. Here I am in New York, right next to an ocean, and I don’t even know it, right? So I’d like to live near an ocean and know that I live there, with full knowledge of where I am. It wouldn’t be a vacation, but it would be living some­where else, which is my idea of a vacation.
And I like to go someplace I haven’t been — wherever that is. Most of the world, I guess. I like everywhere I’ve been — how could you not? But being on my own street is often nice, too. Today the ginkgo leaves are sticking out their pinkies.

DAVID MURRAY
Jazz musician-saxophonist and com­poser
I go to the Caribbean, St. Croix, once a year. I like it because it’s hot and the people down there look like me.
Travel Tip: Take some time off.

MARTHA ClARKE
Choreographer/director of the imagistic hit theater piece, Vienna Lusthaus
Whenever I think, where would I most like to be in this horrible mo­ment, the answer is usually someplace in Italy, gorging my face with pasta.
There’s a wonderful town called Ra­vello. It’s on the Amalfi coast in the mountains, and it’s where Wagner wrote Parsifal. One wants to whisper there, it’s so awesome, so beautiful; you know, lem­on groves, terraced hills, a beautiful little Romanesque town square with an old church. I also adore Venice. It’s like being in a fairy tale: the light, the smell, the gondolas, the whole business.
Travel Tip: I used to be very fearful of going to a major city without a hotel res­ervation, but now I always worm my way into someplace.