The only people who remember the riots at the Democratic National Convention—Chicago, ’68—better than I do are the protestors and cops who were there.
It was my birthday. We had a little celebration going in the roadhouse across the way from the hippy-dippy peace and love summer camp I was working at. I was in love with the Waterfront Director, whose name was Sue. She was a blue-eyed blonde and until that night she hadn’t known I was alive.
We were just leaving the bar, tipsy and tangled, happy, with an eye to getting on up into the gentle Berkshire hills that lay above the camp and our sleeping kids, when news of bad business in Chicago came up on the black and white TV over there next to the Schlitz sign.
Before our astonished eyes, CBS newsman Dan Rather was getting punched out on camera.
Sue and I spent the rest of the night, and the week, actually, glued to what passed for the media in those days.
It was the beginning of the end of politics as usual in America, for as the demonstrators chanted on TV screens around the globe, "the whole world is watching."
’68 was a rotten year for anybody with a conscience. Vietnam on TV every night for dinner. Martin Luther King
murdered. Bobby Kennedy
. They were arresting anybody who was against the war every chance they got. Dr. Benjamin Spock
and William Sloane Coffin
, chaplain at Yale, were convicted of conspiracy, stemming from a peace march at the Lincoln Memorial
There were half a million American soldiers in Vietnam, slogging through the thick red mud of foreign policy gone mad, and no less a public figure than Walter Cronkite was advising negotiation, not escalation, in that brain-dead war.
The My Lai massacre happened that spring. So did the Tet Offensive. Things were so messed up back home somebody even shot Andy Warhol.
HUNDREDS of students were killed during a demonstration in Mexico City, so it’s obvious something was in the air world-wide. You could even compare it to now.
Arlo Guthrie sang Alice’s Restaurant for the first time at Newport, and the Republicans had already nominated Richard Milhouse Nixon for President when members of the Youth International Party (accent on the party), led by Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Rennie Davis and Tom Hayden nominated a pig for President. Pigasus ran under the slogan "They nominate a president and he eats the people. We nominate a president and the people eat him."
Maybe the Chicago police under the fascistic Mayor Richard Daley didn’t grok irony or, let’s face it, humor. Maybe it was the pot smoke in their eyes, or perhaps sex, drugs, and rock n roll (not to mention peace) offended the mighty officers of the law who descended on the YIPPIES, the hippies, the boys, girls and others, but a hundred kids ended up in emergency rooms and over 600 more were arrested.
You wouldn’t have believed it could happen in America if you hadn’t seen it there, live-on-tape, before your eyes.
Mayor Daley in a news conference declared in a particularly Dubyahesque turn of phrase: "The policeman isn't there to create disorder, the policeman is there to preserve disorder."
One man among the thousands in Chicago had been in the ranks of peaceful resistance against ALL war many times before. One man had seen it all, again and again and again.
“We are not going to storm the convention with tanks or Mace, but we are going to storm the hearts and minds of the American people,” said David Dellinger, the most famous organizer of non-violent resistance in American history.
David Dellinger died yesterday, May 25, 2004, at the ripe old age of 88. He died peacefully, and he died knowing he was right.
“The evils in the society today are greater than they were in 1968,” he said in an AP interview in 1996. “I enjoy life this way, I enjoy life being in solidarity with the people who are fighting for a better world.”
David Dellinger lived a life he loved. And he lived a life of peaceful example. Born in Wakefield, Massachusetts, on Aug. 22, 1915, his father, Raymond, was a lawyer and chairman of the town Republican Party. His grandmother was active in the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Like his father, he attended Yale where he was elected captain of the cross-country team. In an ironic twist, he also befriended Walt W. Rostow, who years later would confront him in his capacity as a senior adviser on Vietnam to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. Dellinger was first arrested during an attempt at union organization in his student days. After graduating magna cum laude in 1936 with a degree in economics, he received a fellowship to Oxford, where his interest in pacifism deepened. For a time he followed the path of Saint Francis of Assisi, living among the poor and marginalized, riding the rails with hobos during The Great Depression.
He was originally drawn to pacifism after reading Tolstoy and most particularly The Power of Nonviolence, by Richard Gregg, an American associate of Mohandas K. Gandhi.
Dellinger strongly objected to America’s involvement in World War II, and even though he was a divinity student at Union Theological Seminary and thus eligible for a deferment, he refused to register for the draft. He was sentenced to three years in prison. He held hunger strikes while imprisoned, refused to sit in the all-white dining area, and eventually helped to integrate the federal prison system.
He opposed Korea and he opposed the Bay of Pigs and he opposed Vietnam. He organized freedom marches in the deep south. He loathed fascism, racism, and imperialism, and his commitment to non-violence was total.
Dellinger went to trial in 1969 with six men young enough to be his sons: Rennie Davis, John R. Froines, Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner and Abbie Hoffman. They were indicted by the Justice Department for criminal conspiracy and inciting to riot at the Democratic National Convention the year before. Bobby Seale, the eighth defendant and the only black man, was sent from the courtroom bound and gagged, and the remaining group is known to history as The Chicago Seven.
Dellinger was 54 at the time, a man who had come of age during a period when pacifism must have appeared to many as "un-American." "No rational person observing that movement during the 1940's," wrote Paul Berman in his book about late '60's radicals, Tale of Two Utopias, "would have predicted any success at all, and yet during the next two or three decades, Mr. Dellinger and his pacifist allies transformed whole areas of American life."
(They) "did it by supplying crucial leadership in the civil rights revolution and by playing a central role in the mass movement against the war in Vietnam, said Mr. Berman. "Dellinger himself became the single most important leader of the national antiwar movement, at its height, from 1967 through the early 1970's. You could quarrel with some of his political judgments, but he was always sober, always resolute, always selfless and always brave."
Famously, he was ferocious in his courtroom disdain for presiding U.S. District Judge Julius Hoffman during the Trial of the Chicago Seven, calling him a “liar” and a “fascist.” Though the “conspirators” were convicted, the case was overturned by a federal appeals court which cited numerous errors by the no-doubt rattled Hoffman. It was, after all, America and the Vietnam War that were actually on trial. Pigs and pot and hippies and Black Panthers were just the side show.
Dellinger was the founder, publisher, and editor of Liberation magazine, and his autobiography From Yale to Jail: The Life Story of a Moral Dissenter, is essential reading for anybody who wants to know what courage in the face of insuperable odds looks like.
David Dellinger, to borrow a phrase from the '60's, challenged authority. Millions of young people saw the wisdom and humanity in his doing so, and America is the better for his having marched for a very long lifetime at the front of the line.
Our nonviolent activism would be more positive if we stressed reaching out with love for our fellow human beings—love not only for the victims, but also for those who defend the existing system, including those who think they benefit from it, even toward the police and other security forces.
Love for those who defend the system, including the police who harass and arrest us? Is that unrealistic?
Let me testify that this kind of love makes a difference. In 1987, twenty of us invaded the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, protesting against U.S. sponsorship of the terrorist Nicaraguan Contras. When we were arrested and taken downstairs to be fingerprinted, an officer recognized me and introduced me to the other officers. He said, "This is Dave Dellinger, who I want you to meet because his actions are based on love for everyone, including us."
I also recognized him: The second time he had arrested me he had grabbed the arm of another officer, who was about to hit me on the head with a club, and said, "Stop. This is a good guy who doesn’t need to be hit like that."
Love for every human being is necessary for our individual growth and fulfillment. Those who practice this love benefit spiritually as they help others. While there are still badly needed changes in our anti-democratic society, I see positive signs that acting with love for other people and their needs does succeed.
—David Dellinger, 1915—2004
In addition to his autobiography, David Dellinger wrote Revolutionary Nonviolence
(Anchor Books, 1971), More Power Than We Know
(Anchor Books, 1975) and Vietnam Revisited
(South End Press, 1986).
The dedication of this final volume read "To all veterans of the Vietnam War; those who fought in it and those who fought against it."
- I was a prisoner in a Mexican Whorehouse
- A long time gone
- How to brush your teeth in a combat zone
- Libber and I go to war
- Fate takes a piss
- Thanks For the Memory
- Back in the Shit
- LZ Waterloo
- Saturday Night, Numbah Ten
a long commute
Andy X Kirby True
a tale of two Woodstocks
Buy a Gun
Dawn at The Wall
Feat of Clay
I was a free man once, in Saigon
The Joint Chiefs of Staff
the shit we ate
Combat Infantryman Badge
Firebase Mary Ann
the 1st Cav
The Highest Traditions
Those Who Forget
Under the Southern Cross
Whither the Phoenix?
A Bright Shining Lie
Apocalypse Now Redux
Hearts and Minds
We Were Soldiers
The Johnny Appleseed of LSD
Bud and Travis
Camaron de la Isla
Wild Bill Donovan
Sidney Gottlieb, the real-life "Q"
king of the queens
Paco de Lucia
the Real McCoy
Robert K. Merton
J. Fred Muggs
Bernardino de Sahagun
A. J. Weberman