Are we in for another “deja vu all over again,” on Inauguration Day, 2017?
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Inauguration Day is coming up on January 20. And here’s a news flash: I Googled “trump inauguration protests” – and got over two million results.
Here’s part of the grab-bag: Trump rips John Lewis as Democrats boycott inauguration, The Anti-Inauguration 2017, ‘Bikers for Trump’ to Form ‘Wall of Meat,’ and The Gathering Storm of Protest Against Trump.
Which leads to the musical question:
“Are we in for yet another “deja vu all over again?”
In this case we can go back in time, to see if history will repeat Itself. That is, back some 47 years before the upcoming January 20, 2017. Back to New York City and “a sunny spring day in May 1970.” There, over a thousand peace activists started a march to protest – among other things – the shooting of 13 Kent State students. (Four of them died, as shown in part at right):*
As the Manhattan peace protesters made their way … 200 white, middle-aged, construction workers in hard hats and carrying American flags barred their way and chased the young hippies through the streets beating them with lead pipes and crowbars. Policemen stood by passively and watched. More than 70 protesters were injured, and 20 hospitalized. A few days later president Nixon met with the “Hard Hat Riot” members at the White House to turn a patriotic victory lap. (E.A.)
See Anger Redux | The Huffington Post. Which – in turn – brings to mind a recent web article: Angels, Protesters and Patriots: What a Long-Ago Skirmish Says About Love of Country.
That article went back to 1965, when a group of Hell’s Angels also staged an attack on an “antiwar protest in Berkeley, one of the first of countless such protests to come.” (For an ironic note, see “politics make strange bedfellows.”) But there was a difference: The president didn’t invite the Hell’s Angels to the White House for a “patriotic victory lap.”
Instead, the president of the Oakland Hell’s Angels decided to end to all future attacks.
That is, on October 16, 1965, a group of Hell’s Angels from the Oakland chapter “attacked a Get Out of Vietnam demonstration at the Oakland-Berkeley border.” The first clash came at the Oakland Army Terminal, a “shipping point for men and materiel bound for the Far East:”
The Angels attacked… The existential heroes who had passed the joint with Berkeley liberals [now attacked] the same liberals with flailing fists and shouts of ‘Traitors,” “Communists,” “Beatniks!” When push came to shove, the Hell’s Angels lined up solidly with the cops, the Pentagon and the John Birch Society.
The protesters had planned to hold another demonstration the following month. But – fearing further attacks – in the interim a number of liberals including poet Allen Ginsberg – at left – worked to keep the Angels from attacking again. (Thompson, 244-53)
The result? According to Angels, Protesters and Patriots, “Oakland chapter leader Ralph ‘Sonny’ Barger … called the protesters a ‘mob of traitors.’” Nevertheless, he promised to forego further attacks against protesters. He did so – he said – based on the Angels’ “patriotic concern,” after which he “read a telegram he claimed to have sent to President Lyndon Johnson, volunteering the Angels for behind-the-lines ‘gorrilla’ [sic] duty in Vietnam.”
The article pointedly noted that the “Angels, at first blush, seemed unlikely patriots.”
Which leads to another question: If the “Bikers for Trump” – shown above – or other Hard hats start beating up Inauguration Day protesters – with lead pipes, crowbars or otherwise – will the new president invite them to the White House for a similar “patriotic victory lap?”
And speaking of patriotism: The wise – and oddly prescient – Samuel Johnson once said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” But it should be noted that he wasn’t condemning either true patriotism or patriotism in general. Instead he condemned “false patriotism:*”
What he’s calling attention to is that scoundrels, when challenged, will often use false patriotism in order to shut up their opponents.
Which brings us back to Richard Nixon. (The sitting president who feted the construction workers who beat up the offending “peace activists” in 1970.) In his case, Nixon had – only two years before – committed an act of treason to get elected president. That treason resulted in the death of 18,506 members of the armed services in Vietnam. What Nixon had done was “scuttle the Paris Peace Talks,” in October, 1968, solely in order to get elected in November.
That was the point of last November’s Deja vu all over again? And the point at issue – that Nixon committed treason to get elected – was conceded by as “arch” a conservative as George Will. (See George Will Confirms Nixon’s Vietnam Treason.)
But we digress. And I’m not necessarily saying that Donald Trump committed treason to get elected in 2016. The point here is that – sometimes to a frightening extent – “History Repeats Itself.” (Or as Santayana put it, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”)
But in this case, let’s hope not.
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That is, in response to actcs of violence by some of his supporters, Donald Trump has told them to “Stop it.” But Sonny Barger actually got his “supporters” to stop their attacks.
As Hunter Thompson noted, in the weeks leading up to the second planned march on the Oakland Army Terminal, a group of liberals including Ginsberg and Ken Kesey’s “Merry Pranksters” tried to persuade “Barger and his people not to attack the marchers.” For one thing, Ginsberg delivered a long speech – in the form of one of his famous poems – at San Jose State College on November 15, 1965.
Barger had second thoughts about attacking a march that Ginsberg “obviously considered a right thing.” But still – referring to the Vietnam Day Committee – “Sonny considered them all chickenshit – and that was that… So it came as a surprise when,” on the day before the scheduled second march, the Oakland Hell’s Angels held a press conference.
At the news conference, Barger repeated his disdain for the marchers’ planned “despicable, un-American activity.” Nevertheless, there would be no further attacks, he said, for reasons including that “any physical encounter would only produce sympathy for this mob of traitors.”
Or, as noted in What a Long-Ago Skirmish Says About Love of Country:
Barger, who would go on to survive cancer and prison … never changed his views. Those “left-wing peace creeps,” he declared in his autobiography, deserved every bruise they got.
All the same, the Angels never attacked another protest.
Wouldn’t it be nice if Donald Trump could do the same thing with his supporters?
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“The Prez” – Sonny Barger (middle) – saying the Hell’s Angels would no longer attack protesters.
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The upper image was courtesy of Hard Hat Riot: Tea Party of yesteryear – Daily Kos. (Which has since been “removed.”) The caption refers to two prior posts from this blog: Last May’s Is this “deja vu all over again,” and last November’s reprise, Another “deja vu all over again?” See also Hard hat – Wikipedia, as to the literal meaning of the term, and the Collins Dictionary, as to its cultural implications; i.e., “characteristic of the presumed conservative attitudes and prejudices typified by construction workers.” (See also, Hard Hat Riots.)
“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section. Thus, as to the 13 Kent State students, see Kent State shootings – Wikipedia, which included the image to the right of the paragraph. The caption: “John Filo‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of Mary Ann Vecchio, a 14-year-old runaway, kneeling over the body of Jeffrey Miller minutes after he was fatally shot by the Ohio National Guard.” A further caption reads: “Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student, Jeffrey Miller, lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, in Kent, Ohio. On publication, the image was retouched to remove the fencepost above Vecchio’s head.”
The “inauguration day” image is courtesy of Inauguration Day … Clipart Panda – Free Clipart Images. As to January 20, 2017, see Weather forecast for Trump’s inauguration looks gloomy.
The Allen Ginsberg image is courtesy of classics allen ginsberg american …hellopoetry.com.
Re: Samuel Johnson. For some of his sound-bites on “the real deal,” see The Samuel Johnson Sound Bite Page: Quotes on Patriotism. Re: the false patriotism quote, see What does this quote by Samuel Johnson mean: ‘Patriotism,’ etc.
Re: 18,506 service-members killed in Vietnam after Nixon “scuttled the Paris Peace Talks” in October and November, 1968: US KIA in 1969 – 11,616, 1969 in the Vietnam War – Wikipedia; US KIA in 1970 – 6,081, 1970 in the Vietnam War – Wikipedia; US KIA in 1971 – 0, 1971 in the Vietnam War – Wikipedia; US KIA in 1972 – 641, 1972 in the Vietnam War – Wikipedia; US KIA in 1973 – 168 1973 in the Vietnam War – Wikipedia. (Total = 18,506.)
The “history repeats” image is courtesy of George Santayana – Wikipedia. The caption: “Santayana’s famous aphorism ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’ is inscribed on a plaque at Auschwitz concentration camp in Polish translation and English back-translation (above), and on a subway placard in Germany (below). The “subway placard” is shown at right.
Re: Donald Trump and his “violent” supporters. I Googled “trump ‘stop it,'” and got some ten million, seven hundred thousand results. (10,700,000.)
The Hunter Thompson image is courtesy of Kentuckian Hunter S. Thompsonjohncoxtalks.com.
For another post on Trump vis-à-vis the Angels, see Donald Trump and the Hell’s Angel.
The lower image is courtesy of Angels, Protesters and Patriots: What a Long-Ago Skirmish Says About Love of Country. Re: Barger as “Prez,” see Thompson’s Hell’s Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga:
In any gathering of Angels … there is no doubt who is running the show: Ralph “Sonny” Barger, the Maximum Leader… To the Oakland Angels he is Ralph. Everybody else calls him Sonny[,] although when the party gets wild and loose he answers to such names such as Prez, Papa and Daddy.
1999 Ballantine Book edition, at page 10. (Thompson added that Barger was – by turns – a brawler, a fanatic, “a shrewd compromiser and a final arbitrator.”) See also Hunter S. Thompson – Wikipedia, and On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel,” in my companion blog.
And finally, this proviso: “Any resemblance to actual persons” – that is, and comparison to other actual persons – “living or dead is purely coincidental.” See Any Resemblance to Actual Persons, Living or Dead, is …, and/or All persons fictitious disclaimer – Wikipedia.
Finally, for a more in-depth treatment of the negotiations leading to Barger’s decision to “stop the violence,” see Thompson’s book, Ballantine edition, at pages 244-53. Six of those ten pages are taken up by Ginsberg’s poem, “To the Angels,” delivered at San Jose State on November 15, 1965, “before students and representatives of Bay Area Hell’s Angels.” These pages included two ironic notes, the first that for “reasons never divulged, [President] Johnson was slow to capitalize on Barger’s offer and the Angels never went to Vietnam.” (To engage in “behind-the-lines ‘gorrilla’ [sic] duty.”) Also:
The Angels … are rigidly anti-Communist. [Which adds a third note of irony, given the events of this last election.] Their political views are limited to the same kind of retrograde patriotism that motivates the John Birch Society, the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. They are blind to the irony of their role [as] knight errants of a faith from which they have already been excommunicated. The Angels will be the first to be locked up or croaked if the politicians they think they agree with ever come to power. (E.A.)
Note that a knight-errant was a “figure of medieval chivalric romance literature.” Such a knight would “wander the land in search of adventures to prove his chivalric virtues.” The plural would be Knights-Errant, as seen in Sparkler Monthly.