the now mythic Nineteen-Seventies, after the Watergate scandal broke and they brought the troops back from Vietnam, America was in a peculiar
kind of turmoil, and I was attending Mt. San Antonio College where
the L.A. smog pools up against the San Gabriel Mountains. To quote
one of my teachers: “I keep expecting to see people wearing crossed
ammunition belts.” Still, they kept trying to get us involved with
the community . . . and politics.
history teacher recommended that we go to hear a political candidate at
the Free Speech Area. I wasn't doing anything that afternoon, and had
never been to a political event before, so I hung around, cruising for
a place where I could quietly sneak off if it got boring.
Candidate was a white man who glowed in the SoCal afternoon sun. He looked
at me and leered like hungry predator. He zoomed over, grabbed my
hand, and said, “Hello! Glad to meet you!”
gang boss signaling his goons, he communicated with his People.
Suddenly, I was surrounded. They grabbed me like I was a
potted-plant, took me over, and smacked me down behind and a little to
the right of the Candidate.
they thought my Jimi Hendrix/Abbie Hoffman hair and golden brown skin
would help sell the Candidate to the students.
all without a word to me. They didn't ask if I wanted to be there. I
kept thinking that this would make an escape difficult.
Candidate had brought his teenaged son and daughter. They were more
clean-cut looking than your average Mt. SAC student in those days.
They were passing out flyers for a Christian Rock Concert.
really ought to come,” she said.
really great music,” he said.
rock sucks,” said a student.
This was in the early days of the genre. Most Christian Rock back then was made
by Jesus Freaks – ex-hippies who found Jesus, as one explained to
up in the mountains dropping acid when Jesus himself came down from
the sky and ended my acid trip, and told me to go forth and devote
my music to spreading his message.”
songs were mostly popular tunes that he had reworded so that Jesus
replaces the intended object of affection, like, “Jesus loves you –
yeah, yeah, yeah!”
their flyers ended up on the ground.
Candidate started speaking. He was an early Christian conservative.
the students were tangled up in the post-hippie/pre-punk counterculture of
the times. They liked long hair, sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll that
blasted the joys of that lifestyle. A lot of them didn't believe that
there was going to be future, and acted accordingly.
Candidate said that even though he was a conservative, he was willing
to reach out to and represent them.
didn't mention minorities, but then I was standing there making it
look like he was popular in the local barrios and ghettos.
audience wasn't impressed.
weeks earlier, from the same microphone, a young woman had warned:
“Like, ya watch out, cuz, there's a lotta people around, like, you
don't know them, and, like, they're gonna wanna smoke it with ya,
but, y'know, they're narcs!”
wanted to win over this crowd, he should have said that he was
willing to work his ass off to legalize marijuana. That would have
chanted his name and carried him around campus on their shoulders.
show how honest he was, the Candidate said that he was against
predictable argument started.
seen enough. I wanted out of there. Unfortunately, I was standing
right behind the Candidate.
also been treated like prop in this lame attempt at political drama.
Somehow I didn't feel obliged to be polite. So I mimed a big,
theatrical yawn, and walked away.
the history teacher frowned with disapproval as he told me, “I saw
your 'commentary' at the event!”
then, I've watched the people standing behind candidates when
politicians speak. Most stand there looking like they are receiving a
great honor. Others look bored. Others – the reluctant, rebellious
ones commit acts of defiance like mine: funny faces, eye-scratching,
nose-picking, and – the champ, in my opinion – a black man who
juggled a Lifesaver on his tongue.
So, if a
politician has his (or her) people grab you and put you into the
dehumanizing role of a political prop, do something silly. These days
it'll end up on YouTube – heh-heh!
also force them to act human . . . if they can.
they can't, well, we need to take that into consideration when we