Thursday, December 31, 2015

On The 55th Anniversary Of The Freedom Riders- All Honor To Those Who Took To The Buses "Heading South"

From the American Left History Archives-July 5, 2011 

On The 55th Anniversary Of The Freedom Riders- All Honor To Those Who Took To The Buses "Heading South"
Click below to link to a Wikipedia entry for the Freedom Riders, a group of civil rights workers who valiantly tried, by example, to integrate interstate transportation in the South. We are not so far removed from those events even today, North or South.

Markin comment:

I was in high school at the time of the freedom rides and was part of a support group sponsored by the Americans For Democratic Action (ADA, then an anti-Soviet Cold War left-liberal organization but very pro-civil rights in the South) that was raising money in order to sent more civil rights workers "heading South." Heading toward the danger not away from it. Honor those black liberation fighters.

On The 50th Anniversary Of The Freedom Riders- All Honor To Those Who Took To The Buses "Heading South"

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days, Maybe More, Of ......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days, Maybe More, Of  ......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

Guilty Until Proven Innocent-Cary Grant And Jean Arthur’s The Talk Of The Town

Guilty Until Proven Innocent-Cary Grant And Jean Arthur’s The Talk Of The Town

DVD Review

From The Pen Of Sam Lowell

Talk Of The Town, starring Cary Grant, Jean Arthur, Ronald Coleman, 1942 

There are a million ways that Hollywood has played the story of those falsely accused of heinous crimes (heinous a word in bad odor these days according to some of my younger associates but nevertheless useful here) from the serious social dramas Warner Brothers put out usually with guys like Paul Henried or Paul Lucak playing the sober somber lead to the film under review, Cary Grant and Jean Arthur’s The Talk Of The Town where it is played with a bit of off-hand humor.     

Now if you thought that the title meant we were, following The New Yorker section of the same name, talking about New York City and its doing you would be wrong. We are dealing here strictly with a Podunk town of unknown original where the mills are run, as in usually the case in one mill town, by one guy or family and they have an overweening influence (overweening another word in bad odor but give me a better one and I will substitute gladly) on the life of such towns. In other words they run things from top to bottom where it counts from the mayor, police chief, and justice system all the way down to the average citizen who just happens to be depend on that mill paycheck to keep body and soul together, usually with a family attached. 

That premise is what guides this off-beat look at the rule of law in American life in a more innocent, trusting age. See Leopold (played by Cary Grant a very non-Leopold looking guy) a mill worker and political agitator of unknown ideological and organizational views although presumed to be left-wing given the forces at play got set up, got set up big time to take the big step off for committing arson at Mister Mill-owner’s mills (fill in the blank in our town it was the MacAdams Mills before they closed and headed south and thereafter to foreign lands) and incidentally killing a mill foreman. Thus Leopold was headed for a felony murder count and hang him high. But Leopold was innocent, innocent as a babe, well, maybe not quite that innocent but of the murder rap for sure. Rather than see himself swing from some dawn gallows he did what every innocent man would do-he escaped from the pokey, set out to prove one way or the other that he had been framed, framed with a ribbon on it.         

Here is where things get dicey, and sets what is essentially another 1940s wartime romantic comedy to keep the wives and girlfriends who populated the theaters then waiting for the other shoe to drop in the muds of Europe or the corals of the Pacific from fretting to death apart from a more sober look at the justice system in small town America in those days. What ensues is a comedy of error involving Nora (played by Jean Arthur), whom Leopold has had a crush on since high school, and a law professor, let’s call him Mike although his persona is not very Mike-like but rather Sir Michael-like, (played by Ronald Coleman) when Leopold, on the lam, winds up at a house that Nora is setting up to rent to Mike. Naturally a law professor can’t ignore having an escaped accused felon around and so through dodges and whatnots Leopold finally see the professor’s rational, legal light. Sees that he has to turn himself in to get a crack at some justice.      

Of course along the way there is a dramatic built-up of romantic interest in Nora by both Leopold, who wears his intentions on his sleeves, and the more reserved but equally ardent Mike. Of course as well no way was Mike (or the scriptwriters in a romantic comedy) going let Leopold go to the gallows after he decided to follow the professor’s advice and let justice work its blinded eyes so Mike began to investigate things. Found out through his snooping that the allegedly dead foreman was hiding out in Boston and that the mill-owner had been for his own maniacal reasons the cause of the arson. Justice prevailed. As for the real core of the story line though-who got Nora-well naturally it had to be Leopold since in those days Cary Grand played no second-fiddle to any other guy with the ladies. Mike well he got the boobie prize-an Associate Justice-ship on the United States Supreme Court. See what I mean when I say that it was a more innocent age.             

***From The Time Of Radio Days- Sentimental Journey- The Forties-A CD Review


CD Review

Sentimental Journey, Volume 1 (1942-1946), Rhino Records, 1993

I am a child of rock ‘n’ roll, no question. And I have filled this space with plenty of material about my likes and dislikes from the classic period of that genre, the mid-1950s, when we first heard that different jail-break beat, a beat our parents could not “hear,” as we of the generation of ’68 earned our spurs and started that long teenage process of going our own way. Still, as much as we were determined to have our own music on our own terms, wafting through every household, every household that had a radio in the background, and more importantly, had the emerging sounds from television was our parents’ music- the music, mainly of the fighting World War II period. And that is what this Sentimental Journey volume evokes in these ears.

These are songs, not jitter-bugging songs like when Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Duke Ellington or Harry James and their orchestras started to “jump” to high heaven but the midnight mood songs, the songs of soldiers leaving for wherever and uncertain futures, the songs of old-fashioned (now, seemingly, old-fashioned) boy meets girl love, the songs of lonely nights waiting by the fireside, waiting for Johnny to come home. A very different waiting sound than rock, be-bop or hip-hop. A sound driven more by melody in synch with the Tin Pan Alley lyrics than anything later produced.

Some of these tunes still echo way back in my young teenager brain, some don’t, but here are the stick outs:

Swing On A Star, Bing Crosby (a much underrated, by me, singer, especially before I heard him do his rendition of Brother, Can You Spare A Dime? on the fly); Paper Doll, The Mills Brothers (this one I heard endlessly in the background radio and has great harmonics by these guys); There I’ve Said It Again, Vaughn Monroe (old Vaughn was the prototype, even more than Frank Sinatra, for the virile male singer who carried the “torch”); Stormy Weather, Lena Horne (I was mad for this song even in my “high rock” days and if you get a chance watch the late Lena Horne do her thing with this one on YouTube, Wow!); Night and Day, Frank Sinatra (classic Cole Porter, although I like Billie Holiday’s version better, Frank’s phrasing is excellent). Now if we just had Stardust Memories we really would be back in the 1940s.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Support The Partisan Defense Committee's Holiday Appeal -Free All Class-War Prisoners!

Support The Partisan Defense Committee's Holiday Appeal -Free All Class-War Prisoners!  
Click below to link to the Partisan Defense Committee website

Leonard Peltier 1972

My yearly comment on behalf of the Holiday Appeal-Frank Jackman  

I like to think of myself as a long-time fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, an organization committed to social and political defense cases and causes in the interests of the international working class. Cases from early on in the 1970s when the organization was founded and the committee defended the Black Panthers who were being targeted by every police agency that had an say in the matter, the almost abandoned by the left Weather Underground (in its various incantations) and Chilean miners in the wake of the Pinochet coup there in 1973 up to more recent times with the Mumia death penalty case, defense of the Occupy movement and the NATO three, and defense of the heroic Wiki-leaks whistle-blower Chelsea Manning (formerly Bradley).

Moreover the PDC is an organization committed, at this time of the year, to raising funds to support the class-war prisoners’ stipend program through the annual Holiday Appeal drive. Unfortunately having to raise these funds in support of political prisoners for many years now, too many years, as the American and international capitalist class and their hangers-on have declared relentless war, recently a very one-sided war, against those who would cry out against the monster. Attempting to silence voices from zealous lawyers like Lynne Stewart, articulate death-row prisoners like Mumia and the late Tookie Williams, anti-fascist street fighters like the Tingsley Five to black liberation fighters like the Assata Shakur, the Omaha Three and the Angola Three and who ended up on the wrong side of a cop and state vendetta and anti-imperialist fighters like the working-class based Ohio Seven and student-based Weather Underground who took Che Guevara’s admonition to wage battle inside the “belly of the beast” seriously. Of course this year we lost Hugo Pinell, George Jackson’s comrade-in-arms from the San Quentin Six to a murderous vendetta. Others, other militant labor and social liberation fighters as well, too numerous to mention here but remembered.

Normally I do not need any prompting in the matter. One year though, and it now bears repeating each year, after I read the 25th Anniversary Appeal article in Workers Vanguard No. 969 I was startled to note how many of the names, organizations, and political philosophies mentioned there hark back to my own radical coming of age, and the need for class-struggle defense of all our political prisoners in the late 1960s (although I may not have used that exact term at the time).

That recognition included names like black liberation fighter George Jackson’s present class-war prisoner the late Hugo Pinell’s San Quentin Six comrade; the Black Panthers in their better days, the days when the American state really was out to kill or detain every last supporter, and in the days when we needed, desperately needed, to fight for their defense in places from Oakland to New Haven,  as represented by two of the Omaha Three (Poindexter and wa Langa), in their younger days; the struggle, the fierce struggle, against the death penalty as represented in Mumia’s case today (also Black Panther-connected); the Ohio 7 and the Weather Underground who, rightly or wrongly, were committed to building a second front against American imperialism, and who most of the left, the respectable left, abandoned; and, of course, Leonard Peltier and the Native American struggles from Pine Ridge to the Southwest. It has been a long time and victories few. I could go on but you get the point.

That point also includes the hard fact that we have paid a high price, a very high price, for not winning back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when we last had this capitalist imperialist society on the ropes. Maybe it was political immaturity, maybe it was cranky theory, maybe it was elitism, hell, maybe it was just old-fashioned hubris but we let them off the hook. And have had to fight forty years of rear-guard “culture wars” since just to keep from falling further behind.

And the class-war prisoners, our class-war prisoners, have had to face their “justice” and their prisons. Many, too many for most of that time. That lesson should be etched in the memory of every pro-working class militant today. And this, as well, as a quick glance at the news these days should make every liberation fighter realize; the difference between being on one side of that prison wall and the other is a very close thing when the bourgeois decides to pull the hammer down. The support of class-war prisoners is thus not charity, as International Labor Defense founder James P. Cannon noted back in the 1920s, but a duty of those fighters outside the walls. Today I do my duty, and gladly. I urge others to do the same now at the holidays and throughout the year. The class-war prisoners must not stand alone. 



Box 99 Canal Street Station                        

New York, N.Y. 10013

Down At Duke's Place-With Duke Ellington In Mind

Down At Duke's Place-With Duke Ellington In Mind  

No, this will not be a screed about how back in the day, back in the 1950s when be-bop jazz was the cat’s meow, when cool was listening to the Monk trip up a note and work it out from there or Dizzy burping then hitting the high white note all those guys were struggling against the limits of the instruments, high as hell, to get to. Frankly I was too, way too young to appreciate such work and I only got the tail end, you know when Hollywood or the popular prints messed the whole be-bop jazz “beat” thing up and we got spoon-fed Maynard G. Krebs and ten thousand guys hanging around the Village on Saturday night in full beret from the outreaches of Tenafly, New Jersey and another ten thousand gals, all in black from head to toe, maybe black underwear too so something to imagine at least from Norwalk, Connecticut milling around as well. Square, square cubed. No, this will not be some screed going back further in the hard times of the Great Depression and the slogging through World War II when “it did not mean a thing, if you ain’t got that swing” when our parents, the parents of the kids who caught the end of be-bop “swang,” did dips and twirls to counts, dukes, earls, princes, marquises even leading big band splashes to wash that generation clean. Come on now that was our parents and I wasn’t even born so no way I can “screed” about that. And, no, no, big time no, this will not be about some solitary figure in some dank, dusty, smoke-filled café, the booze flowing, the dope in the back alleys inflaming the night while some guy, probably a sexy sax player, blows some eternal high white note out against some bay, maybe Frisco Bay, and I was hooked, hooked for life on the be-bop jazz scene.

No, it never even came close to starting out like that, never even dreamed such scenes. Unlike rock and roll, the classic kind that was produced in my 1950s growing up time and which I have had a life-long devotion to or folk music which I came of age, political and social age to later in the early 1960s, jazz was a late, a very late acquisition to my understanding of the American songbook. Oh sure I would hear a phrase, a few bing, bang, bong  notes blowing out the window, out the door, sitting in some bar over drinks with some hot date, maybe hear it as backdrop in some Harvard Square bookstore when I went looking for books (and, once somebody hipped me to the scene, looking for bright young women who also were in the bookstore looking for books, and bright young men but that scene is best left for another time), or at some party when the host tired of playing old-time folk music and decided to kick out the jams and let the jazz boys wreak their havoc. But jazz was, and to a great extent still is, a side bar of my musical tastes.          

About a decade ago, a little more, I got seriously into jazz for a while. The reason: the centennial of the birth of Duke Ellington being celebrated when I was listening to some radio show which was commemorating that fact and I heard a few faint bars which required me to both turn up the volume and to listen to the rest of the one hour tribute. The show played a lot of Duke’s stuff from the early 1940s when he had Ben Webster, Harry Carney, and Johnny Hodges on board. The stuff blew me away and as is my wont when I get my enthusiasms up, when something blows me away, I grabbed everything by the Duke and his various groupings and marveled at how very good his work was, how his tonal poems reached deep, deep down and caught something in me that responded in kind. Especially when those sexy saxs, when Johnny or Cootie blew me away when they let it all hang out.

Funny though I thought at the time that I hadn’t picked up on this sound, this reaching for the soul, for the essence of the matter, before since there are very definitely elements of the blues in Brother Duke’s work. And I have been nothing but a stone blown blues freak since the early 1960s when I first heard Howlin’ Wolf hold forth practically eating that harmonica of his on Little Red Rooster and Smokestack Lightnin’. Moreover I had always been a Billie Holiday fan although I never drew the connection to the jazz in the background since it usually was muted to let her rip with that throaty sultry voice, the voice that chased the blues, my blues,  away.

So, yes, count me among the guys who are searching for the guys who are searching for the great big cloud puff high white note, guys who have been searching for a long time as the notes waft out into the deep blue sea night. Count me too among Duke’s boys, down at Duke’s place where he eternally searched for that elusive high white note.   

Down At Duke’s Place 

One night Sam Eaton was talking on his cellphone to his old friend from high school (Carver High, Class of 1967), Jack Callahan about how his grandson, Brandon, the oldest grandson of his daughter Janice from his first marriage, had beguiled him recently with his arcane knowledge of classical jazz, the jazz from the age of King Oliver say until the death of the big bad swing bands in the late 1940s for the most part giving way to cool ass be-bop and what followed. Jack braced himself for the deluge, got very quiet and did not say word one, since lately when Sam even thought about mentioning the slightest thing connected with jazz he knew he was in for it, in for a harangue of unknown duration on the subject.  Jack hated jazz, had hated it when as a child of rock and roll his father would endlessly play Count this, King that, Duke the other thing and not allow the family record player centered in the family living room to be sullied (his father’s word) by heathen stuff like Roll Over Beethoven or One Night With You. Sam sensing a sullen Jack expression said he would only speak a few words on the subject:        

No, Jack, my man, this will not be a screed about the 1950s when be-bop jazz was the cat’s meow, when cool was listening to the Monk trip up a note, consciously trip up a note to see if anybody caught it and then took that note to heaven and back, and worked it out from there or Dizzy burping then hitting the high white note all those guys were struggling against the limits of the instruments to get, high as hell on tea, you know what we called ganja, herb, stuff like that. Frankly I was too young, you too, way too young to have appreciated such work then and I only got the tail end, you know when Hollywood or the popular prints messed the whole be-bop jazz “beat” thing up and we got spoon-fed Maynard G. Krebs faux black and white television beatnik selling hair cream oil or something like that, and ten thousand guys hanging around the Village on Saturday night in full beret and whatever they could put together for a beard from the outreaches of Tenafly, New Jersey and another ten thousand gals, all in black from head to toe, maybe black underwear too so something to imagine at least from Norwalk, Connecticut milling around as well. Square, square cubed.

See unlike the rock and roll we were crazy for as kids jazz was a late, a very late acquisition to my understanding of the American songbook. Although I had always been a Billie Holiday fan I never drew the connection to the jazz in the background since it usually was muted to let her rip with that throaty sultry voice, the voice that chased the blues, my blues, away.

Oh sure I would hear a jazzy phrase, a few bing, bang, bong notes blowing out the window, out the door, sitting in some bar over drinks with some hot date, maybe hear it as backdrop in some Harvard Square bookstore when I went looking for books, or at some party when the host tired of playing old-time folk music decided to kick out the jams and let the jazz boys wreak their havoc.

 About a decade or so ago though I got seriously into jazz. The reason: the centennial of the birth of Duke Ellington. I was listening to a radio show which was commemorating that fact and I heard a few faint bars which required me to both turn up the volume and to listen to the rest of the one hour tribute. The show played a lot of Duke’s stuff from the early 1940s when he had Ben Webster, Harry Carney, and Johnny Hodges on board. The stuff blew me away and as is my wont when I get my enthusiasms up, when something blows me away, I grabbed everything by the Duke and his various groupings I could find and marveled at how very good his work was, how his tonal poems reached deep, deep down and caught something in me that responded in kind. Especially when those sexy saxs, when Johnny or Cootie blew me away when they let it all hang out. That start led to the later guys.

So, yes, you could now count me among the guys who were searching for the guys who were searching for the great big cloud puff high white note, guys who have been searching for a long time as the notes wafted out into the deep blue sea night. Check this out to see what I mean, mean about blowing that high white note out into the surly choppy Japan deep blue seas foaming and slashing out into the bay the one time I was sitting in fog-bound Frisco town, sitting around a North Beach bar, the High Hat, back when Jimmy La Croix ran the place and a guy with a story, or a guy he knew could run a tab, for a while, and then settle up or Jimmy let the hammer fall and you would wind up cadging swigs from flea-bitten raggedy- assed winos and sterno bums.

On Monday nights, a slow night in every venue you can name except maybe whorehouses a little since some guys had to see their wives or girlfriends or both sometime, Jimmy would hold what is now called an “open mic” but then, I forget, maybe talent search something like that but the same thing. The “Hat” as everybody called it was known far and wide by ex hep-cats, aging beats, and faded flower child ex-hippies who had not yet got back to the “real” world once those trends petered out but were still looking, as I was, looking for something and got a little solace from the bottle and a dark place to nurse the damn thing where you could be social or just hang out was the place around North Beach where young talent took to the boards and played, played for the “basket” just like the folkies used to do back in the 1960s, and probably get a few dollars from the mostly regular heavy drinker crowd that populate any gin mill on Monday, whether they have seen their loved ones or not. Jimmy would have Max Jenny on drums and Milt Bogan on that big old bass that took up half the stage, if you remember those guys when West Coast jazz was big, to back-up the talent so this was serious stuff, at least Jimmy played it that way.

Most of the stuff early on that night was so-so some riffs stolen from more famous guys like Miles Davis, Dizzie, Coltrane, the cool ass jazz from the fifties that young bud talent imitates starting out, maybe gets stuck on those covers and wind up, addled by some sister habit, down by the trolley trains on Market hustling dollars from weary tourists waiting for the trolley to get up the damn hill. So nothing that would keep a steady drinker, me, from steady drinking in those days when I lifted low-shelf whiskeys with abandon. Maybe half a dozen other guys spread out around bar to prove they were there strictly for the drinking and chain-smoking unfiltered cigarettes to fill up Jimmy’s ashtrays and give Red the bartender something to do between pouring shots. The guys hungry for woman company would be bunched near the dance floor but they must have had it bad since Monday night the serious honeys were not at the “Hat” but home getting rested up for the long week ahead of fending guys off.

Then I turned around toward the stage, turned around for no particular reason, certainly not to pay attention to the talent, when this young guy, young black guy, barely out of his teens, maybe sixteen for all I know and maybe had snuck out of the house to play, to get to reach the stars if that is what he wanted, slim as a reed, dressed kind of haphazardly with a shiny suit that he probably wore to church with his grandmother, string tie, clean shirt, couldn’t see his feet so can’t comment on that, maybe a little from hunger, or had the hunger eating him up. Kind of an unusual sight for late ‘90s Frisco outside of the missions. But figure this, figure his eyes, eyes that I know about from my own bouts with sister, with those just forming sad sack yellow eyes of high king hell dope-dom and it all fit.

The kid was ready though to blow a big sexy tenor sax, a sax as big as he was, certainly fatter, blew the hell out of one note after another once he got his bearings, then paused, paused to suck up the universe of the smoke filled air in the place, a whiff of ganja from the back somewhere from some guy Jimmy must have known since usually dope in the place was a no-no, and went over to the river Jordan for a minute, rested, came back with a big blow that would get at least to Hawaii, rested again, maybe just a little uncertain where to go like kids always are, copy some somebody and let it go at that for the Monday crowd or blast away, but even I sensed that he had something going, so he blew up a big cloud puff riff alternating with pauses hard to do, went at it again this time to the corner of paradise. Stopped, I thought he was done, he looked to hell like he was done, done in, eyes almost closed, and then onward, a big beautiful dah, dee, dah, dee, dah, dee, blow, a “max daddy” blow that even this old chattering wino in a booth stopped to wonder at, and that big high white note went ripping down Bay Street, I swear I could see it, out on into the fog-bound bay and on its way, not stopping until Edo, hell maybe back to Mother Africa where it all started.  He had “it,” and if he never blew again he had that “it” moment. Shortly after he finished he left out the back door and I never saw him at the “Hat” again so maybe he was down on Market or maybe he went somewhere, got some steady work. All I know was that I was there when a guy blew that high white note, yeah, that high white note. So count me too among Duke’s boys, count me down at Duke’s place where he eternally searched for that elusive high white note.


So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star-Meryl Streep’s Ricki And The Flash

So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star-Meryl Streep’s Ricki And The Flash

DVD Review

From The Pen Of Zack James 

Ricki and the Flash, starring Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline,directed by Jonathan Demme, 2014

Roger Mcguinn and the Birds set the whole thing up back in the 1960s about being a rock and roll star, about pursuing your dream of being up in the bright lights like Elvis, Chuck, Bo, Jerry Lee and a big cast of others who rose to the top as we were coming of age. And later of course Beatles, Stones, Led Zeppelin, Bruce Springsteen in the second coming of rock after the doldrums of the early 1960s. Yeah, Roger had it right in the lyrics to So You Want To Be A Rock And Roll Star that you were going to have to give up a lot to pursue your dream, pay a lot for being up in lights and were going to have to fight like hell to stay there once fashion changed. And a lot of us who came of age in those times maybe backed off for just those reasons, didn’t have the “fire in the belly” to go toe to toe with fame, or lacked of enough talent and stage presence to go beyond inspired amateur night. That didn’t stop a lot of us from dreaming the midnight dreams and our hats went off to the guys who pursued the road and maybe never got off winding up doing some slo-mo lounge lizard act in a Jersey hotel bar, or worse doing weddings, proms and the like. Jesus.      

Notice how I have referred strictly to guys when I mentioned the rock and roll dream because with few exceptions like Wanda Jackson early in Elvis time and Bonnie Raitt and a few others later in Stones time this was a guy dream. Somewhat later that list got longer but mainly rock was a guy thing. Then along came this film that I am reviewing today, Meryl Streep’s Ricki and the Flash, the Flash part being her back-up band at the joint she was a regular performer at and it turns out that gals, young women, not only had that same dream but were willing to abandon home and hearth to pursue that dream just like the guys. Ending forever hopefully the notion that the women of rock whatever its current manifestation will get never get fair play.

Of course unless you want to do a documentary about a female rocker then you need a story line, a subtext for the back story of what the search for fame and fortune, female version, looks like. See Ricki (her stage name okay, nice too), played beautifully by Meryl Streep who gives her all to whatever role she is playing from a despised British Prime Minister to a be-daggled, dread-locked, okay semi-dread-locked aging rocker nursing her act in L.A. (naturally) after her moments of glory via her one produced album, has indeed given up a lot for her art. Just as the story opened up she was called back to Indianapolis (one can see now see why she fled, sorry Hoosiers) by her ex-husband (played by Kevin Kline) to help their young daughter who was seriously distraught to the point of suicide since her husband was divorcing her.       

Her return sets a whole series of fireworks off both there and back in L.A. where she does her regular gig. The daughter is snarly that Ricki left her in the lurch, abandoned her, when she was young. A now openly gay son resents her for leaving as well. Ditto a second son about to be married who does not want to invite dear old Mom to the wedding. In short all treating her like a snake to be handled carefully, very carefully. The ex (Kline) is the least of Ricki’s worries but his current wife, a black woman who has raised the children in her stead and who made no bones about Rick’s lacks as a mother forces her to confront certain realities. Added to that Ricki’s lead guitarist whom she is having a fling/affair/ relationship with depending on the mood of either party is pressuring her to be more serious about their relationship.           

Well we all know this is a Hollywood film so we know this one, beyond some great covers of classic rock hits (and her own best work as well) which I understand Streep learned to play the electric guitar to do (kudos), things will work out kind of okay. Will work out enough to show why Ricki was not crazy to go out and try like hell to become a rock and roll star. Aside from some obvious thinness in the dialogue and what seems these days to be the overweening need in social dramas to have every multi-cultural identity group be portrayed in a film (interracial marriage by the ex-husband, gay son having an affair with a Vietnamese guy, and so on) way beyond he social realities of even progressive middle class American life this is a film to watch. Who would have thunk Meryl Streep could channel the ghost of women rockers past.      


From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days, Maybe More, Of ......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars

From The Veterans For Peace- The Twelve Days, Maybe More, Of  ......The Struggle Against The Endless American Wars


The Latest From The “Veterans For Peace” Facebook Page

The Latest From The “Veterans For Peace” Facebook Page-Gear Up For The Winter 2016 Anti-War Season-All U.S. Troops Out Of Afghanistan Now!-Not Another War In Iraq! Stop The Bombing Raids-Hands Off Ukraine! Hands Off The World!


Click below to link to the Veterans For Peace Facebook page for the latest news on what anti-war front the organization is working on.!/pages/Veterans-For-Peace/49422026153
Late one night in 2014 Ralph Morris and Sam Eaton had been sitting at a bar in Boston, Jack Higgin’s Grille, down a few streets from the financial district toward Quincy Market talking about various experiences, political experiences in their lives as they were wont to do these days since they were both mostly retired. Ralph having turned over the day to day operation of his specialty electronics shop in Troy, New York to his youngest son as he in his turn had taken over from his father Ralph, Sr. when he had retired in 1991 (the eldest son, Ralph III, had opted for a career as a software engineer for General Electric still a force in the local economy although not nearly as powerful as when Ralph was young and it had been the largest private employer in the Tri-City area) and Sam had sold off his small print shop business in Carver down about thirty miles south of Boston to a large copying company when he had finally seen a few years before the writing on the wall that the day of the small specialty print shop specializing in silk-screening and other odd job methods of reproduction was done for in the computerized color world.

So they had time for remembrances back to the days in the early 1970s when they had first met and had caught the tail-end of the big splash 1960s political and social explosion that stirred significant elements of their generation, “the generation of ’68” so-called by Sam’s friend from New York City Fritz Jasper although neither of them had been involved in any of the cataclysmic events that had occurred in America (and the world) that year. Sam had that year fitfully been trying to start his own small printing business after working for a few years for Mr. Snyder the premier printer in town and he was knee-deep in trying to mop up on the silk-screen craze for posters and tee shirts and had even hired his old friend from high school Jack Callahan who had gone to the Massachusetts School of Art as his chief silk-screen designer, and later when he moved off the dime politically his acting manager as well. Ralph’s excuse was simpler, simplicity itself for he was knee-deep in the big muddy in the Central Highlands of Vietnam trying to keep body and soul together against that damn Charlie who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Occasionally over the years Ralph would come to Boston on trips at Sam’s invitation and they almost always would go have a few at Jack Higgin’s during his stay talking mainly family matters before Ralph would head back to Troy and his family but more frequently of late they would go back over the ground of their youth, would go over more that ground more than one time to see if something they could have done, or something they did not do, would have made a difference when the “counter-revolution,” when the conservative push-back reared its head, when the cultural wars began in earnest with the ebbing of that big good night 1960s explosion. Sam would return the favor by going out to Albany, or more frequently to Saratoga Springs where he, they could see who from the old days, Utah Phillips before he passed away, Rosalie Sorrels before she left the road, Ronnie Gilbert and Pete Seeger before they passed but you get the picture, the old folk minute of the early 1960s that Sam had been very interested in when he started to hang around Cambridge later in that decade, were still alive enough to be playing at the famous coffeehouse still going from the 1960s, the Café Lena, although minus founder Lena for quite a while now. Sam had never lost the bug, never lost that longing for the lost folk minute that in his mind connected in with him hanging around the Hayes-Bickford in Harvard Square on lonesome weekends nights seeing what was to be seen. Sam had dragged Ralph, who despite living on about less than an hour away had never heard of the Café Lena since he had been tuned to the AM stations playing the awful stuff that got air time after the classic period of rock went into decline and before rock became acid-tinged, along with him and he had developed a pretty fair appreciation for the music as well.         

The conversation that night in 2014 got going after the usual few whiskey and sodas used to fortify them for the night talkfest had begun to take effect had been pushed in the direction of what ever happened to that socialist vision that had driven some of their early radical political work together (in the old days both of them in these midnight gabfest would have fortified themselves with in succession grass, cocaine, speed and watch the sun come up and still be talking. These days about midnight would be the end point, maybe earlier.). The specific reason for that question coming up that night had been that Sam had asked Ralph a few weeks before to write up a little remembrance of when he had first heard the socialist-anarchist-communist-radical labor militant   international working class anthem, the Internationale, for Fritz Jasper’s blog, American Protest Music.

Sam had noted that Ralph had with a certain sorrow stated that he no longer had occasion to sing the song. Moreover one of the reasons for that absence was that  despite his and Sam’s continued “good old cause” left-wing political activism socialism as a solution to humankind’s impasses was deeply out of favor (that activism as Ralph mentioned to Sam on more than one occasion these days considerably shortened from the old frenzied 24/7 desperate struggles around trying unsuccessfully end the Vietnam War from the American side by getting the government to stop the damn thing although the Vietnamese liberation forces in the end and at great cost had had no trouble doing so).

People, intellectuals and working stiffs alike, no longer for the most part had that socialist vision goal that had driven several generations, or the best parts of those generations, since the mid-19th century to put their efforts into, did not have that goal on their radar, didn’t see a way out of the malaise through that route. Had moreover backed off considerably from that prospective since the demise of the Soviet Union and its satellites in the early 1990s if not before despite the obvious failure of capitalism to any longer put a dent in the vast inequalities and injustices, their suffered inequalities and injustices, in the world. Sam had had to agree to that sad statement, had had to agree that they, in effect, too had abandoned that goal in their own lives for all practical purposes even though they had been driven by that vision for a while once they got “religion” in the old days in the early 1970s, once they saw that the anti-war struggle that animated their first efforts was not going to get the war-makers to stop making war.

Maybe it was the booze, maybe it was growing older and more reflective, maybe it was that Ralph’s comments had stirred up some sense of guilt for losing the hard edge of their youthful dreams but that night Sam wanted to press the issue of what that socialist prospective meant, what they thought it was all about (both agreed in passing, almost as an afterthought that what had happened, what passed for socialism in the Soviet Union and elsewhere was NOT what they were dreaming of although they gave third world liberation struggles against imperialism like in Vietnam dependent on Soviet aid plenty of wiggle room to make mistakes and still retain their support).        

Both men during the course of their conversation commented on the fact that no way, no way in hell, if it had not been for the explosive events of the 1960s, of the war and later a bunch of social issue questions, mainly third world liberation struggles internationally and the black liberation question at home they would not even be having the conversation they were having (both also chuckling a little at using the old time terms, especially the use of “struggle” and “question,” for example the  black, gay, woman question since lately they had noticed that younger activists no longer spoke in such terms but used more ephemeral “white privilege,” “patriarchy,”  “gender” terms reflecting the identity politics that have been in fashion for a long time, since the ebb flow of the 1960s). 

No, nothing in the sweet young lives of Samuel Eaton to the Carver cranberry bog capital of world in Carver (then) working-class born (his father a “bogger” himself when they needed extra help) and Ralph Morris, Junior to the Troy General Electric plants-dominated working- class born would have in say 1967, maybe later, projected that almost fifty years later they would be fitfully and regretfully speaking about the their visions of socialism and it demise as a world driving force for social change. 

Ralph and Sam had imbibed all the standard identifiable working-class prejudices against reds, some of those prejudices more widespread among the general population of the times, you know, like the big red scare Cold War “your mommy is a commie, turn her in,” “the Russians are coming get under the desk and hold onto your head,” anybody to the left of Grandpa Ike, maybe even him, communist dupes of Joe Stalin and his progeny who pulled the strings from Moscow and made everybody jumpy; against blacks (Ralph had stood there right next to his father, Ralph, Sr., when he led the physical opposition to blacks moving into the Tappan Street section of town and had nothing, along with his corner boys at Van Patten’s Drugstore, but the “n” word to call black people, sometimes to their faces and Sam’s father was not much better, a southerner from hillbilly country down in Appalachia who had been stationed in Hingham at the end of World War II and stayed, who never could until his dying breathe call blacks anything but the “n” word); against gays and lesbians (Ralph and his boys mercilessly fag and dyke baiting them whenever the guys and he went to Saratoga Springs where those creeps spent their summers doing whatever nasty things they did to each other and Sam likewise down in Provincetown with his boys, he helping, beating up some poor guy in a back alley after one of them had made a fake pass at the guy, Jesus; against uppity woman, servile, domestic child-producing women like their good old mothers and sisters and wanna-bes were okay as were “easy” girls ready to toot their whistles, attitudes which they had only gotten beaten out of them when they ran into their respective future wives who had both been influenced by the women’s liberation movement although truth to tell they were not especially political, but rather artistic.  Native Americans didn’t even rate a nod since they were not on the radar, were written off in any case as fodder for cowboys and soldiers in blue. But mainly they had been red, white and blue American patriotic guys who really did have ice picks in their eyes for anybody who thought they would like to tread on old Uncle Sam (who had been “invented” around Ralph’s hometown way).      

See Ralph, Sam too for that matter, had joined the anti-war movement for personal reasons at first which had to do a lot with ending the war in Vietnam and not a lot about “changing the whole freaking world” (Ralph’s term). Certainly not creeping around the fringes of socialism before the 1960s ebbed and they had to look to the long haul to pursue their political dreams. Ralph’s story was a little bit amazing that way, see, he had served in the military, served in the Army, in Vietnam, had been drafted in early 1967 while he was working in his father’s electrical shop and to avoid being “cannon fodder” as anybody could see what was happening to every “drafted as infantry guy” he had enlisted (three years against the draft’s two) with the expectation of getting something in the electrical field as a job, something useful. But in 1967, 1968 what Uncle needed, desperately needed as General Westmoreland called for more troops, was more “grunts” to flush out Charlie and so Ralph wound up with a unit in the Central Highlands, up in the bush trying to kill every commie he could get his hands on just like the General wanted. He had extended his tour to eighteen months to get out a little early from his enlistment not so much that he was gung-ho but because he had become fed up with what the war had done to him, what he had had to do to survive, what his buddies had had to do to survive and what the American government had turned them all into, nothing but animals, nothing more, as he told everybody who would listen. When he was discharged in late 1969 he wound up joining the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), the main anti-war veterans group at the time. Such a move by Ralph and thousands of other soldiers who had served in ‘Nam a real indication even today of how unpopular that war was when the guys who had fought the damn thing arms in hand, mostly guys then, rose up against the slaughter, taking part in a lot of their actions around Albany and New York City mainly.

Here is the way Ralph told Sam in 1971 about how he came in contact with VVAW while they had plenty of time to talk when they were being detained in RFK Stadium after being arrested in a May Day demonstration. One day in 1970 Ralph was taking a high compression motor to Albany to a customer and had parked the shop truck on Van Dyke Street near Russell Sage College. Coming down the line, silent, silent as the grave he thought later, were a ragtag bunch of guys in mismatched (on purpose he found out later) military uniforms carrying individual signs but with a big banner in front calling for immediate withdrawal from Vietnam and signing the banner with the name of the organization-Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). That was all, and all that was needed. Nobody on those still patriotic, mostly government worker, streets called them commies or anything like that but you could tell some guys in white collars who never came close to a gun, except maybe to kill animals or something defenseless really wanted to. One veteran as they came nearer to Ralph shouted out for any veterans to join them, to tell the world what they knew first-hand about what was going on in Vietnam. Yeah, that shout-out was all Ralph needed he said, all he needed to join his “band of brothers.”                               

Sam as he recalled how he and Ralph had met in Washington had remembered that Ralph had first noticed that he was wearing a VVAW supporter button and Ralph had asked if he had been in ‘Nam. Sam, a little sheepishly, explained that he had been exempted from military duty since he was the sole support for his mother and four younger sisters after his father had passed away of a massive heart attack in 1965. (He had gone to work in Mister Snyder’s print shop where he had learned enough about the printing business to later open his own shop which he kept afloat somehow during the late 1960s with Jack Callahan’s help and which became his career after he settled down when the 1960s ebbed and people started heading back to “normal.”) He then told Ralph the reason that he had joined the anti-war movement after years of relative indifference since he was not involved in the war effort had been that his closest high school friend, Jeff Mullins, had been blown away in the Central Highlands and that had made him question what was going on. Jeff, like them had been as red, white and blue as any guy, had written him when he was in Vietnam that he thought that the place, the situation that he found himself in was more than he bargained for, and that if he didn’t make it back for Sam to tell people, everybody he could what was really going on. Then with just a few months to go Jeff was blown away near some village that Sam could not spell or pronounce correctly even all these many years later. Jeff had not only been Sam’s best friend but was as straight a guy as you could meet, and had gotten Sam out of more than a few scrapes, a few illegal scrapes that could have got him before some judge. So that was how Sam got “religion,” not through some intellectual or rational argument about the theories of war, just wars or “your country right or wrong wars,” but because his friend had been blown away, blown away for no good reason as far as that went.  

At first Sam had worked with Quakers and other pacifist types because he knew they were in Cambridge where he found himself hanging out more and more trying to connect with the happenings that were splitting his generation to hell and back. They got him doing acts of civil disobedience at draft boards, including the Carver Draft Board on Allan Road the place where Jeff had been drafted from (and which created no little turmoil and threats among the Eaton’s neighbors who were still plenty patriotic at that point, his mother and sisters took some of the fire as well), military bases and recruiting stations to try to get the word out to kids who might get hoodwinked in joining up in the slaughter. As the war dragged on though he started going to Cambridge meetings where more radical elements were trying to figure out actions that might stop the damn war cold and that appealed to him more than the “assuming the government was rational and would listen to reason” protest actions of those “gentile little old ladies in tennis sneakers.”

1971 though, May Day 1971 to be exact is, where these two stories, two very different stories with the same theme joined together. Sam at that point in 1971 was like Ralph just trying to get the war ended, maybe help out the Panthers a little but before May Day had no grandiose ideas about changing the “whole freaking world.” Sam had gone down to Washington with a group of Cambridge radicals and “reds” to do what he could to shut down the war under the slogan-“if the government does not shut down the war, we will shut down the government.” Ralph had come down with a contingent of ex-veterans and supporters from Albany for that same purpose. Sam and Ralph had as a result met on the bizarre football field at RFK Stadium which was the main holding area for the thousands of people arrested that day (and throughout the week)

So May Day was a watershed for both men, both men having before May Day sensed that more drastic action was necessary to “tame the American imperial monster” (Sam’s term picked up from The Real Paper, an alternative newspaper he had picked up at a street newsstand in Cambridge) and had come away from that experience, that disaster, with the understanding that even to end the war would take much more, and many more people, than they had previously expected. Ralph, in particular, had been carried away with the notion that what he and his fellow veterans who were going to try to symbolically close down the Pentagon were doing as veterans would cause the government pause, would make them think twice about any retaliation to guys who had served and seen it all. Ralph got “smart” on that one fast when the National Guard which was defending the Pentagon, or part of it that day, treated them like any Chicago cops at the Democratic Party Convention in 1968, treated them like cops did to any SDS-ers anywhere, and like anybody else who raised their voices against governmental policy in the streets.

Ralph told Sam while in captivity that he still worked in his father’s shop for a while but their relationship was icy (and would be for a long time after that although in 1991 when Ralph, Senior retired Ralph took over the business). He would take part in whatever actions he could around the area (and down in New York City a couple of times when they called for re-enforcements to make a big splash).

Ralph has like he said joined with a group of VVAW-ers and supporters for an action down in Washington, D.C. The idea, which would sound kind of strange today in a different time when there is very little overt anti-war activity against the current crop of endless wars but also shows how desperate they were to end that damn war, was to on May Day shut down the government if it did not shut down the war. Their task, as part of the bigger scheme, since they were to form up as a total veterans and supporters contingent was to symbolically shut down the Pentagon. Wild right, but see the figuring was that they, the government, would not dare to arrest vets and they figured (“they” meaning all those who planned the events and went along with the plan) the government would treat it somewhat like the big civilian action at the Pentagon in 1967 which Norman Mailer won a literary prize writing a book about, Armies of the Night. Silly them. 

They after the fall-out from that event were thus searching for a better way to handle things, a better way to make an impact because those few days of detention in D.C. that they had jointly suffered not only started what would be a lifelong personal friendship but an on-going conversation between them over the next several years about how to bring about the greater social change they sensed was needed before one could even think about stopping wars and stuff like that. (The story in short of how they got out of RFK after a few days was pretty straight forward. Since law enforcement was so strapped that week somebody had noticed and passed the word along that some of the side exits in the stadium were not guarded and so they had just walked out and got out of town fast, very fast, hitchhiking back north to Carver, and Ralph later to Troy). Hence the push by Sam toward the study groups led by “red collectives” that were sprouting up then peopled by others who had the same kind of questions which they would join, unjoin and work with, or not work with over the next few years before both men sensed the tide of the rolling 1960s had ebbed. 

Old time high school thoughts even with the cross-fire hells of burned down Vietnam villages melted into the back of his brain crossed his mind when Ralph thought of Marx, Lenin (he, they, were not familiar with Trotsky except he had “bought it” down in Mexico with an icepick from some assassin), Joe Stalin, Red Square, Moscow and commie dupes. Sam had not been far behind in his own youthful prejudices as he told Ralph one night after a class and they were tossing down a few at Jack’s in Cambridge before heading home to the commune where Sam was staying.

Ralph had gone out of his way to note in that blog entry for Fritz that before he got “religion” on the anti-war and later social justice issues he held as many anti-communist prejudices as anybody else in Troy, New York where he hailed from, not excluding his rabidly right-wing father who never really believed until his dying days in 2005 that the United States had lost the war in Vietnam. Ralph had realized that all the propaganda he had been fed was like the wind and his realization of that had made him  a very angry young man when he got out of the Army in late 1969. He tried to talk to his father about it but Ralph, Senior was hung up in a combination “good war, World War II, his war where America saved international civilization from the Nazis and Nips (his father’s term since he fought in the Pacific with the Marines) and “my country, right or wrong.” All Ralph, Senior really wanted Ralph to do was get back to the shop and help him fill those goddam GE defense contract orders. And he did it, for a while.

Ralph had also expressed his feelings of trepidation when after a lot of things went south on the social justice front with damn little to show for all the arrests, deaths, and social cataclysm he and Sam had gotten into a study group in Cambridge run by a “Red October Collective” which focused on studying “Che” Guevara and the Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky after an introduction to the Marxist classics. Sam who was living in that commune in Cambridge at the time, the summer of 1972, had invited Ralph to come over from Troy to spent the summer in the study group trying to find out what had gone wrong (and what they had gotten right too, as Sam told him not to forget), why they were spinning their wheels trying to change the world for the better just then and to think about new strategies and tactics for the next big break-out of social activism. At the end of each meeting they would sing the Internationale before the group broke up. At first Ralph had a hard time with the idea of singing a “commie” song (he didn’t put it that way but he might as well have according to Sam) unlike something like John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance, songs like that. As he, they got immersed in the group Ralph lightened up and would sing along if not with gusto then without a snicker.

That same apprehensive attitude had prevailed when after about three meetings they began to study what the group leader, Jeremy, called classic Marxism, the line from Marx and Engels to Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

At the beginning some of Ralph’s old habits kind of held him back, you know the anti-red stuff, Cold War enemy stuff, just like at first he had had trouble despite all he knew about calling for victory to the Viet Cong (who in-country they called “Charlie” in derision although after  Tet 1968 with much more respect when Charlie came at them and kept coming despite high losses). But Ralph got over it, got in the swing. 

The Marxism did not come easy, the theory part, maybe for Ralph a little more than Sam who had taken junior college night classes to bolster the small print shop he had built from nothing after Mister Snyder moved his operation to Quincy to be nearer his main client, State Street Bank and Trust (although for long periods his old Carver friend, Jack Callahan, managed the place when Sam was off on his campaigns). They got that the working-class, their class, should rule and be done with inequalities of all kinds but the idea of a revolution, or more importantly, a working class party which was on everybody’s mind in those days to lead that revolution seemed, well, utopian. The economic theory behind Marxism, that impossible to read Das Capital and historical materialism as a philosophy were books sealed with seven seals for them both. Nevertheless for a few years, say until 1975, 1976 when the tide really had ebbed for anybody who wanted to see they hung around with the local “reds,” mostly those interested in third world liberation struggles and political prisoner defense work. Those were really the earnest “socialist years” although if you had asked them for a model of what their socialism looked like they probably would have pointed to Cuba which seemed fresher than the stodgy old Soviet Union with their Brezhnev bureaucrats.

After that time while they would periodically read the left press and participate any time somebody, some group needed bodies for a rally, demonstration, some street action they would be there in their respective hometowns that they both eventually filtered back to. Then 2002 came and the endless wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and seemingly a million other places drove them to drop their “armed truce” (Sam’s term picked up by Ralph) with society and return to the streets , return with an almost youthful vengeance. They would see young people at the rallies hocking their little Marxist papers, maybe buy one to read a home but that flame that had caused them to join study groups, to work with Marxist-oriented “red collectives,” to read books that were hard to fathom had passed, had passed just as socialism as a way to end humankind’s impasses had fallen out of favor once the Soviet Union and its satellites had gone up in a puff of smoke. Sam thought one time that maybe those earnest kids with their wafer-thin newspapers will study the classics and make more sense out of them than Sam and Ralph could. As for Sam and Ralph they would now just keep showing up to support the “good old cause.”              

And a lot of that good old cause for Ralph since about 2010 had been through working with a later manifestation of VVAW – Veterans for Peace (VFP) which as Ralph will describe below is what has enhanced his political profile. Sam had also joined the group after Ralph beat him down about it. (VFP has a category of supporters called associates who have all the rights of membership except a decisive vote on the issues before the body when their votes would determine the outcome. Here is how Ralph “connected” with VFP in Boston of all places on one of his trips to see Sam:   

Back on Veterans Day 2010 I happened to be at the Boston Common heading toward Jack Higgin’s Grille, the one on Charles Street not the one near Quincy Market, to meet Sam in a location just off the downtown section when I came across some white flags, maybe twenty, waving in the distance over near when Charles Street intersects Beacon Street (the main street of the famous Beacon Hill section of Boston). Since I was heading that way I decided to check out what those flags were all about. Upon investigation I found that the white flags also contained in black outline a peace dove symbol and the words Veterans for Peace. Yah, sign me up, my kind of guys and gals. So, to make a long story short,  I marched with the contingent that year in their spot behind, and not part of, the official parade sponsored by the city (the reason for that separation will be described in more detail below) and have marched each year since, including this year. [2014] Previously in promoting and commemorating this peace event I have recycled my sketch from 2010 out of laziness, hubris, or the basic sameness of the yearly event. I have updated that sketch a bit here to reflect on this year’s event.  

Listen, I have been to many marches and demonstrations for democratic, progressive, and socialist causes in my long political life. Some large, many small but both necessary. However, of all those events none, by far, has been more satisfying that to march alongside my fellow ex-soldiers who have, like I have, “switched” over to the other side, have gotten “religion” on the questions of war and peace and what to do about it, have exposed the better angels of their nature after the long hard thrust of war and preparations for war have lost their allure, and are now part of the struggle against war, the hard, hard struggle against the permanent war machine that this imperial system in America has embarked upon.

From as far back as in the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) days (the days when even guys like the present Secretary of State John Forbes Kerry had to march in the streets to allay their angers and hurts) I have always felt that ex-soldiers (hell, active soldiers too, if you can get them out of the barracks, off the bases, and into the streets as happened a little as the Vietnam War moved relentlessly onward) have had just a little bit more “street cred” on the war issue than the professors, pacifists and little old ladies in tennis sneakers who have traditionally led the anti-war movements. Maybe those brothers (and in my generation it was mainly only brothers) and now sisters may not quite pose the questions of war and peace the way I do, or the way that I would like them to do, don’t do a bookish analysis, complete with footnotes, of the imperial system and their cog part in it, but they are kindred spirits.

Now normally in Boston, and in most places, a Veterans Day parade means a bunch of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) or American Legion-types taking time off from drinking at their post bars (the infamous “battle of the barstool,” no, battles) and donning the old overstuffed moth-eaten uniform and heading out on to Main Street to be waved at, and cheered on, by like-minded, thankful citizens. And of course that happened in 2010 (and this year) as well. What also happened in Boston this year as in 2010 (and other years but I had not been involved in prior marches) was that the Smedley Butler Brigade of Veterans for Peace (VFP) organized an anti-war march as part of their Armistice Day (“Veterans Day”) program. Said march to be held at the same place and time as the official one, one o’clock in the afternoon in downtown Boston near the Common.

Prior to 2010 there had been a certain amount of trouble, although I am not sure that it came to blows, between the two groups. (I have only heard third-hand reports on previous events so all I know is that there were some heated disputes) You know the "super-patriots" vs. “commie symps” thing that has been going on as long as there have been ex-soldiers (and others), maybe before, who have differed from the bourgeois parties’ pro-war line. In any case the way this impasse had been resolved previously, and the way the parameters were set in 2010 and this year as well, was that the VFP took up the rear of the official parade, and took up the rear in an obvious way. Separated that year, if you can believe this, from the main body of the official parade by a medical emergency truck. This year by a phalanx of Boston Police motorcycle cops. Nice, right? Something of the old "I’ll take my ball and bat and go home" by the "officials" was in the air on that one on every occasion.

In the event this year’s march went off as usual for both parties, as we waited behind the motorcycle cordon for the “officials” to pass by. While waiting I noticed that while the anti-war contingent was about the same size as it has been for the past few years that I have participated, filled out with other peace activists from Quakers and shakers to ranters and chanters and ant-drone folk (strolling along with a mobile replica of a drone to make their point nicely), all angelic, or at least all also on the right side of the angels, the VFP component looked a little smaller. This reflecting the inevitable aging, can’t make the walk, reality that VFP like myriad peace and social justice-oriented organizations are now peopled, alarmingly so, mainly by older activists who cut their teeth in the struggles of the 1960s (or earlier).

Equally as alarming was the sight of more of my Vietnam era veterans using canes, walkers and other aids to either walk the parade or to get around and listen to the program at the end of the march at the Samuel Adams Park at Fanuiel Hall. The hopeful sign though was an increased number of Iraq (Iraq II, 2003) and Afghanistan veterans who have had enough time to reflect on their war experiences and made a decision to come over to the side of the angels.

One such veteran spoke from platform, as did veterans from World War II,  the Korean and Vietnam War eras, as well as a speakers, young speakers and proud from the Iraq and Afghan war zones, who sang, read their poets, or read their prose pieces to flush out the event. And to say that a new generation of anti-war soldiers will take the torch, take it and go forward as the older generations fades away.

But here is where there is a certain amount of rough plebeian justice, a small dose for those on the side of the angels, in this wicked old world. In order to form up, and this was done knowingly by VFP organizers in 2010 and this year well, the official marchers, the bands and battalions that make up such a march, had to “run the gauntlet” of dove emblem-emblazoned VFP banners waving frantically directly in front of their faces as they passed by. Moreover, although we again this year formed the caboose of this thing the crowds along the parade route actually waited for us after the official paraders had marched by and waved, clapped, and flashed the ubiquitous peace sign at our procession from the sidelines. Be still my heart.

That response just provides another example of the "street cred” that ex-soldiers have on the anti-war question. Now, if there is to be any really serious justice in the world, if only these fellow vets would go beyond then “bring the troops home” and pacific vigil tactics and embrace- immediate, unconditional withdrawal of all U.S./Allied Troops from everywhere, embrace a more studied response to the nature of war policy “in the belly of the beast” then we could maybe start to get somewhere out on those streets. But today, like at that first white flag sighting in 2010 I was very glad to be fighting for our peaceful more social future among those who know first-hand about the dark side of the American experience. No question.