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Getting sucked into the movements

Letter from Slim Wolfe

Agitation – June 2000 – Colorado Central Magazine


Okay, so my story about poor typing skills was a bit of a lame excuse. After a couple of turkeys retrieved from the Saguache dump, the Alamosa Dumpster Goddess came forward with a ’71 Smith Corona which isn’t too quirky and only draws one amp. Take that, you modem-heads.

Once again you have written an intelligent, thought-provoking editorial about getting sucked in, like the average guy sucked into being part of an enterprise of torture. Your comments on the media both creating and reflecting needs are also apt. Even public radio news seems to be pandering, maybe it’s some kind of Beltway syndrome. Notice what they spend on clothing and hair.

As a kid I was sucked into the old movement left of labor and civil rights. The first horses I ever smelled were mounted by cops on the other side of a barricade. Those old lefties had their share of half-truths and knee-jerkisms, like any other organized faith, but they also helped steer the nation and the world away from the Nazi totality. In fact, when you fantasize about putting yourself in danger to resist oppression, I remember that there were freedom riders here, in the sixties, and war protesters later on, who were murdered, the latter by our armed forces. You can’t beg off for being the child of a benign age and nation, unless perhaps you were in Canada. The Reich did master the time-honored art of scapegoating, in some circles called the red Herring, a thing tossed in the water to lead your school of ignorants into your net.

Jews and Gypsies were the red herring for the Reich. Here today we’ve got immigrants, non-believers, foreigners, poor people, deadbeats, drugs, guns, tobacco, ranchers, communists and more. We have yet to evolve past the mentality.

If one wanted to help one could head off to the Virgin Islands where our empire’s helicopter gunships are taking out ganga farms of small business people. But I suspect you’re of more service maintaining a free press than chaining yourself to a potplant. There has been a flowering of good journalism here, the Mountain Mail having attracted some good writers as well. Continue, if you will to make your unique contribution and hope that the pendulum swings back to a freer society before it’s swung back to the 1930’s. Meanwhile I’ll continue to try to bust the bubbles of scape-goaters and try to hold to an optimistic belief that they’re on the decline.

Slim Wolfe Villa Grove

And the editor responds…

Editors note:

Slim, I’m always surprised by what I may have inadvertently implied in print. The truth is, I was not trying to say anything about protests and freedom-fighters in the United States, because I think the situation is essentially different.

Certainly, horrifying things have happened here at home, but Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, Malcolm X, and the students who were killed in the south trying to help blacks register to vote were all involved in perfectly lawful activities, and they were assassinated by criminals.

Activism in the U.S. does not require secrecy or an underground. To be effective you needn’t be duplicitous; you don’t have to meet in secret; you don’t have to smile at the Gestapo hoping to conceal the fact that you’re hiding refugees in your attic.

Personally, I have no taste for espionage, subterfuge or lying to the neighbors, and I think it would be very difficult to stand firm and hold to my convictions in such a repressive climate. But here in the United States, activism is still largely a matter of speaking out and participating, and I in no way meant to excuse a laissez-faire attitude toward injustices in our society.

As for me, in the sixties I lived in a small town outside of Detroit, and in Ontario, and in a suburb of Washington D.C., and in Denver and Greeley. I’ve been to many, many peace marches, mostly taking notes and talking to people about why they were there — including police officers, students, and National Guardsmen. On occasion, I’ll admit to pacing nervously — since I’m not fond of having so many armed guards behind me.

But for the most part, as often as not, those protests felt like a party, and in all honesty, I kind of miss the sixties — but I have yet to hear anyone from Germany say that about the ’40s.

Clearly, there are always risks in going against the status quo. My own worst moments came in college after Ed wrote an exposé about a Sheriff’s department that was falsifying evidence. Soon thereafter, we managed to get pulled over three times in one week, and on one memorable occasion an officer not only searched our vehicle, he knocked out the seats and dumped all of the contents from the back seat and trunk in an adjoining field. (Although, of course, we did protest those actions, we did so in a very mannerly — and obviously not too effective — way.)

But all of that nonsense stopped after Ed reported it to a higher authority, and I should also point out that Ed’s story couldn’t have been written if there hadn’t been concerned law enforcement personnel willing to risk far more than we were to curtail corruption in their ranks. As a result, that Sheriff’s department was investigated and numerous people were charged, tried and convicted.

Although I know the government of the United States has supported terrorist activities and corrupt authorities in the Phillipines, Central America, South America and the Middle East — and although I do get concerned when citizens blithely excuse police brutality, false convictions, mangled no-knock raids, prosecutorial misconduct and the profligate use of pepper spray against innocent bystanders, football fans and peaceful demonstrators — the laws of the United States still favor free speech and peaceful protest.

And call me a coward if you will, Slim, but if our laws and legislation ever do start tipping too precariously toward fascism, I sincerely hope that I’ll have the prescience and luck to get out of here in time. Martha Quillen Salida