FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Fourth of July Flashbacks

 

Man! Fourth of July again! It’s not that I’m any kind of Yankee Doodle Dandy or nothing, but this date is one of those days that I can remember particular details throughout the years, mostly because it is different than most other days.

Let’s see, in 1967 I was wearing my Boy Scout uniform somewhat proudly (although the uniform was the part I liked least about the whole Boy Scout experience) as I marched with my troop down a series of streets in Laurel, MD. We marched more or less in formation, attempting to stay in rhythm with the snare drums being rattled by the Fife & Drum Corps behind us. Local politicians sat astride the town’s fire trucks and their own convertibles and townspeople lined the curbs of most of the streets we marched on.

Thinking back on it, I don’t recall too many black faces in the crowds and none in the march. Earlier that year there had been incident in the Grove, which was the so-called Negro section of town where a couple local youths had attempted to burn down the church there as part of an initiation process into the KKK. After failing to ignite the church (which was made of stone), they moved their incendiary devices to a nearby house that was only saved because of the quick-thinking inhabitant’s neighbors.

In the days that followed there were stone-throwing incidents along the highway that ran through the center of the Grove as African-American youths threw stones at cars bearing white-skinned folks. The local police stepped up their presence in the neighborhood and refused to grant civil rights organizations a permit to protest the KKK in their neighborhood. Not long afterwards, the KKK marched through the town with a police escort.

It wasn’t long before the police and fire departments were under the gaze of the Feds, who convinced the respective chiefs to clean the klansmen out of their departments. No wonder no black folks marched or watched that day.

Nine years later it was 1976. The US Bicentennial Celebration was in full swing and the Fourth of July was the grand climax. Gerald Ford was president, courtesy of the Rockefellers and other power elites who just wanted Richard Nixon out of the White House. A good number of my friends were members of the fledgling Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP)-a Maoist organization that had risen from the ashes of the SDS and other New Left organizations after 1969. The RCP was co-sponsoring a march in Philadelphia on the Fourth, as were the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee (PFOC) and a variety of like-minded organizations, including the Weather Underground (unofficially, of course). These two marches were operating parallel to each other because of various political differences understandable only to leftists. I was planning on attending the Yippies Fourth of July Smoke-In in DC. My friends went up to Philly the night of the 3rd after failing to convince me to go. Some other friends and I headed into DC. Johnny Cash and the Beach Boys were part of the official celebration and the cops ended up being part of ours.

Although I spent many a Fourth of July at some kind of a rock concert or festival, the one that sticks in my mind for the wrong reasons is a Willie Nelson Family Picnic I attended in the 1980s. My buddy, R, and I were plenty tanked on a variety of substances and were waiting in the beer line while Emmylou Harris prepared to take the stage. Two big hairy bikers walked up to the two of us, handed us a bottle of Rebel Yell whiskey and offered us a drink. While we sipped on the bottle, the bigger one handed us each a business card. I didn’t think much of mine and stuck it in my pocket without looking. R read his and immediately tore it to shreds.

“Take your fuckin’ whiskey, motherfuckers,” he yelled. “And get out of my face!”

What the hell, I thought, as R thrust the bottle into the big guy’s hand.

“If I weren’t at a concert,” continued R. “I’d kick your ass.”

Now R was a big dude, but he didn’t like to fight. The two bikers looked at him like he was out of his mind and the big one asked: “Ain’t you proud to be white?”

R took a step closer to the guy, looked him in the eye and said, “The only people who I’m prejudiced against is racist fuckers like you. Now get out of my face before things get ugly.”

The two men walked away, wondering what the hell was wrong with R and I. After we purchased our beers, I looked at the card I had stuck in my pocket. It was a business card inviting us to a Klan meeting. I followed R’s motions and tore it into small pieces and let it fall to the ground.

Isidor Bush, a Jewish anti-slavery fighter who was born in Prague and a partisan of the 1848 Revolution there, once gave a speech opposing slavery and demanding immediate emancipation wherein he pointed out that it was not the enslaved men and women who needed to be pitied, but the slavers and their supporters:

“I pray you have pity for yourselves, not for the Negro. Slavery demoralizes, slavery fanaticism blinds you; it has arrayed brother against brother, son against father; it has destroyed God’s noblest work–a free and happy people.”

The words and the thought they represent are almost Fanonesque in their understanding of the colonialist mind. We live their legacy daily, as our society stumbles blissfully along, refusing to acknowledge the impact our history plays on our societal psyche.

And it was Isidor’s contemporary, Frederick Douglass, who asked, “What good to the slave is the Fourth of July?”

I sometimes wonder what good it is today to many of our countrymen and women, more than a century after emancipation.

RON JACOBS is author of The Way the Wind Blew: a history of the Weather Underground, which is just republished by Verso. It can be purchased by calling 1 800 233 4830.

He can be reached at: rjacobs@zoo.uvm.edu

More articles by:

Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books. His latest offering is a pamphlet titled Capitalism: Is the Problem.  He lives in Vermont. He can be reached at: ronj1955@gmail.com.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled Again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail