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Thu Nov 23, 2017, 11:13 AM

#9 Dream

So long ago
Was it in a dream?
Was it just a dream?
I know, yes I know
It seemed so very real
Seemed so real to me
-- John Lennon; #9 Dream; 1974



Rather than write about Thanksgiving or the Russian-Trump scandal, I thought I'd share a memory about Rep. John Conyers. I suppose that's something old people do, because we have one foot in the past, and one in the present. Younger people have one foot in the present, and one in the future, and at risk of boring them, I think this is an interesting story. (But, of course, I am old, and prone to thinking these things are important.)

I was thinking about the December, 1975 night that Bob Dylan and friends performed at Madison Square Garden. It was the “Night of the Hurricane” benefit for Rubin Carter. These were curious days in America: following the hopes of the 1960s, things looked particularly dismal when Nixon was re-elected in 1972. But Nixon's circumstances were circumcised by the Watergate investigations, and citizens began to recognize that government officials sometimes abused the power of their offices.

After the weirdness of Manson, Kent State, Attica, Watergate, Weathermen, and the seemingly never-ending war, Carter's case was among the “causes” that people felt good about. Nixon had resigned in disgrace, the war ended, and the idea of prison reform had taken root. And – seemingly suddenly – Carter's case was in the spotlight. Selwyn Raab of the NY Times did a series of front-page articles on Carter's case that suggested Rubin had been railroaded by corrupt New Jersey officials, and Carter appeared to be a charismatic potential “leader” for institutional reform.

As older forum members know, I had become friends with Rubin a few years by then, before his case became popular. There was a core group that did a lot of work that resulted in the case becoming popular among the “beautiful people” of Hollywood, the music industry, and the sports world. But by the time of this star-studded benefit concert – topped off by Dylan performing the song “Hurricane,” actually written by Jacques Levy – all of Carter's supporters were confident that he would soon be cleared by the New Jersey legal system.

But a funny thing happened along the way. And no one saw it coming. The original support group was almost exclusively white. As the case became a popular cause, it attracted more black people, especially after Muhammad Ali became one of its chief spokespersons. And the organized support committee was beginning to raise a significant amount of money.

Being white myself, I'm comfortable saying that some of the white supporters began spending to “cover their expenses.” Some were making a real profit. Others had mapped out their plans for Rubin in the world of politics post-retrial. Without question, some of the black supporters were making themselves quite comfortable while promoting the cause, too. And they resented the white people's attempts to plan Carter's future for him.

But what has this to do with John Conyers, you ask? Fair question. Allow me to attempt to answer it. John Conyers was among those who had joined the support committee. He was at the hotel where the “beautiful people” were staying on the day of the concert. He understood that the growing tensions within the support group, which were generally a racial divide, represented a real threat to not only the movement, but especially to Rubin and John Artis's chances of being found not guilty in their eventual retrial.

He knew that it would be difficult for anyone, including Rubin, to transition from inmate to a free person quickly, after spending almost a decade incarcerated. He knew that many within the support committee had lost focus on what was most important. And thus, during an afternoon confrontation within that hotel, when he spoke up, one of the white people making the most profit off of Carter's case (over $40,000 for “expenses” from the concert alone) threw a drink in his face.

The support committee fractured, and at the retrial, prosecutors used this (including where the money had gone) to discredit Carter and Artis's legal defense team.

I do not pretend that Conyers is a perfect man, for he is not. No one is. But he recognized that groups that work for progressive change often contain internal seeds of division. These can be along the lines of race, sex, social class, and other issues. I suspect that this is something that is just as true today as it was in 1975. Maybe it is worth thinking about now.

Peace,
H2O Man

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Replies to this discussion thread
Arrow 16 replies Author Time Post
Reply #9 Dream (Original post)
H2O Man Nov 2017 OP
spanone Nov 2017 #1
H2O Man Nov 2017 #3
coeur_de_lion Nov 2017 #2
H2O Man Nov 2017 #4
oberliner Nov 2017 #5
H2O Man Nov 2017 #11
coeur_de_lion Nov 2017 #16
2naSalit Nov 2017 #6
H2O Man Nov 2017 #7
Tatiana Nov 2017 #8
H2O Man Nov 2017 #12
malaise Nov 2017 #9
H2O Man Nov 2017 #13
suffragette Nov 2017 #10
H2O Man Nov 2017 #14
librechik Nov 2017 #15

Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Nov 23, 2017, 11:20 AM

1. K&R...

I remember that time well...thanks for the perspective

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Response to spanone (Reply #1)

Thu Nov 23, 2017, 01:21 PM

3. Thanks.

I remember, from around that time, Rubin telling me that wise people learn from others' mistakes, most of us have to learn from our own, and fools just don't learn. If we apply that to the eleven presidential elections from 1976 on, it could be said that to an extent, we haven't fully grasped the damage that divisions make. Each of the elections we've won have been despite some divisions. And each that we've lost has been because of those divisions.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Nov 23, 2017, 11:58 AM

2. K&R

I was just reading about that concert -- I am reading a biography of Joni Mitchell, who was one of the musicians who played that day.

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Response to coeur_de_lion (Reply #2)

Thu Nov 23, 2017, 01:23 PM

4. Thank you.

Yes, she was one of the most committed musicians helping the defense fund.

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Response to coeur_de_lion (Reply #2)

Thu Nov 23, 2017, 01:23 PM

5. Supposedly she got a negative reaction since she only played her new stuff

 

Her set here, unfortunately, was a soft presentation of her newer, unfamiliar songs ("Shadows and Light," "Edith and the Kingpin," "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow" and one as yet untitled composition) and occasioned a mass walking about.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/hurricanes-night-bob-dylan-joan-baez-more-bring-thunder-to-the-garden-19760115

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Response to oberliner (Reply #5)

Fri Nov 24, 2017, 12:35 PM

11. Nice article.

The author got Mrs. Carter's name wrong, though from the audience, it might have sounded like what was reported.

I remember that Marvin Gaye shaved his head on the tour, to show his support for Rubin.

Mrs. King was a long-time friend and supporter of Rubin. She wrote a wonderful review of the 1991 book, "Lazarus and the Hurricane."

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Response to oberliner (Reply #5)

Sat Nov 25, 2017, 01:41 PM

16. Joni always pleased herself

with her choice of music in concert. She didn't want to be bored by her own performance I suppose.

Hard headed woman. I like her.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Nov 23, 2017, 01:35 PM

6. K&R

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Response to 2naSalit (Reply #6)

Thu Nov 23, 2017, 04:20 PM

7. Thanks!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Nov 23, 2017, 04:41 PM

8. K&R. The nostalgia in this piece is very comforting.

Lately it seems like its one blow after another. Sometimes you have to just stand and let the opponent exhaust themselves before you launch an offensive. I've been thinking about Ali of late, and greats like Barbara Jordan and Pat Schroeder in all this turmoil. You recount a beautiful instance when Conyers rose to the leadership demands of the occasion. Unfortunately, I believe he will not serve another term in Congress. Like many humans, he is flawed. People are forgiving of mistakes. This time, I think it's probably one too many. That does not negate any of the good he has done or all the positive contributions he has made.

That's what we're missing now. We're missing strong leadership. The other side has it in Putin. We're still looking. I have watched several RFK videos the past couple of days and I wish we had such a unifying and compelling voice in our national discourse right now.

Blessings to you, H20 Man and thanks for your perspective.

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Response to Tatiana (Reply #8)

Fri Nov 24, 2017, 01:04 PM

12. Thank you!

In my opinion, even without the current list of Conyers's "mistakes," this should be his last term. And I do not base that on age alone, for there are individuals his age that can maintain the pace necessary to be effective representatives. Yet, most cannot.

Obviously, I can't speak for anyone but myself, but I find that it's better not to "judge" others when emotions run high. For that is risky enough an exercise, when the waters are calm. But I have always respected Malcolm X's approach, when he would inform an audience that he had lived in the gutter in his past life, before his transformation. Hence, the republican-types of his day could not run the same basic smear campaign against him, that we so often witness today. Had he tried to hide his past, or attempted to deny it, he would have been an open target. But by his identifying it, he used it to his advantage. In a very real sense, that self-recognition reminds me of what made Carl Jung particularly powerful in his field. But I ramble .....

Judging people as individuals is, for me, often distinct from judging if they are fit to serve as elected representatives. All people have flaws, as you note. The public's tendency to look for "super heroes" without faults is a childlike quality that does not transfer well to the adult realities we face today. But it makes sense to recognize, for example, that if a person actively cheats on their spouse -- supposedly their best friend -- they are likely to cheat on the rest of us in other circumstances. Thus, one can reasonably question if they are the best qualified person to serve as a representative.

If we take that same dynamic to the next level -- a person who has a low opinion of the opposite sex, that they use to excuse their abuse of, say women -- then they should not serve in any office. If a person sexually exploits children, they belong in jail, not in office. And if they deny, or attempt to justify, ill behaviors on their part, when it is obvious that they have committed such offenses, like Roy Moore, it is the public's duty to make sure they never win any election.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Nov 23, 2017, 04:54 PM

9. Excellent post

my brother - Happy Thanksgiving.

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Response to malaise (Reply #9)

Fri Nov 24, 2017, 01:05 PM

13. Thanks!

I hope that you & yours had a nice Thanksgiving, and have a great holiday weekend!

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Thu Nov 23, 2017, 05:11 PM

10. Truly, "We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars."

Thank you for this thoughtful essay.

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Response to suffragette (Reply #10)

Fri Nov 24, 2017, 01:09 PM

14. Thanks!

There is a lot of rot in our society. I hope that it forms the compost, out of which the seeds of a better, more just society will germinate, and take root. And as Democrats, if we work together, we can tend to such a garden.

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Response to H2O Man (Original post)

Fri Nov 24, 2017, 01:46 PM

15. Conyers did us an enormous favor

https://www.thomhartmann.com/blog/2005/06/what-went-wrong-ohio-conyers-report-2004-presidential-election


By pointing out that the 2004 presidential election was hacked. Not that anything will ever come of it. Our overlords were already well seated by then.

Happy Thanksgiving H2OMan!

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